Samuel Prout was a painter, draughtsman and writer and is arguably one of the masters of British watercolour architectural painting.
He was born on 17th September 1783 in Plymouth, England and together with his fellow pupil, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Prout was encouraged at an early age to study drawing by Dr John Bidlake, the headmaster of the grammar school he attended in Plymouth. In 1801, he met the topographer and antiquarian, John Britton, who was so impressed with his work, he invited him to London to make drawings of antiquarian subjects and copy works of other artists, including Thomas Hearne, William Alexander and J. M. W. Turner. So in 1803 he moved to London where he met his future wife, Elizabeth Gillespie whom he married in 1810 and together they had four children.
To earn a living for him and his family, he painted marine pieces, took in students, and published drawing books for learners. He was one of the first to use lithography in his artwork but it was not until about 1818 that he truly discovered his niche when he made his first visit to the Continent. His eye caught the picturesque features of the architecture which he went on to record with skill and immediately established his reputation with these Continental street scenes, gaining praise from the likes of John Ruskin, whose work often emulated Prout’s. Ruskin was quoted as saying “Sometimes I tire of Turner, but never of Prout”.
In 1829, Prout secured the coveted position of ’Painter in Water-Colours in Ordinary’ to King George IV and afterwards to Queen Victoria.
Prout is often compared to his contemporaries such as Turner, Gainsborough, Constable and Ruskin, whom he also taught, but whilst Turner concentrated on the beauties of nature, Prout was much more interested by the cityscape. There was hardly a place in France, Germany, Italy (particularly Venice) or the Netherlands where he had not visited, searching out sculptured pieces of stone or antique gables to paint.
He died in February 1852 at his home in London following after a stroke and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.