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Edward Seago, RWS, RBA (1910 - 1974)


Oil on canvas, signed.
Frame size: 36 x 46in / 91 x 117cm


The Estate of Andre and Nancy Brewster, Maryland


Edward Seago was born in Norwich in 1910. During a childhood plagued by heart problems, he became interested in painting during his frequent periods of convalescence. Health permitting, he began to explore further afield for subjects to paint, and his first successful body of work featured a community of gypsies that lived near his home. Following his inaugural exhibition in Old Bond Street in 1929, Seago’s reputation began to grow, and he was introduced to Sir Alfred Munnings, who was to become a big influence in his early career. However, Seago soon began to compete with Munnings for commissions of horse paintings, which eventually led to a souring of their relationship.

During the early 1930s, Seago found his next subject matter in the form of the Bertram Mills Circus, with which he travelled for many months, between the bouts of his illness which remained with him for the rest of his life.

Seago had always been fortunate in terms of how many wealthy and influential patrons he had, most importantly in his early life Lady Evelyn Jones, who was a childhood neighbour, and introduced the young Seago to a number of collectors. By 1933, Seago’s career had taken off. He had a large Circus painting accepted into the Royal Academy, was given his second successful exhibition in London, which contained both circus and equestrian paintings. He had written his first book (Circus Company) and had met Ronald Horton who over the next 30 years was to acquire one of the largest collections of Seago’s work in the country.

Despite his success at such an early age, Seago felt constrained by the increasing number of equestrian commissions that he was asked to undertake, and sought a new subject matter, settling on the Ballet. This occupied him until the war, and culminated in an exhibition in New York, which somewhat to his frustration made few sales, but led to yet more equestrian commissions.

The outbreak of war led to Seago joining the army as a Camouflage Officer. When his illness was discovered, he managed to arrange an appointment as official war artist in Italy, serving under General Alexander, an old friend. The work he made during the Italian campaign was exhibited at the Colnagi Galleries in Bond Street, and this led to the legendary series of annual exhibitions which would attract crowds of people who would wait overnight before the show opened so that they could have a chance to buy.

His reputation now assured, Seago enjoyed the patronage and company of The Royal Family, designing the mascot for the hood of the Queen’s car, and presenting the Queen Mother with two paintings a year, at Christmas, and on her Birthday. He joined Prince Philip on a memorable painting trip to Antarctica and West Africa upon the Royal Yacht Britannia, and even taught Prince Charles to paint when he was a young boy.

Seago’s later life was spent in Norfolk, at his beloved house in Ludham. Surrounded by ideal subject matter, he devoted much of his time painting the villages and landscapes near his home. The acquisition of a boat also enabled Seago to fulfil one of his dreams – to sail to Paris and paint there, a trip he repeated many times. In the last twenty years of his life, he developed a taste for foreign travel, and went on painting trips as far afield as Morocco, Hong Kong, Burma, and Thailand, while also enjoying regular trips to Europe. The resulting variety in his work increased his already vast popularity, not only in the UK but also abroad, with one-man exhibitions held across the world.

In June 1973, Seago began to complain of headaches, and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After a short illness, he died in January 1974.