Artist biography

English wood-engraver and painter. He studied drawing in Plymouth. In 1824 he moved to London and entered the Royal Academy Schools. Through John Giles, Samuel Palmer's cousin, Calvert met William Blake and the Shoreham circle of the Ancients. He visited Shoreham and, supported by private means, escaped from his Academy studies to pursue his interest in wood-engraving. Rich in Arcadian imagery and chiaroscuro, Calvert's 11 miniature prints, produced between 1827 and 1831, are masterpieces of the medium and are among the most intense expressions of the Ancients' artistic sensibility. Like Palmer, he was inspired by Blake's illustrations to Thornton's edition of Virgil, but the figural content of Calvert's prints is more akin to his friend and fellow student George Richmond's interpretation of Blake than to Palmer's. Unlike the other Shoreham artists, Calvert did not base his pastoral visions on religious poetry such as that of Milton or Bunyan, but found inspiration in Theocritus and other pagan idylls. Early states of his prints frequently incorporated Christian sentences apparently less out of conviction than a desire to refute charges of paganism, since he removed them from later states.

Calvert's pastoral vision faded but his interest in ancient Greece developed into a more classical sentiment. He abandoned printmaking and for the rest of his life painted mainly for pleasure, working in oil, watercolour and gouache. He took his subjects chiefly from pagan mythology and he visited Greece where he sketched prolifically. In later years Calvert became a recluse with a suitably picturesque appearance.

Bibliography
S. Calvert: Memoir of Edward Calvert (London, 1893)
L. Binyon: The Followers of William Blake (London, 1925)
A. J. Finberg: ‘Edward Calvert's Engravings', Pr. Colr Q, xvii (1930), pp. 139–53
R. Lister: Edward Calvert (London, 1962)
Samuel Palmer and ‘the Ancients' (exh. cat. by R. Lister, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam, 1984), pp. 78–86

DAVID BLAYNEY BROWN

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