Military art and historical prints by
James P Beadle, Victorian military artist. Military prints of Battle of
Waterloo, Boer War, First World War.
JAMES PRINSEP BEADLE B:
Calcutta 1863 D: London 1946.
Beadle was an academic painter who, unlike many of his contemporaries did not
make a living as an illustrator. The son of Major-General James Pattle Beadle,
the artist spent his early years in India becoming immersed in things military.
Upon his father's move back to England, James went to study at the Slade School
for three years under Alphonse Legros before moving to Paris to study at the
Ecole des Beaux Arts with Cabanal. His final schooling was in London with G.F.
Watts. From his home in Victoria Road, Kensington, he submitted his first
painting entitled The Painter at the age of 20 in 1884, at the distinguished
Royal Academy of Arts in London, and in the following year he showed a portrait
of his father in full uniform. Four years later he was awarded a bronze medal at
the Paris Universal Exhibition for a painting of Les Gardes du Corps de la Reine.
However, his first military painting exhibited at the Royal Academy did not
appear until six years later. Drawn from life it depicted the Centenary
Inspection of the Duke of York's Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars at Bury St. Edmund's
in 1893. In the following year he had his own exhibition at the Fine Art Society
in London. The show was entitled 'Military England of Today' and included
pictures entitled Waiting for the Watering Order and Dragoons returning to camp.
As one reviewer wrote, 'He does not go out of his way to flatter "Tommy
Atkins" but he shows him to the public under many forms and in many
becoming uniforms. He has studied him at home and abroad, at peace and at war,
on horseback and on foot, an our verdict must be that the English soldier, of
whatever branch of the service, is trim and business-like, and in many cases, a
His interest in the soldier at war led him to paint his first battle scene in
1897 representing Corporal Styles of the Royal Dragoons capturing the Standard
of the French 105th Infantry Regiment at Waterloo. He followed this up with
several military scenes such as The Comrade showing a military funeral in a
village, and Paris - a torchlight procession of Cuirassiers, but the war in
South Africa which broke out in 1899 provided him with material for numerous
In 1901 he exhibited two paintings of the war: one showing the Grenadier Guards
saving wounded soldiers from the burning veldt at Biddulphsberg (shown at the
New Gallery), and a picture of the 62nd Field Battery arriving at the
battlefield of Modder River, exhibited at the Royal Academy. He followed this up
in 1902 with The Victors of Paardeberg showing British troops cheering beside a
wall of mealie bags as surrendering Boers approach them.
While he never forgot the war and returned to it for inspiration later on, he
became increasingly more interested in depicting past military victories. In
1904 he exhibited a scene of the Battle of Dettingen and during the first decade
of the twentieth century painted a number of canvases of the wars against
Napoleon. These included The passage of the Bidassoa exhibited in 1908, 'the
rear guard' of 1910 showing the retreat to Corunna, and 1806: an affair of
outposts. A painting of the Franco-Prussian War was hung in 1906. The Boer War
resurfaced with his scene representing artillery leaving for the front,
exhibited at the Academy in 1907, his painting of 1911 entitled 'The empty
saddle', and in 1915, his painting of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade
charging uphill at Bergendal.
His continuing interest in the Peninsula War led him to take a holiday in Spain
and Portugal in 1912 where he visited numerous battlefields to sketch the
terrain. In the same year he exhibited a picture of the fighting at San
Sebastian in August 1813, and in the following year, submitted his picture of
Vittoria, June 21st, 1813. As late as 1924 he was still painting scenes from this
war, but in the meantime the events in Europe were occupying the minds of
everyone. Beadle, like his contemporaries Wollen and Woodville, began to paint
scenes from the Great War, often from imagination and sometimes with the help
from veterans. Among his many paintings are Neuve Chapelle, 10 March 1915, Dawn:
Waiting to go over, Breaking the Hindenburg Line, and the Battle of Gheluveldt,
1914, painted in 1920.
In the twenties, he turned more to landscapes possibly as a result of the
horrors inflicted in the Great War. While his last painting at the Royal Academy
was shown in 1929, he was to live for another 17 years finally dying in
Kensington on 13 August 1946. Peter Harrington, 1991.