Artist Frederick Lee Bridell was born in Houndwell Place, near to the modern-day Debenhams store, in 1830. He died in London in 1863, aged just 33. His family’s straightened economic circumstances meant he left school at an early age, after only basic schooling. He began his working life as a pageboy, later becoming a house painter. According to his friend Henry Rose, he was drawing and writing verse from the age of nine. At age 15 he was already attracting attention as an artist and one of his portraits, of Henry Rose (image 1), was seen by an art restorer, Edwin Holder, who then employed him to copy old masters on a five-year contract. By the age of 18 he had taken up portrait painting and in 1851, aged just 21 and now living with Holder’s family in Berkshire, he exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time. Between 1853 and 1855 he travelled in France, Germany and Austria where he was inspired by the mountainous landscapes of the Tyrol. On returning to England he completed works from sketches made on his European travels and painted a number of portraits of wealthy Southampton inhabitants. By 1858 he was living at Highfield Lodge and painting for a new patron James Woolff, a shipping magnate who lived at Bevois Mount House.
In autumn 1858 he went to Rome where he met and married fellow artist, Eliza Fox, in 1859. He completed works inspired by the ancient monumental ruins in Rome and in the landscapes surrounding the Italian lakes. Bridell’s most notable paintings from this period were The Temple of Love, which was often compared to the work of Turner, and The Colosseum in Rome by Moonlight.
He returned to England in 1863, where he died in Kensington in August of that year. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery. In the following year James Woolff sold his collection of Bridell’s paintings to Christies auction house. Later, the Southampton businessman, William Borough Hill, an avid admirer of his work, bought many of Bridell’s paintings, including The Colosseum in Rome by Moonlight, which he had restored. In 1910 his art collection was acquired by Southampton Corporation. Hill named his house Bridell Lodge in honour of the artist.
Newspaper clippings (available online or from the Local Studies Library):
Frederick Lee Bridell, the Southampton artist - (Southampton Times 21/01/1888)
"The brilliance of Frederick Bridell" - (Southern Evening Echo 10/09/1983). Detailed article about Bridell and his artistic influences. Includes a photograph of the "humble Houndwell hovel" where he was born.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p20-21. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 7
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