Artist biography

English painter of Spanish and French descent. His father, at one time a Roman Catholic priest, was Professor of Spanish Literature at King's College, London. Calderon studied at James M. Leigh's school in London in 1850, then in Paris at the studio of François-Edouard Picot. He lived near by in Montmartre, sharing a room with fellow art student Henry Stacy Marks. He exhibited his first Royal Academy painting, By the Waters of Babylon (London, Tate), in 1853 and thereafter became a regular exhibitor until 1897. He first made his name with Broken Vows (London, Tate), exhibited in 1857. The painting shows a woman overhearing through a garden fence her lover betraying her and was painted in the detailed, clean-cut style associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. It was successful with critics and public alike and was engraved in 1859.

Calderon was elected RA in 1867. By this date he had become an established artist and one of the founder-members of the St John's Wood Clique. The artists belonging to this group specialised in historical or biblical scenes depicted in a romantic or dramatic light. In 1887 Calderon was appointed Keeper at the Royal Academy. When he exhibited the Renunciation of St Elizabeth of Hungary (London, Tate) in 1891, the depiction of the Saint kneeling naked in front of the altar provoked criticism from Roman Catholic circles. In general, however, his good draughtsmanship, attractive colouring and interesting choice of subjects made him popular in his day.

Bibliography
H. S. Marks: Pen and Pencil Sketches, 2 vols (London, 1894)
G. A. Storey: ‘Philip Hermogenes Calderon, RA', Mag. A., xxii (1898), pp. 446–52
S. Casteras: Down the Garden Path (diss., New Haven, Yale U., 1977)

JENNY ELKAN

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