Sphinx Fine Art
Frederick Richard Lee was born in Barnstaple, Devon. Son of the architect Thomas Lee (Snr) and brother of Thomas Lee (Jnr) (another well-known architect). Frederick was enrolled as a student in the Royal Academy on 16th January 1818, aged a mere 19 years. Although no dated paintings are recorded from this time, by the time of his election as ARA on 3rd November 1834, at least six dated paintings existed. One of F.R. Lee's paintings from this time is Bringing in the Stag (1830; Tate Gallery, London).
Lee was elected to full membership of the Royal Academy on 10 February 1838. A further seven paintings have been documented as painted by Lee before this date, again as oils, mainly on canvas. The Tate Gallery has an example from this period of his career in Sea Coast Sunrise (1834).
Frederick Lee is known to have produced a further 40 dated paintings over the next 30 years. In addition to the dated paintings, a further 50 paintings are known to exist for which no date has been identified, including Lake in a Park (Tate Gallery, London).
Lee was a prolific artist, based on the number of oil paintings he is known to have produced, both on canvas and on board. His subject matters were clearly influenced by those which also intrigued John Constable and other contemporaries.
Some of Lee's more notable paintings were a collaboration with Thomas Sidney Cooper and Sir Edwin Landseer, Lee painting the landscape and Cooper and Landseer adding the animals. Landscapes and pastoral scenes form the majority of his painting interest, with some exceptions, for example, Cover Side, The Campfire and Gypsy Tent.
Scottish scenes figured prominently as subjects for Lee, but he also travelled extensively elsewhere in Britain and the continent: Gillingham Mill, Dorset, North Duffield Bridge, Derbyshire, Swiss Bridge, Lynedock, Fulford Park, Exeter, Benmore looking up Glen Dochart, Shattered Oak in Bedfordshire, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, Rock of Gibraltar and Pont du Gard.
Lee also spent considerable time at Penshurst, Kent where a number of his paintings originate. His wife Harriet Eves Lee was buried in the churchyard there after her death in 1850.
Lee's paintings were much in demand during his life-time, and he was certainly not a poor, struggling artist — he appears to have been fairly well-off at the end of his career. Perhaps another aspect to his painting style and prolific output could have been financial — he knew his market, and he painted the subjects in the style which he knew would be popular.
During the last 15 years of his life, Frederick shared his time between three places of residence; Broadgate House, his yacht and South Africa where he owned several farms. Lee retired on 1st December 1871 and died and was buried near Wellington in South Africa on 5 June 1879. Only three photographic portraits of Frederick Richard Lee have survived, and they can be found in the National Portrait Gallery (London).
Lee is represented in the following collections: Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Norwich Museum, UK; Tate Gallery, London, amongst others.