John Hassell (1767 – 1827)

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John Hassell (1767-1825) is remembered today as a watercolour painter, engraver and drawing master. He was born in 1767, perhaps in Wales, and first appeared as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1789. He was a popular drawing-master and published several works on the techniques of drawing and painting in watercolour. He also published books of topographical views which owe much to the romantic interest in the picturesque. Several of these books, notably his ‘Views of Gentleman’s Seats Adjacent to London‘ (1804-1805), ‘Picturesque Rides and Walks within Thirty Miles of the British Metropolis‘ (1817-1818) and ‘Excursions of Pleasure‘ (1823) show Hassell’s deep interest in Surrey which was to take him to most parts of the county and result in at least 750 watercolour views of churches, houses and other buildings of architectural or historical interest which he found. They provide a superb glimpse of the county’s architecture over two centuries ago before the face of Surrey was transformed by the coming of the railway.

Watercolour of All Saints church, Banstead, from the north east, by John Hassell, 1823 (Surrey History Centre ref. 4348/2/78/1)

Watercolour of All Saints church, Banstead
from the north east, by John Hassell, 1823
(Surrey History Centre ref. 4348/2/78/1)

Hassell’s work was popular with gentlemen who collected drawings and watercolours to extra-illustrate their copies of Owen Manning and William Brays ‘History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey’, 3 vols (1804-1814). Robert Barclay’s collection of Surrey illustrations includes over 500 original watercolours by John Hassell and his son, Edward.

Edward Hassell continued with similar drawings in a different technique until 1832. He was more interested in the interior of churches and in more modern buildings than his father. He died in 1852.

For further information relating to John and Edward Hassell, together with an analysis of their artistic style, the materials they used and a list of the work they produced, see ‘A Catalogue of Pictures of Surrey and Elsewhere by John Hassell (1767-1825) and his son Edward (1811-1852)’ by J C Batley and G P Moss, Surrey Archaeological Collections, vol 75 (1984).

High quality copies of these and other images from the collection are available for purchase. Find out more details on the Surrey History Centre website.

A to Z list of the Galleries of Hassell Watercolours available to view on this website

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