Sir Charles Lock Eastlake (1793-1866) is undoubtedly one of the most famous people to bear a surname of our one-name study. Born to George and Mary Pearce Eastlake and part of a remarkably successful Plymouth family, references to Charles can be found across the Internet. Baptised at Plymouth St Andrew, Charles pursued his artistic interests with passion from an early age and studied with Samuel Prout and Benjamin Robert Haydon in his youth.
In 1815, Charles had the opportunity to paint Napoleon who was being held captive aboard the Bellerophon in Plymouth Sound. He then lived in Rome for 14 years and continued to travel extensively throughout his life. His impressions of the many paintings he viewed are now preserved in his travel notebooks. He became an Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1827 and spent the following decade focused on painting. As time passed, increasing effort went into writing about art, with references to his many publications available online. In addition, upon his death his wife sold Charles’ private library of over 2,000 books related to art history to the National Gallery which has preserved the collection as ‘The Eastlake Library’.
Charles gained his place in history not only from his artwork but even more so from his contributions to the art world through his administrative roles and writing. In 1841, he became Secretary to the Fine Arts Commission led by Prince Albert. In 1850, he became President of the Royal Academy and remained so through annual elections until his death. He was also knighted at that time. In 1853, he became the first President of the Royal Photographic Society. Then in 1855, he became the first Director of the National Gallery, working for the next decade to greatly increase its holdings and doing much to transform it into the institution of international repute that it remains today.
Charles died in Pisa, Italy in 1865 and was buried in Florence. However, the Royal Academy arranged for his return to London and re-burial in Kensal Green Cemetery. A 2011 publication by Susanna Avery-Quash and Julie Sheldon, Art for the Nation: The Eastlakes and the Victorian Art World, is available through online bookshops and offers fascinating insights into Charles and his wife Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake.
S Avery-Quash and J Sheldon, Art for the Nation: The Eastlakes and the Victorian Art World, (Yale University Press, 2011), https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/art-for-the-nation-sir-charles-eastlake-at-the-national-gallery, [accessed 10 June 2016].
The National Gallery, ‘Sir Charles Lock Eastlake’, https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/directors/sir-charles-eastlake.
Dictionary of Art Historians, ‘Sir Charles Lock Eastlake’, https://dictionaryofarthistorians.org/eastlakec.htm, [accessed 10 June 2016].
Portrait of Charles Lock Eastlake: By John Partridge – National Portrait Gallery: NPG 3944(22), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6501733, [accessed 10 June 2016].
Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon: By Charles Lock Eastlake – The National Maritime Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=304388, [accessed 10 June 2016].
Gravestone of Charles Lock Eastlake: By Original image created by Edward Hands, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12161793, [accessed 10 June 2016].