Date Created

c. 1884


Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor


F. G. Stephens, Artists at Home, photographed by J. P. Mayall and reproduced in facsimile by photoengraving on copper plates; edited, with biographical notes and descriptions, by Frederick George Stephens (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington; New York: Appleton & Co., 1884), pp. 69-72


Rivière, Briton (1840-1920). English painter, etcher, and sculptor.

Date Issued

July 1884


Briton Rivière descended from a Huguenot family. Many of his relatives were artists. His grandfather, D.V. Rivière, born in 1796, was a student of the Royal Academy, as was his son William, born in 1806, who exhibited frequently in the Academy until 1860. In 1849, William Riviere became an art teacher at Cheltenham College and in 1859 moved to Oxford to teach. Briton was born in 1840 in London. He was taught by his own father, and exhibited paintings at the British Institution at age 11. He received his B.A. in arts in 1867, and his M.A in 1873. After 1864, his painting were regularly displayed at the Royal Academy. On January 16, 1878, he was elected an A.R.A. of the Royal Academy, and on May 5, 1881, a Royal Academician. Rivière is most famous for his animal paintings, and for paintings that portray relationships between animals and man.


The online edition of this work in the public domain, i.e., not protected by copyright, has been produced by the National Gallery of Art.




Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Omeka record contributed by Michelle Malmberg

Date Submitted

September 29, 2016

Date Modified

October 27, 2016 (by LM)
December 16, 2016, by LM



THE painter of “Circe and the Friends of Ulysses” and “Giants at Play” is descended from a Huguenot family which was already venerable when, just two centuries since, it was expelled from France by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  The family has long been devoted to art. Mr. D. V. Riviere, our subject’s grandfather, entered this world more than a century ago, became a Student in the Royal Academy, November 5, 1796, gained a medal in one of its schools in 1800, and contributed drawings of genre subjects and miniature portraits to the exhibitions of that body from 1823 till 1840.  His son William, who was born in London, October 26, 1806, entered the Academy as a Student in 1824, and made his début at Somerset House in 1826 as the painter in oil of a “Portrait of a Gentleman,” and of an illustration to “King John.”  He was a frequent exhibitor in the Academy till 1860, and one of the most energetic artists of his time.  He was likewise the author of cartoons which, at Westminster Hall in 1843, represented “The Spirit descending” and “A Council of Ancient Britons.”  The latter work attracted considerable attention.  Among the pictures exhibited at the same place in 1844 were a fresco by him of “An Act of Mercy,” and an oil painting called “A Council of Ancient Britons.”  To this hall he sent, in 1845, a sketch in oils of “Prince Henry submitting to Gascoigne,” and, in fresco, a portion of the same design.  To the last exhibition in this hall, 1847, Mr. W. Riviere sent “An Act of Mercy,” a picture in oil. Some of his productions were lithographed, and he modelled in clay with a good deal of ability.  He became so competent a draughtsman per se that the mastership of the Drawing School at Cheltenham College was won in competition by him in 1849.  He held this post till 1859, when he removed to Oxford, and, as a teacher of drawing, painter, and I believe, writer on the subject, took a leading part in promoting the study of art in that University.  In the Union Room at Oxford he painted three of the series of pictures illustrating the Arthurian legend.  He died in Oxford, August 29, 1876.

            Besides these members of an artistic family we know of Mrs. W. Riviere at the British Artists’ Gallery in 1871, Miss F., sister of William Riviere, Miss Annette L., his daughter, and Henry Parsons, his brother, an Associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours since 1852, who resided many years in Rome, and is still painting.  Mrs. Briton {70} Riviere is an artist whose studies of flowers have been noticed at the Royal Academy and the Dudley Gallery.

            My more immediate subject was born in London, August 14th, 1840. He began his literary education in the Cheltenham School, and simultaneously had his first artistic training at his father’s hands. With the family he removed to Oxford, and, becoming a member of the University, obtained the B.A. degree in 1867, the Mastership of Arts in 1873. Long before this, however, when he was only eleven years old, he had appeared as a painter by exhibiting at the British Institution of 1851, “Love at First Sight” and “Kitten and Tom Tit.”  His next appearance was with three pictures in 1858 at the Royal Academy, being “The Broken Chain,” “Rest from Labour,” and “Sheep on the Cotswolds.”  “On the Road to Gloucester Fair” was at the same gallery in 1859, and was followed in 1861 at the British Institution by “Elaine.”  From this date there was a gap in Mr. Riviere’s contributions to the galleries till 1864, when he sent to the Academy “Iron Bars,” and “Romeo and Juliet”—the lovers’ parting scene.

            His pictures were thenceforth exhibited in nearly regular order; thus “Bevis,” a great dog, was at the Royal Academy, 1865; “Much Ado about Nothing,” “Minding Baby,” and “Dinner Time,” at the British Artists’ Gallery in 1866, and, at the Academy in the same year, came forth “The Poacher’s Nurse,” a dog licking his sick master’s hand.  “Strayed from the Flock,” a dead lamb lying in the snow, which Mr. Stacpoole has since engraved, was proof that the painter had with true sympathy hit on a treasury of fancy the public could never turn from.  With it the Academy of 1867 contained a still more touching appeal, in “The Long Sleep,” the scene of which is a lonely cottage, where, late one evening, a shepherd sat in his chair and slept by the fireside till the embers died with him, so that, when dawn brought the work of another day, there was no one to open the fold, and, although the eager watch-dogs clustered about his knees, and one of them leaped to lick his face, he stirred not at all.  After this came, at the same gallery, “A Saint” and “The Last of the Garrison,” a dog, sole survivor of a siege (1868); “Prisoners,” a young man seated hiding his face, and watched by his dog (1869); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Charity,” a beggar girl sharing her dole with two hungry dogs, engraved by Mr. Stacpoole (1870); “Come Back!” an erring daughter’s return home welcomed by a glad dog, and “Circe and the Friends of Ulysses,” the men transformed into swine, a picture finely engraved by Mr. Stacpoole (1871); “Daniel” standing in the den of the lions, which has been engraved by Mr. J. C. Lewis (1872); “Argus” (now being engraved by Mr. Stacpoole) and “All that was left of the Homeward Bound,” a girl lashed to a mast floating on the sea, engraved by the same (1873); “Apollo” in a wood playing to the beasts, and “Genius loci,” the scene of which is a cave, with a lion sleeping at its mouth (1874); “War Time,” an old shepherd looking over a desolate landscape near a grey stone wall, and with, under his arm, a newspaper announcing the death of his son in battle, “C. Mansel Lewis, Esq.,  {71} with a favourite mare and dogs,” standing on the sea-shore, and (the first having been suppressed) the second version of “The Last of the Garrison” (1875); “A Stern Chase is always a Long Chase,” ducks and frogs in a pool, and “Pallas Athenæ and the Herdsman’s Dog,” a subject from the Sixteenth Odyssey (1876); “A Legend of St. Patrick” and “Lazarus” (1877).

            On January the 16th, 1878, Mr. Riviere was elected an A.R.A.  In this year he sent to the Academy an illustration, which was afterwards engraved by Mr. Stacpoole, of a Persian legend, with the motto:--


“They say the Lion and the Lizard keep

The courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep.”


It is a picture of the ruins of Persepolis while wild beasts prowl among the columns by moonlight; with it were “An Anxious Moment,” geese inspecting a hat on the ground, “Sympathy,” engraved by Mr. Stacpoole, and “Victims.”  After these came “The Poacher’s Widow,” “In manus tuas, Domine!” and “A Winter’s Tale” (1879); “The Night Watch,” “Endymion,” and “The Last Spoonful” (1880); “Envy, Hatred, and Malice,” reproduced by the last-named engraver, “A Roman Holiday,” “Let sleeping Dogs lie,” engraved by Mr. Atkinson, and “Hope Deferred” (1881); “The Magician’s Doorway,” “Cupboard Love,” a young lady and her poodle, “The King drinks,” and “Una” (1882); “The Unclean Spirits entering into the Swine,” “Old Playfellows,” “The Last of the Crew,” “Giants at Play,” navvies on Sunday, and an etching of “The King drinks” (1883); “The Eve of St. Bartholomew,” “The King and his Satellites,” a lion and jackals, “Actæon” attacked by his dogs, and “The Enchanted Castle” (1884).  Mr. Riviere was elected a Royal Academician on the 5th of May, 1881; his diploma work is “The King drinks,” as above, a lion at a desert spring.  On account of “Charity” the painter received a medal at the Vienna Exhibition.  In 1878 a medal of the Third Class was awarded to him at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, for “Charity,” “Daniel,” and “The Last of the Garrison.”  At Philadelphia he had a medal for “Circe,” and “War Time.”

            Mr. Riviere has produced a certain number of pictures which have not been exhibited.  In addition to the above we have seen the following water-colour drawings at the Dudley Gallery:-- “Confessions” (1868); “A Game at Fox and Geese,” which is one of his best works (1869); “Fly Catching,” “Orphans,” lambs being fed with a bottle, and “Suspicion” (1870); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Entanglements,” and “Expectation” (1871); “Much Ado about Nothing” and “The Early Bird gets the Worm” (1872).  The painter has been represented among the Cabinet Pictures in Oil at the Dudley Gallery since the opening of the gallery in 1867, by “Listening” and “Going to be Whipped” (1867); “The Long Sleep” and “The Blackbird” (1868); “A Trainbearer” and “The {72} Empty Chair” (1869); “Conscience” and “For Sale” (1870); “His only Friend” and “A Portrait” (1871); “Warranted Quiet to Ride or Drive” and “The Lion has come up from his Thicket” (1872); “A Prince of Orange” and “Equo ne credite Teucri” (1873); “A Double Entendre” (1875); “Poachers” (1877); and “Cave Canem!” (1879).  He was an occasional contributor to the Exhibition of Works in Black and White.  The picture called “Imprisoned” was engraved by Mr. S. Cousins; “Fox and Geese” is now at South Kensington.

            It is not too much to say, nor is it beyond my function on this occasion to point out that, despite the often recurring mood of sorrowfulness which the above copious list of work affirms, the painter is one of those who has chosen to illustrate by many instances the affectionate relationship of animals and man, e.g. “The Long Sleep,” “The Last of the Garrison,” “Prisoners,” “Charity,” “Come Back!” “Sympathy,” “Victims,” “The Poacher’s Widow,” “Argus,” and a dozen more.

            He is one of the few painters who have hit the happy mean between the utter savagery and brute force of Rubens’s and Snyders’s beasts and those somewhat genteel animals Sir Edwin Landseer painted after he “got into society.”

Original Format

Book pages





Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor, BRITON RIVIERE, R.A., M.A.

Cite As

Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor, “BRITON RIVIERE, R.A., M.A.,” Victorian Artists at Home, accessed April 24, 2024,

Item Relations

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