George Price Boyce started his working life as an architect, but a meeting with the landscape artist David Cox in 1849 led him to abandon the prospect of a professional career and become a painter.
Blessed with a congenial disposition and the independent means to support himself – and to collect the work of his contemporaries – Boyce led a sociable existence. His close friendship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti gave him entrée to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose day-to-day activities Boyce recorded in his diaries. He lived in Chelsea in a studiohouse built for him by the architect Philip Webb.
Boyce became a regular exhibitor at the Society of Painters in Water Colours, to which he was elected an associate member in 1864, though full membership came embarrassingly late in 1878. Nevertheless, critics immediately recognised the fine qualities of his watercolours of the English rural landscape, whose timeworn, vernacular buildings Boyce rendered in loving detail. Most especially, they noted the atypical motifs and uncommon viewpoints:
Mr Boyce is singular in the choice of his subjects, inasmuch as he loves to plant his sketching stool just where there is no subject. Yet does he manage to make out of the most uncompromising of materials a picture which for the most part is clever and satisfactory.
The sentiment was echoed in the very same Art Journal the following year in 1867:
He displays pictures which, as usual, please by their peculiarities… That he affects subjects which an ordinary artist would condemn as unpaintable, is rather in his favour.
The Art Gallery of NSW watercolour An old farmhouse at Hambledon, Surrey c1876, with its uniform rows of cabbages and alternating bands of furrowed soil, represents an antidote to the chocolate-box images of Victorian cottage gardens.
Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017