Briggs, Henry Perronet
- W. W. Wroth
- , revised by Mervyn Cutten
Briggs, Henry Perronet (1791–1844), antiquary and subject painter, was born at Walworth, London, the son of John Hobart Briggs (bap. 1760), who held a lucrative position in the Post Office, and his wife, Mary, née Oldham. He was named after his great-grandfather the Methodist minister Vincent Perronet (1693–1785) whose daughter Elizabeth married in January 1749 William Briggs of the Custom House. He was also second cousin to the painter John Opie's wife, Amelia, whose portrait he painted and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831. His father had intended him for a commercial career but Briggs showed an early love for art. While Briggs was at Epping Academy in 1805 a Thomas Squire (presumably his mentor) sent two well-executed drawings of Epping church by him at the age of fourteen to the Gentleman's Magazine which were engraved and illustrated in the magazine in 1806 together with a letter about the artist: 'the juvenile efforts of a rising young genius. H. P. Briggs of this academy' (76, part 1, 312–13). At the age of nineteen, on 26 February 1811 he entered as a student at the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1813 went to Cambridge where he painted portraits of several college members including one of H. Goodridge of Trinity College (later exhibited at the Royal Academy).
Briggs settled in London, exhibiting two portraits at the Royal Academy in 1814 from a Soho address. By 1818 he turned his attention mainly to historical and Shakespearian scenes of which he exhibited nineteen at the British Institution from 1819 to 1830. In 1823 the directors of the institution awarded him £100 for the Shakespearian scenes he exhibited that year, and in 1827 his large painting George III presenting the sword to Earl Howe on board the Queen Charlotte, 1794 was purchased by the directors for 500 guineas and they subsequently donated it to Greenwich Hospital.
In 1825 Briggs was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, gaining that honour before Landseer with whom he co-operated on The ladies Charlotte, Augusta and Katherine Scott, great-grandchildren of the Lord Chancellor Eldon with his favourite dog ‘Pincher’ a German spaniel. The dog by E. Landseer esq. R.A., exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840. His cousin Amelia Opie (née Alderson) related that for some of his juvenile sitters she tucked barley balls into the pocket of her dress, one of these being tossed into the child's lap at intervals to keep its gaze focused expectantly in the direction of the artist.
On 7 August 1830 Briggs married a near relative, Elizabeth Alderson (d. 1839) at St Marylebone, Middlesex.
On the death of Northcote, Briggs was elected Royal Academician in 1832, and from this date devoted himself almost entirely to portraiture. In 1834 his portrait was painted during a visit to London by Carl Christian Vogel (1788–1868). As Baron Briggs he was placed first by W. M. Thackeray in his 'List of best Victorian painters' in Fraser's Magazine (1838). About two years later his wife died of tuberculosis. Also infected, he made his will on 16 January 1844 and died two days later on 18 January at his home at 33 Bruton Street, London. He left a son, Henry, who died young, and a daughter, Elizabeth Amelia (d. 1912), who married the Revd James Haslewood Carr MA (1831–1915). His will proved in London on 24 February 1844 mentions his sister Catherine Briggs and names his brother-in-law Thomas John Alderson. His pupils included John Birch, Thomas Brigstocke, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Frank Dicksee, Father Edward Mackey, and Edward Opie.
Up to the time of his death Briggs continued to paint portraits, four of which were exhibited posthumously at the Royal Academy in 1844. His studio sale was held at Christies on 25–27 April 1844.
- B. Stewart and M. Cutten, The dictionary of portrait painters in Britain up to 1920 (1997)
- T. Squire, letter, GM, 1st ser., 76 (1806), 312–13
- Art Union, 6 (1844), 62
- The Athenaeum (27 Jan 1844), 90–91
- A. Earland, John Opie and his circle (1911), 208
- S. C. Hutchison, ‘The Royal Academy Schools, 1768–1830’, Walpole Society, 38 (1960–62), 123–91, esp. 166
- G. Popp and H. Valentine, Royal Academy of Arts directory of membership: from the foundation in 1768 to 1995, including honorary members (1996)
- d. cert.
- R. Ormond, Early Victorian portraits, 2 vols. (1973)
- Wood, Vic. painters, 3rd edn
- The Times (6 Sept 1839), 8b [Elizabeth Briggs]
- private information (2007) [P. McEvansoneya]
- C. C. Vogel, drawing, 1834, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden
- H. P. Briggs, self-portrait, oils, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Wealth at Death
exact sum unknown: will, proved 24 Feb 1844