Born in Altarnun, Cornwall, the artist was the son of Jonathan Whale, and received his first portrait commission in 1816 (yes, at 11 years old). Sir Coleman Rashleigh of Prideaux House became his patron and sent him to London to learn by copying works from private collections.
He was greatly influenced by the work of Joshua Reynolds, and his self-developed style sought to follow the academic tradition in painting incorporating all that which is good and beautiful as well as picturesque. In 1837 he married Ellen Heard of Bideford, Devon.
At the 1846 RCPS Annual Exhibition in Falmouth, he won a silver medal (First Prize) for a landscape in oils. In 1852 he and his wife emigrated to Canada and settled at Hamilton (in what became Ontario), where two sons were born, the second of which, Robert Heard WHALE, also became an eminent artist (1857-1906). In the same year as his wife died (1872), Whale brought his son Robert Heard (age 15) back to England to study at the Royal Academy Schools.
Later Robert junior attended Julian's Academy under Benjamin Constant and Bouguereau, and probably mixed with artists that would return to work in his father's native Cornwall. Like his father, he worked in an academic style, principally in oils, with landscape and genre subjects. Though Robert senior died in 1887, Robert junior taught art and exhibited in Ontario until 1898, when he emigrated to Capetown, South Africa, becoming head of the local art school.
Painter of animals, genre, landscapes, portrait and still life in oils
works and access
Access: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Hamilton, Ontario; Museum London, Ontario
In Cornwall: RCM, Truro: John Tabois Tregellas (1794-1863) 1844 (oil on canvas)
Truro City Council: John Lucius Dampier, MA (1792-1853), Vice-Warden of the Stannaries Court (painted c.1840)
RCPS Annual Show September 1846 (Silver medal); Upper Canada Provincial Exhibitions 1852-1867 (frequent winner of prize money in all categories); London International Exhibition 1862; Ontario Provincial Exhibition 1868
RCPS; Ontario Society of Artists (Founding member); Assoc Royal Canadian Academy 1881-86
The Penzance Gazette and West Cornwall Advertiser 9 Sep 1846
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall p352
Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Cornwall & Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership;