After studying at the Royal Academy in 1818, Lee lived in Kent for many years. Returning to Devon in the 1840s he produced romanticised landscapes of Devon. These works, some held in our collections, show a varied and expressive side to Lee’s practice.
Frederick Lee was a prolific landscape painter with over 300 known works held in international organisations and private collections. His commercial success however led to criticism from Royal Academician John Constable who remarked that Lee’s paintings were simply an 'Imitation of Nature”.
Lee’s work however was highly valued at the time for its “truth and simplicity”, and his talents were sought out by his contemporaries Thomas Sidney Copper and Sir Edwin Landseer to provide backgrounds to their paintings.
Frederick Lee became an elected member of the Royal Academy in 1838. Returning to North Devon in 1858 his later years were spent between his house in Pilton, sailing his yacht 'Linda' and visiting his farms in South Africa. He died in 1879 and was buried near Wellington in South Africa.
Lee established himself as a major figure in the English landscape painting world and although not a leader in the field, his talents were evident from Copper and Landseer’s commissions. This exhibition hopes to shine a light on Barnstaple’s only Royal Academist and looks to place him once again amongst the celebrated artists of his time
“We have always expressed a high opinion of Mr Lee’s talents; and this noble picture, which places him at once in the foremost rank of English landscape painters, confirms all our hopes of him. It is utterly devoid of trickery, or affectation, or extravagance; and is as fine a specimen of firm masterly painting as we have ever seen.” The Literary Gazette.
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon wishes to thank the organisations and private lenders who contributed to this exhibition. The display consisted of distinguished works loaned from Royal Academy, Tate, RAMM, The Amelia at the Amelia Scott, London Guildhall, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and the V&A. The exhibition catalogue is available from the museum shop.