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JOHN VARLEY O.W.S. (1778 (Hackney) – 1842 (London)

Figures in a Landscape

Watercolour. 3” x 4 ¾”  (75mm x 120mm)

Overall framed size

Provenance:  The Albany Gallery, Bury Street, St James’s, London 1985

(removed from an album)                                                                                                                            IMAGE          IMAGE



John Varley was a landscape and architectural watercolourist.  He was born at Hackney in 1778 and was the brother of Cornelius Varley and father of Albert Fleetwood Varley and Charles Smith Varley.  At first he was apprenticed   to a silversmith, and later to a law stationer.  Subsequently he obtained employment with a portrait painter in Holborn, and studied under J.C. Barrow, a teacher of drawing from about 1794.  He was one of the young artists patronized by Dr. Monro.  After visiting Peterborough with Barrow, he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1798; “Peterborough Cathedral” and continued to exhibit there until 1843.  He also exhibited at the British Institute and Suffolk Street Gallery, but chiefly at the Old Watercolour Society which he helped to found in 1804 and where he exhibited 739 works.  His early style is broad and simple, deriving great freshness from pure tints and facility of treatment.  Varley published works on drawing, perspective and astrology including  A Treatise on the Principles of Landscape Drawing (1816-21); A Pictorial Treatise on the Art of Drawing in Perspective (1821); A Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy (1828) and had a considerable reputation as an art teacher, numbering among his pupils F.O. Finch, William Henry Hunt, Copley Fielding, Turner of Oxford, David Cox, John Linnell and Mulready. 


Examples of work by John Varley are in the British Museum; Victoria and Albert Museum; Aberdeen Art Gallery; Accrington Art Gallery; The Ashmolean; Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool; Bridport Art Gallery; Derby Art Gallery; Exeter Museum; Fitzwilliam Museum; Glasgow Art Gallery; Gloucester City Art Gallery; Harrogate Art Gallery; Haworth Art Gallery; Inverness Library; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal; Leeds City Art Gallery; Leicestershire Art Gallery; City Art Gallery, Manchester; New Gallery, Scotland; Newport Art Gallery; Portsmouth City Museum; Southampton Art Gallery; Wakefield Art Gallery; York Art Gallery


John Varley died in London in 1842.