Date of Award

Fall 10-31-1991

Document Type


First Advisor

Cox, Richard


George Price Boyce (1826-1897) is little known today except by his diaries, which chronicle his association with the Pre-Raphaelite circle in London from 1851 to 1875. Yet in his own day Boyce was widely admired for his watercolor landscapes, and after 1864 was a leading member of the select Royal Water-Colour Society. His landscapes were thought to have a special, even eccentric quality, particularly his work from about 1859 to 1870, generally acknowledged to be his best.

Critics and art historians who take note of Boyce today almost always link him with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This thesis, however, seeks to establish the importance of other influences on Boyce's work. Boyce became an artist in 1849 after meeting the great English watercolorist David Cox. After a brief summary of Boyce's life, Chapter I traces the tradition of watercolor landscape in England to Cox, taking note of the major traditions: topography, ideal landscape, and the picturesque. Chapter II examines Boyce's association with the Pre-Raphaelites. After establishing the principles of the Brotherhood, it seeks to show that Boyce had other motives in his work of that period more important than Pre-Raphaelite "truth to nature." Boyce's efforts to fulfill John Ruskin's expectations for artists are also examined, especially Ruskin's idea of architectural record-making. Chapter III describes Boyce's most distinctive period, especially the Thames Valley drawings and some "empty" landscapes. Boyce's exposure to Japanese prints is put forward as an explanation for the unsettling qualities these share. Finally, Chapter IV looks at Boyce's last productive years, in which the drawings at last show the harmony which Boyce's writings suggest he had sought in landscape from the first.