Celebrating the life of iconic Surrey artist Charles Collins 100 years after his death

100 years ago this month, in September 1921, one of Surrey’s most prominent artists to be associated with, having spent most of his life and career in Dorking, passed away, leaving behind a great heritage.

Charles Collins never fully recovered after being run over by a cyclist in Vincent Lane two years earlier, an incident which ultimately led to his death.

A century later, Charles remains an important local artist in the city and county and was a key figure in a dynasty of local painters.

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A family matter

Born in Hampstead in 1851, Alfred Charles Jerome Collins came from a family of artists with his father Alfred also a painter having been taught by his own brother-in-law Ambrosini Jerome, the portrait painter, who was a product of the Royal Academy School of Paint.

It was thanks to his father’s encouragement that Charles started painting very early on, it was mostly picturesque landscapes with cattle and figures.

At just 14, his father passed away and Charles was forced to become the breadwinner of his widowed mother and younger siblings.

Later in life, Dorking had established himself as the base of the growing Collins family when Charles Collins, 24, moved to Arundel Road.

The following year he married Georgiana Waddingham at St Martin’s Church; together they had ten children which he often included in his works; two of his sons will follow the family tradition as painters.

Their third son, George Edward Collins (1880-1968), became a leading artist, specializing in natural history subjects.

Their fifth son, Phillip Jerome Collins (1884-1975), immigrated to Canada in 1911 and, inspired by mountain landscapes, played an important role in the arts movement of southern Alberta, where he founded the Lethbridge Artists Club, exhibited extensively and had a gallery named after him.

Collins family photo from 1897, Charles sits next to his wife Georgiana and surrounded by their ten children. George Edward is in the back (tallest, third from left) with Philip Jerome standing next to him (fifth from left)

The first influences of art

After his father’s death, Charles was taken by a friend, Charles Francis James, to the London painting restoration business.

He worked there for seven years, restoring paintings for the brand new National Portrait Gallery, but felt the work was a bad influence on his own painting style.

After taking a part-time course at the West London School of Art, he devoted all of his time to painting and became well known for his figurative, rustic and genre paintings in watercolors and oils, s ‘often inspiring local and urban landscapes.

His work became highly regarded and popular, and he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1867 and had his works hung at the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and in galleries across the UK.

He is believed to have started signing his works ‘Charles Collins’ to avoid confusion with his father. He could also work in etching and drypoint, and for many years he illustrated books and made postcards for the publisher Ernest Nister.

Local works

Faithful to his favorite Dorking, he undertook other work in the local community, including repainting the sign of the White Horse Hotel in 1915 and contributing to the Dorking British School memorial to the fallen in the Great War in 1920 (he himself lost his youngest son, Brian Patrick, killed in action in 1917).

Painting by Charles Collins of the White Horse Hotel in Dorking
Painting by Charles Collins of the White Horse Hotel in Dorking

Charles also designed the exterior of the White Horse Hotel as seen above. This hotel still exists today and the Google Maps screenshot is below, not only can you see the obvious differences between its time and ours, but its undoubted talent is also apparent as you can still make out some of the recognizable aspects that remain

Screenshot of the day from the White Horse Hotel
Screenshot of the day from the White Horse Hotel

Along with his own painting, Charles Collins was also an art master at Dorking High School for Boys for many years.

James Chuter Ede, Home Secretary from 1945 to 1951, attended school in 1895 and a few years later recalled hearing about a “glorious and exciting episode in life. school ”a year earlier when the art master rushed out of the classroom to join the Dorking Fire Brigade Horse-drawn Fire Truck on their way to a major fire at Cherkley Court.

It was Charles Collins, who served as an engineer in the local volunteer fire brigade between 1881 and 1896. When the firefighters considered the merits of acquiring a steam pump for the town in 1896, he designed and built a fully functional model. steam engine to demonstrate its operation.

When he died in September 1921, the Dorking Advertiser advertised: “Mr. Collins was a very kind man and possessed a background of dry humor which made him a pleasant interlocutor.

Charles and his wife Georgiana are both buried in Dorking cemetery.

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About Bernice D. Brewer

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