Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828)

The Bonington Theatre is named after Richard Parks Bonington a locally born and raised painter of the English school.

Richard Parkes Bonington was born at Arnold, Nottingham on 25 October 1802, the only child of Richard Bonington and Eleanor Parks. His first home was a house in High Street Arnold. The house is still there today known as Bonington House, and at present is used as a social club.

In the 1920’s a plaque was installed on the wall of Bonington House by the Chairman of Arnold Urban District Council Robert Mellor.

After Richard was born his mother opened a school in Arnold. After a while she transferred the school and family into the centre of Nottingham.

Nothing is known of Richards own schooling, but he is reputed to have been skilled at drawing from a young age and to have loved acting.

His father was Governor of Nottingham Gaol but was forced to tender his resignation for reading the prisoners the forbidden doctrines of the revolutionary Tom Paine.’

His mother’s school however also failed and the Boningtons were therefore determined to try something new. They decided to set up a lace making factory. As a result of the social unrest affecting business, following the introduction of the factory system into the Nottingham lace and hosiery industries, the Boningtons decided to emigrate and try their luck in France.

In 1817 the family moved first to Calais, then moved on to Paris the following year.

Richard did not like the factory but preferred painting and sketching. Against his fathers wishes Richard became a student of Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris from 1819 to 1822, where he was taught precision drawing. Here he learned the art of watercolour painting, his response to nature, and a taste for coastal scenes from Louis Francia.

In 1821 Bonington made an extended tour of Normandy in the company of a fellow student, Alexandre-Marie Colin, and exhibited watercolours at two Paris dealers. They were admired by Corot, Delacroix, and Gros himself.

He first exhibited at the Salon in 1822.

Bonington toured Belgium in 1823 and spent much of 1824 at Dunkirk, exhibiting his first oils at the Salon that year.

In 1825 he visited London, where he studied the Meyrick collection in the company of Delacroix, whose studio he shared for several months on his return to France.

Bonington traveled in Italy for eleven weeks in 1826 with Baron Rivet, a wealthy patron whom he had met through Delacroix.

He spent a month in Venice where he worked with feverish energy. The rest of his short life was taken up with handling a mounting pressure of work, much it commissioned. All this was in the face of increasing weakness induced by tuberculosis made worse by sunstroke

At the end of 1827 he moved from his studio in the house of Jules-Robert Auguste, a wealthy collector of oriental costume, to a larger one in the rue Saint Lazare.

Bonington made visits to London to see his dealers in 1827 and 1828, exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts in both years. This exhibition being his first showing of his courtly history subjects there and later at the Salon in 1828.

He was obliged by ill health to cancel a summer sketching trip in Normandy with Paul Huet. He later returned to London a weak and dying man.

He passed away, aged 26, on 23 September 1828 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, where his mother was also laid to rest.

The Nottingham Museum at the castle, has but two of his many pictures. The picture above is one of them

There are 3 statues of Richard in the Nottingham Area. The first is in the grounds of the School of Art, the second a bust is in the entrance to the Bonington Theatre and the third, a statue in the entrance to the Gedling Borough Council offices in Arnold.

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