|A signed cabinet card portrait of Colonel Sir Robert Edis, architect and writer, and from 1883 to 1902 Colonel of the Artists’s Rifle Volunteers.
Born at Huntingdon on 13 June 1839, he probably settled in London in 1859, the year he joined the Architectural Association (President, 1865-67). In 1860 he joined the newly formed 38th Middlesex Artists’ Volunteers (changed to the 20th Middlesex in 1881).
The Volunteer Corps arose in 1859 as a patriotic response to the threat of French invasion and the Artists’ Rifles was formed the following year. Its first Commanding Officer was Henry Wyndham Phillips, its second was Frederick Leighton. Among the other distinguished artists who joined were John Everett Millais, G.F. Watts, Holman Hunt and William Morris. The regiment originally comprised professional painters, musicians, actors, architects and others involved in creative endeavours but over the years its composition was broadened to include many other professions. By 1893, painters and sculptors represented less than 5 per cent. of the membership with architects 12 per cent., lawyers 12 per cent., doctors 10 per cent. and civil engineers 6 per cent.
As an architect, Edis was largely engaged in building and altering various mansions in England and Wales. Although some London warehouses he built in the 1860s and early 1870s – now destroyed - were designed in a Gothic Revival style, Edis was quick to adopt the Queen Anne Revival style, though not for his country houses. Boscombe Spa Hotel (1873; now the Chine Hotel), Bournemouth, was an early example; others include 94 Bond Street (1878); 10 Fleet Street (1885); 59-61 Brook Street (c. 1884); and 114 Mount Street (1892), all in London, all of red brick and terracotta and with Dutch gables. 70 Marine Parade (1879-80), Brighton, is an essay in the Old English style, while 101 Piccadilly (1890-91; formerly the Junior Constitutional Club), London, explores a free Italian style and is entirely faced with marble. For the Great Central Hotel (1897-9) at 222 Marylebone Road, now the Landmark Hotel, he reverted to brick and terracotta and used a variety of elements from a Northern Renaissance Revival style.
Edis was also a pioneer of built-in furniture, arguing that it was ‘labour saving, cleaner as well as cheaper'. He was the author of two influential books: Decoration and Furniture of Town Houses (1881) and Healthy Furniture and Decoration (1884). These books placed him in the vanguard of those furniture reformers who advocated a greater simplicity and rationality.
Colonel Edis was knighted for war services in 1919. He died at Great Ormsby in Norfolk on 23 June 1927.
Photographed by Elliott and Fry of 55, Baker Street London.
From an album presented to Thomas Dolling Bolton by Colonel Edis and the officers of the 20th Middlesex Artists’ Rifle Volunteers in gratitude for his hospitality at Easter 1895. Thomas Bolton was for many years the M.P. (Liberal) for N.E. Derbyshire.
The portrait has been signed ‘Robert W. Edis / Colonel / Artists RV’ in the lower margin and dated ‘Easter 1895’.
condition: Apart from some foxing at its right-hand edge, the print is in excellent condition, as is the mount.
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