John St Helier Lander

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John St Helier Lander 1868-1944 Royal Family portraitist

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Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, Edward Prince of Wales, King George V

Lander by his friend Edmund Blampied


Born John Helier Lander (he added the St to acknowledge his birth place of St Helier) he became one of the most accomplished portraitists of his time and included several members of the Royal Family among his subjects. He was the son of bootmaker William Lander and Emily Rule and he was born on 19 October 1868 in Belmont Road.

He was given his first paint box by Lillie Langtry, the Jersey-born actress but his father believed that he was wasting his time by painting and forbad him to continue. This meant that he had to get up early to pursue his hobby.

On leaving school at 15 he was apprenticed to a watchmaker, but he continued to draw and paint and when William discovered that people would pay for his son's works he withdrew his opposition and displayed some pictures in his shop. A year later, after meeting fellow Jerseyman and distinguished artist John Everett Millais he spent a year at Calderon's art school in Hampstead, followed by studies at the Académie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Fleury in Paris, and three years in the Royal Academy Schools.

Early career

He returned to Jersey and set up a studio, teaching privately at the Jersey Ladies College and the Guernsey Ladies College. He undertook an ambitious group portrait of the Assize d'Heritage (known as "The Sitting") which took him four years to complete. In 1897 it was purchased for £400 by Julia Westaway, of the Westaway Trust, and presented to the Royal Court, where it now hangs. He painted numerous portraits of distinguished islanders, including those of Col E C Malet de Carteret and Dr John Le Cronier, which hang in the Masonic Temple.

In the early stages of his career he also painted landscapes and pictures in the style of Millais. Violets, a picture of a Jersey flower girl was accepted by the Royal Academy in 1898.

He was greatly encouraged by the Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey at the time, General Henry Richard Abadie. When the General left Jersey, Lander followed him to London, where Abadie introduced him to society clients and became a regular visitor to Lander's studio. Between Abadie and Colonel Sir Malcolm Fox, Lander made the acquaintance of all the leading British generals before the First World War. The wartime demand for portraits provided him with steady work and brought his name before a wider public. Among his subjects was General Earl Douglas Haig, Sir Horace Smith Dorrien, Sir Philip Chetwode, Viscount Ypres and Sir William Robertson.

First Royal portrait

In 1923 he received a silver medal at the Paris Salon and painted his first important Royal portrait. He had been commissioned to symbolize the "Youth of England" through the Prince of Wales. Lander chose to portray the Prince dressed in polo kit, and the resulting picture was acclaimed, being awarded a medal at the Paris Salon. The King and Queen commanded that it be sent to Buckingham Palace for private viewing and consequently commissioned a copy for the Palace. The Queen then commissioned a portrait of the Duke of Kent in tennis kit.

T B Davis commissioned a portrait of King George V for Victoria College, with a copy for the Engineers' College, Durban. Further copies were endowed for Canada House, Australia House and New Zealand House. Lander took pride in the fact that five of these portraits of the King had been "unveiled by Royal Princes, an honour no portrait painter has ever had before".

The Illustrated London News commissioned Lander to paint portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the time of the Coronation in 1937, and also a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her baby daughter, later Queen Elizabeth II. He painted another portrait of Edward VIII for the Society of Master Mariners.

He was a good friend of the Jersey artist Edmund Blampied, whose desire to paint was sparked by a visit as a child to Lander's studio. He collaborated with Blampied in 1937 on a portrait of King George VI in his coronation robes, also commissioned by the Illustrated London News. The portrait now hangs in the Bristol Art Gallery. The portrait of the Duke of Kent and one of the then Princess Royal are in Marlborough House, and one of Queen Mary, wife of George V, is in the Doncaster Art Gallery.

His portraits of islanders included Bailiff, Sir William Vernon, which hangs in the Royal Court; Edward Binet; HM Viscount, Edmund Toulmin Nicolle; and artist Francis William Synge Le Maistre.


John St Helier Lander died at the age of 76 at his home in Witley, Surrey. He had two sons and a daughter.

The majority of Lander's subjects were living, but he also painted this striking portrait of 2nd Lieutenant Edward de Faye, who was killed at the age of 25 in the Great War when serving as a tank commander

Family tree


Descendants of William Lander


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