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Broken Vows, 1857

Philip Hermogenes Calderon (3 May 1833 – 30 April 1898) was a British painter of French birth (mother) and Spanish (father) ancestry who initially worked in the Pre-Raphaelite style before moving towards historical genre. He was Keeper of the Royal Academy in London.

Calderon was born in Poitiers, France. His father was a professor of Spanish literature and a former Roman Catholic priest who had converted to Anglicanism. Calderon planned to study engineering, but he became so interested in drawing technical figures and diagrams that he changed his mind and devoted his time to art. His first successful painting was called By the Waters of Babylon (1853), which was followed by a much more popular one called Broken Vows (1857). From the beginning he was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, and some of his work showed the detail, deep colors, and realistic forms that characterize the style.

Calderon became a leading member of the St John's Wood Clique, a group of artists interested in modern genre and historical subjects. Historical, biblical, and literary themes were common in Calderon's later work. Many of his pieces show female forms wearing rich, silky clothing in gently-colored landscapes. His Morning (1884) features a copper-haired maiden watching a sunrise. His Juliet (1896) shows Shakespeare's young heroine seated on her balcony gazing at the stars. His later paintings adopt more classical style, comparable to Edward Poynter. His 1891 painting St Elizabeth of Hungary's Great Act of Renunciation won the Chantrey bequest but caused considerable controversy because of its perceived anti-Catholic message. It depicted the saint bending naked over an altar watched by monks.

The Tate Gallery exhibits several of Calderon's paintings.


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