NURSEY, Perry [Peregrine Pickle]

1771 - 1840

Perry Nursey

Baptised as Perry Nursey at Stonham Aspal on 25 June 1771, second of three sons and two daughters of John Nursey (died 1791), surgeon of Stonham Aspal, and his wife Catherine (1742-1827), daughter of John Fairfax (died 1805), proprietor of the Norwich Stage Waggons of Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmund’s, who married at Coddenham, Suffolk on 4 April 1764. Nursey followed his father's profession as a surgeon, having probably been his apprentice and in 1794 entered the practice of G. Cockle at Woodbridge, Suffolk not long after he became surgeon to the workhouse at Melton, near Woodbridge. In 1795, he eloped to Scotland with Anne Simpson (1776–1844) of Wantisden, Suffolk, an heiress to an estate at Little Bealings, a ward in chancery. He gave addresses in London in 1799 and 1801, though he was almost certainly living at Little Bealings by the end of 1799. On his estate at The Grove, Little Bealings he devoted himself to the artistic pursuits of painting and horticulture and ‘laid out the grounds in the best style of ornamental planting’. In 1814 he published 'An Essay on Picturesque Gardening, Planting, and Rural Improvements' and was employed by Sir Charles Blois for improvements to the gardens of Cockfield Hall, Yoxford, Suffolk also by Mr Gibson at Theberton Hall probably having done the same to The Grove for its new owner. About 1827 he sold the Great Bealings estate to James Colvill, a director of the East India Company, and Nursey went to live at Foxhall where he built himself a house. In 1832 Nursey was referred to as an architect and landscape gardener living at a friend’s house, Foxburrow Hill, Melton where, designated an architect, of Melton, he was declared bankrupt on 31 December 1833, in 1822 there had already been a passing suggestion of financial insecurity, a forced auction of his art collection was held at Foxburrow on 10-11th April 1834. Advertisements for it in the 'Ipswich Journal' of 7th and 26th March 1834 offered some 350 prints after old masters, gathered with some emphasis on the seventeenth century and on landscape; 100 prints after Thomas Gainsborough; 43 drawings by David Wilkie; 25 pictures with attributions—probably unreliable—to seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painters; finally, 150 paintings and sketches by himself, cried up as ‘vivid and faithful transcripts’ of local scenery. He then moved to 3 Broadley Terrace, Marylebone, London where he died of ‘ossification of the heart and arteries of the brain’ on 12 January 1840, aged 68. The father of ten children one of whom Claude Lorraine Richard Wilson Nursey published some lithographs of Suffolk. He is sometimes referred to as Peregrine Pickle Nursey and under this name several of his children, including twins Fontance Larissia and Fontance Lavinia, were baptised at Little Bealings on 16 December 1809 under the same mother but the father being Perigrine Pickle on one entry and Perry on the other. His wife died at 3 Portland Place, Regents Park on 21 July 1844, aged 68. The Nursey vault is in Little Bealings church and a Davy print shows this vault which has now disappeared. Famously, Nursey proclaimed his commitment to art by naming five of his eleven children after painters. He exhibited some landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1799 and 1801, and in 1830 with the Norwich Society of Artists 'Portrait of a Lady 87 years of age' and 'The Duke of Wellington attacking the rearguard of Marshal Soult's Army' which maybe the same as exhibited at the British Institution in 1815. In London, W. P. Frith derided his landscapes for having a greenness beyond old-masterly sanction. His admirers were, rather, among his country neighbours. The poet Edward Fitzgerald, a poor judge of pictures, owned a number of his works and was indulgently content to find in them a ‘genuine feeling of nature’ and another literary friend and admirer in the district, again no judge, was Bernard Barton. Conferring more credit on Nursey, although not necessarily as a painter, is a reference to him in a letter by John Constable [q.v.], written from London in 1814 to the elder John Dunthorne [q.v.]. Although concerned with one of his own pictures, Constable's words imply that both he and his correspondent knew Nursey, and that he heeded his opinion. There is no record of their further association, but pictures by Nursey have passed occasionally (and optimistically) as by Constable. Nursey's particular relationship was not, however, with any landscapist but with Wilkie, whom he came to know by 1814, possibly through the piano maker William Stodart. In the warmer months of 1816, 1818, 1822, and 1823 Wilkie made short visits to The Grove, where he and Nursey painted. Nursey enjoyed Wilkie's technical experience, also learning through making copies of his pictures. Wilkie, himself diffident about painting landscape, was with little doubt spurred on in the endeavour by Nursey's enthusiasm for it. As well as the drawings by Wilkie already mentioned, Nursey collected prints after his pictures and found local buyers for them. Their easy friendship was shared by their families, and was strengthened by an attachment formed between Nursey's eldest son, Robert, and Wilkie's sister Helen but Robert died in 1824, while staying with Wilkie, and buried in Little Bealings on 14th January, aged 27, before the marriage could take place. In 1825 Wilkie left for three years on the continent, and soon afterwards the Nurseys moved from Little Bealings. These events appear to have dissolved the relationship. Wilkie has left an expressive drawing of Nursey, made in 1823 and now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The impression left of Nursey in the country is of a convivial man, esteemed in his neighbourhood, churchgoing and attentive to the poor.
Robert buried on 14 January 1824, aged 27.
Perry, jun. [q.v.]
Anne baptised 7 September 1800
Pouissin Hassard [q.v.]
Catherine Elizabeth baptised 16 October 1803
Corinthea 8 May 1808
Marietta Syrani born 20 November and baptised 12 December 1807
Fontance Lavinia born 21 November and baptised 16 December 1809
Rosalba Violante born 29 July and baptised 24 August 1812
Claude Lorraine [q.v.]




Works by This Painter