Valentine Prinsep (1838-1904)
Artist and writer who was part of the famous Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Valentine Cameron Prinsep was born in India on St Valentine’s Day 1838, where his father was a civil servant. The family returned to Britain, settling in Kensington, when Valentine was five years old.
Valentine’s mother filled their house with artists and writers, including poets Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning and artists John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. It was assumed that Valentine would follow his father into the Indian Civil Service but, inspired by the company he kept, the young man wanted to be an artist too.
Though never regarded as a truly great painter, Valentine was successful and popular. Influenced by Rossetti, Millais and Burne-Jones, he painted initially in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts for the first time in 1862, after travelling with Burne-Jones in Italy.
Valentine spent time studying art in Paris then set up home in Holland Park, next door to his good friend, the painter Frederic Lord Leighton. In 1877 Valentine was commissioned to paint Queen Victoria and her entourage in Delhi, when she became Empress of India. The vast painting received mixed reviews, but resulted in him becoming an associate of the Royal Academy, and later a full member. He also wrote an entertaining account of his visit to India. Valentine continued to paint, and exhibit at the Royal Academy, for the rest of his life.
In 1884, Valentine married Florence Leyland, daughter of the shipping magnate Frederick Leyland. Leyland was a great art collector and supporter of artists, including the Pre-Raphaelites. The two men are buried near each other in the cemetery.
Prinsep wanted a distinctive monument to adorn his grave, and bought an historic ‘tomb chest’ decorated with 14th century figures. The chest has weathered so badly since 1904 that it looks like he might have been sold a fake!