SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: From his home on Warrington Road, George Paice became one of the leading Victorian and Edwardian-era artists, specialising in painting the gentry’s pets and racehorses. DAVID MORGAN traces his career, beginning from a WWI memorial in Croydon Minster
There have been many artists who lived either in Croydon or who painted its views or its people over the last 150 years. Even JMW Turner sketched a view of Croydon from Addiscombe while he was on his travels.
Sadly for us, the sketch was never turned into a Turner masterpiece on canvas and remained an unfinished pencil drawing in one of his notebooks.
One artist who moved to Croydon towards the end of the 19th century and spent his most productive years in the borough was George Paice, though today his works are largely forgotten.
The search for Paice begins in Croydon Minster. Close to the font, on the south wall of the church, can be seen a small lead memorial with a carving of a lion on it, together with a biplane that is soaring up into the sky.
The memorial is dedicated to Lt Stanley Paice, who died in June 1918 when the aircraft in which he was learning to fly crashed into another trainee over Salisbury Plain. Stanley Paice was buried in the graveyard at Upavon Church. There is a third memorial to the young airman in one of the chapels at RAF Duxford, where a plaque has been fixed to the centre of an old propellor with Paice’s name on it.
The memorials were commissioned by Stanley’s parents, George and Eunice Paice.
George Paice was born in 1854 in Pimlico and studied art at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in Chelsea, an institution which is still going strong today. He married Eunice Mary Stuart in 1879 in St. George’s, Hanover Square. They lived first in Pimlico before moving to Warrington Road in Croydon.
Described variously as a “sporting artist” and an “animal painter”, George Paice was a prolific painter of horses and dogs. These were largely individual commissions, so rather than his paintings hanging in galleries, they tended to be found in country houses which were, in those days, not open to the public. It was not until the second half of the 20th Century that his works came up for auction more regularly.
Paice had a great eye for equine detail and his paintings were very well received. They were not, though, considered to be quite in the same league as the 18th-century artist George Stubbs, who was the very best of British equine painters.
Paice painted a large number of racehorses, hunters and polo ponies. One of his paintings of a polo pony, Marsh Mallow, is held by the Walker Gallery in Liverpool.
Harkaway, Cliftonhall, a Northumberland Plate winner, and Hutstown were just three of the many thoroughbreds he was asked to paint. His careful brush strokes and exact choice of colour provided the owners with a great picture of their favourites.
Right at the end of his career, Paice was employed to paint the 1924 Derby winner, Sansovino. He also did a noted portrait of Pretty Polly, known as being one of the greatest fillies ever to race in Britain, the winner of 15 consecutive races and who in 1904 won the fillies’ Triple Crown – all three Classics: the 1,000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks and St Leger. Pretty Polly also became one of the greatest broodmares of the 20th Century.
Sometimes the equestrian theme extended into larger canvases to include views of hunting or point-to-point races. Paice’s grand picture of a point-to-point scene hung in the officer’s mess of the Royal Scots Greys for many years.
Dogs were Paice’s other speciality. Gun dogs and terriers were the most frequent subjects. Among the other breeds which he painted, the one of Jess the collie is now held in the National Trust house, Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland.
Paice’s pictures continue to create interest when they come up for auction. His painting “Two pugs on a red divan” was sold by Southeby’s in 2005 for $4,700. Piper, a Jack Russell terrier, painted in 1920 is probably the most well-known of his canine paintings.
One of his canine commissions was from the McCorquodale family in Liverpool, who ran a well-known printing business. The painting entitled “Pheasant Shooting” was completed in 1895 and was presented as a retirement gift to the McCorquodales’ gamekeeper, who can be seen in the background of the painting, with the faithful retriever sitting patiently beside his master.
Paice had a steady stream of commissions and together with the support of his patrons, the most notable being Lady Margaret Cecil, he made a very comfortable living.
He occasionally broadened his subject matter to include some African animals. These would have been completed using pictures, early photographs or even a visit to London Zoo, as Paice apparently never travelled further than Ireland.
What Paice hardly ever did was to paint people. Apart from one early self-portrait, he avoided portraiture.
George and Eunice Paice had eight children. Their son Stanley emigrated to America before joining up in the Canadian infantry in Toronto in 1915. On his attestation papers, he gave his father’s name as his next of kin, with an address, not in Croydon, but in Queens Park, London. His parents had moved on by then.
Another son, Philip, was also a talented painter. Like his father, he attended the Heatherly School of Fine Art. He, too, went abroad and became an art master in Denver, Colorado. Returning to this country he took up a similar post at the Birkenhead Institute.
He became a member of the Liverpool sketch club, painting professionally under the name Philip Stuart Paice. Philip painted many landscapes together with some lovely portraits.
A daughter, named Eunice after her mother, followed a medical career and was the Matron of Queen Anne’s Maternity Home in west London in 1934.
George Paice’s fortunes took a tumble once the Great War broke out. Gone were the commissions of equine subjects, much reduced were the requests for canine canvasses, and so his income took a great hit. The loss of Stanley in the flying accident was another huge blow.
George continued to paint right up until his death in 1925, aged 71. At his funeral, his own racing silks were draped across his coffin.
George Paice has been forgotten in Croydon because he didn’t paint the local views. However, having lived here while the majority of his paintings were being completed, his great abilities in the art of painting horses and dogs ought to have some recognition.
- David Morgan is a former Croydon headteacher, now the volunteer education officer at Croydon Minster, who offers tours or illustrated talks on the history around the Minster for local community groups
If you would like a group tour of Croydon Minster or want to book a school visit, then ring the Minster Office on 020 8688 8104 or go to the website on www.croydonminster.org and use the contact page
Other recent articles by David Morgan:
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