Heritage: Louis Burleigh Brühl - the artist who painted for royalty

Rev J H Bruhl (1823 – 1893)

Rev J H Brühl (1823 – 1893) - Credit: Collection of Andy Grant

In this week’s column, historian Andy Grant recalls the life of watercolour landscape artist Louis Burleigh Brühl and explores how Havering influenced his paintings.

The Rev John Henry Brühl was born in Prussia around 1824 - originally of the Jewish faith, but he later converted to Christianity.

He became one of three missionaries working on behalf of the Church of England in Baghdad, for the Operative Jewish Converts Institution during the late 1850s.

He and his wife Anne Eliza (nee Perkins) had three children in Baghdad; Leopold Henry in 1858, Louis Burleigh on July 28, 1861, and Edward Selby in 1862.

Louis Burleigh Brühl was educated in Vienna and entered business life at the age of 16, becoming a merchants’ bookkeeper and later a director of White, Child and Beney Ltd.

In 1889 he married Alice With in Hampstead. The same year, he decided to make painting his profession and started to exhibit his work in England.

At this time, he was living at 5 Cranworth Villas, Dymoke Road, Hornchurch, two doors away from his brother Leopold Henry at 3 Cranworth Villas.

Bruhl St Edward's Church, Romford 1909

A print of St Edward's Church, Romford, 1909 by Louis Burleigh Brühl - Credit: Collection of Andy Grant

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Their father John Henry died on March 31, 1893 in Hackney and their mother Anne died on November 16, 1896.

Following in their father’s footsteps, younger brother Edward Selby became the vicar of St Bartholomew’s, Dalston, Hackney.

After serving as a curate at St Andrew’s Church Romford, then at St James’s Greenstead, in 1897 Leopold Henry was appointed curate at Harold Wood Congregational Church.

Louis Burleigh’s output of watercolour landscapes was prodigious and by October 1896 he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA).

Many of his paintings depicted local scenes, the sites accessed by combining his art with his love of cycling.

Perhaps one of the most evocative works was an oil painting depicting a bustling market day in Romford, purportedly executed in 1891.

This now hangs in the Central Library in Romford after it was donated to the council in 1914. Other works extended over much of Essex and further afield.

He also had an interest in amateur dramatics and in 1897 wrote a widely acclaimed farce entitled The China Dish, which was first performed to a large audience at the Corn Exchange in Romford. 

By this time he had moved to a large detached house named Triplow, standing on the southern corner of Carlton Road and Junction Road, where Carlton Parade is now.

A print of Sutton's Gate, Hornchurch,1909 by Louis Burleigh Bruhl

A print of Sutton's Gate, Hornchurch,1909 by Louis Burleigh Brühl - Credit: Collection of Andy Grant

In 1905 he became president of the Old Dudley Art Society and in 1909 an associate of the Royal College of Art (ARCA).

However, his works were not without critics.

In 1908 several of his “vigorous landscapes” exhibited at the Old Dudley Art Society exhibition at the Alpine Club Gallery were said to lack “evidence of intimate observation and one’s interest in them soon wearies”. It continued that the appeal of his best effort was “weakened by the lack of subtlety”.

One of his more enduring works was in collaboration with A R Hope Moncrieff in the spring of 1909, when he provided 32 illustrations for their book Essex. In 1912 he became president of the Constable Art Club and was also subsequently elected president of the British Watercolour Society (BWS).

1915 saw the publication of another book entitled Essex Watercolours comprising a collection of 20 of his paintings. In November 1915, the family left Romford to live at Glen Rothes, 105 Mildred Avenue, Watford.

During the 1920s he was commissioned by the Great Western Railway to illustrate a number of its iconic railway posters notably Glorious Devon c1925, Falmouth 1927, Cornish Riviera c1928 and South Wales.

Three of his paintings were in possession of the Royal family, one having been commissioned for the wedding of the Queen.

His wife Alice died at Watford in 1936, aged 75 and by 1939 he was living with a paid house-keeper, Carmen Silva Peyton-Brühl, the wife of his nephew, Horace Ambrose Peyton Brühl. On March 11, 1940 he married a former pupil, Maud May. 

Louis Burleigh Brühl died at Peace Memorial Hospital, Watford on January 29, 1942, aged 80.

More Andy Grant articles can be found on the Romford History Facebook Group.