OLIPHANT, Francis Wilson
(1818—1859) painter and designer of stained glass, son of Thomas Oliphant,
Edinburgh, of an ancient but fallen family in Fife, was born on 31 August
1818, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, during the temporary residence of his parents
He was trained as an artist
at the Edinburgh Academy of Art. In early life the revival of Gothic style
and ornament led him to make a profound study of ecclesiastical art, and
while still very young he attained considerable reputation as a designer
of painted glass in the works of Messrs. Wailes of Newcastle-on- Tyne.
He afterwards removed to
London and worked much with Welby Pugin, especially upon the painted
windows in the new Houses of Parliament. He also sent in a cartoon to the
competition for the decoration of Westminster Hall, which was not
successful. During this period Oliphant exhibited several pictures in the
Royal Academy, the chief being a large Shakespearean study of the
interview between Richard II John of Gaunt, and a striking picture of the
Prodigal Son, "Nearing home". In 1852 he married his cousin, Margaret
Oliphant Wilson, who was then beginning to be know as a writer, and has
since achieved a very wide reputation in many departments of literature.
His latter years were
occupied with an energetic attempt to improve the art of painted glass by
superintending the processes of execution as well as the design, in the
course of which he produced the
windows in the ante-chapel of
King’s College, Cambridge, those in the chancel of Aylesbury Church, and
several in Ely Cathedral. The famous choristers’ window at Ely was the
joint work of Oliphant and William Dyce, R. A., the former being
responsible for the original design. This work, however, was interrupted
by ill-health, which obliged him to seek a warmer climate.
He died at Rome in October 1859,
chiefly from the effects of overwork. He had published in 1856 a small
treatise entitled "A Plea for Painted Glass".
Oliphant had two sons, both of whom
died in early manhood after making some promising efforts in literature.
The elder son, Cyril Francis
Oliphant (1856—--90) who graduated B. A. at Balliol College, Oxford, in
1883, published in 1890, in the series known as "Foreign Classics", a
biography and criticism of the work of Alfred de Musset, which was notable
for some well-rendered translations from the French.
The younger son, Francis Romano
Oliphant (1859—1894) born at Rome after his father’s death, graduated B.
A. at Oxford in 1883. He issued in 1891 "Notes of a Pilgrimage to
Jerusalem and the Holy Land" which originally appeared in the form of
letters addressed to the "Spectator". He was a frequent contributor to
that and other periodicals, and largely aided his mother in the
preparation of her "Victorian Age of Literature" 1892.
Dict. of Nat. Biog. Vol. 42 "Private