Francis William Warwick Topham, RI ROI (1838-1924)
Frank William Warwick Topham was best known as a painter of charming genre scenes in oil and watercolour, especially those with Italian settings. In addition, he produced a number of portraits. Frank William Warwick Topham was born at 32 Fortress Terrace, Kentish Town, the second of ten children of the genre painter, Francis William Topham, and his wife, Mary Anne (née Beckwith). He studied art under his father from an early age, before entering the Royal Academy Schools. Later, he went to Paris, to work in the atelier of the academic painter, Charles Gleyre.
From 1860, Topham exhibited widely at London and provincial venues that included the Royal Academy of Arts, the British Institution, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery.
Topham enjoyed the company of his father, and undertook sketching tours with him to Ireland in 1860, and to Rome and Capri in 1863. Developing a particular love of Italy, he returned to the country on several occasions, and made its 115 people the chief subject of his paintings.
One documented trip was that of 1865, when he went to Ravenna with fellow painters, E S Lundgren and Frank Dillon.
In 1870, Topham married Helen Lemon, in Horsham, Sussex. She was the daughter of his father’s friend, Mark Lemon, the first editor of Punch. They settled together at 58 Queen’s Road, St John’s Wood, but, in 1877, moved to Ifield, Prince Arthur Road, Hampstead. They had five daughters and three sons.
In 1879, Topham was elected a member of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours. (Six years later, the institute would receive its royal charter.) Then, in 1883, he was elected to the membership of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, only two years after its foundation. (In turn, it would receive its royal charter, becoming the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1909.)
Around 1890, Topham and his family moved to Coneyhurst, a Tudor manor house in the village of Ewhurst, in Surrey, which he had modernised and extended. However, he retained a studio in London at Garden Chambers, 32 Great Ormond Street, and continued to paint and exhibit into the early years of the twentieth century. He died at home on 25 May 1924, at the age 86.
Further reading: Tom Pocock, Topham and Son. A Family of Artists, London: Burgh House Museum, 1985