Louis William Desanges (1822-1905)


Louis William Desanges; Chevalier Desanges (1822–1905) was an English artist of French background, known today for his paintings of Victoria Cross winners. Born in Bexley, he was the great grandson of a French nobleman who had settled in England 80 years before, and as a consequence the artist used the title 'Chevalier. He traveled in France and Italy before settling in London in 1845; he later traveled to India. At first his pictures were of an historical nature but he turned more to portrait painting as it was more lucrative. While painting a portrait of Lieut. Col. Robert James Lindsay who had won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of the Alma at his home in Wantage, the two men came up with idea of creating a series of paintings containing portraits of the various soldiers winning their V.C. medals. Many of these were exhibited at the Egyptian Gallery in Piccadilly, and 47 of the paintings were exhibited at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham in 1862. In 1900, the majority of them were acquired by Lord Wantage in 1900 and hung in the Victoria Cross Gallery. The paintings were dispersed many years later. In all, fifty oil paintings were painted by the artist between 1859 and 1862. The gallery was broken up in the 20th century and the paintings dispersed to various collections, particularly to the regiments represented. Desanges also painted several other military scenes including a depiction of General Sir Garnet Wolseley during the Ashanti War entitled Fighting in the Ashantee Forest. This had been commissioned by the proprietors of the Illustrated London News and exhibited at Willis's Rooms in London in 1874, and was reproduced as a special supplement wood-engraving in the Illustrated London News on 1 August 1874. The artist composed his picture using sketches provided by Melton Prior, and various officers sat for him. Another military painting by Desanges depicted the March of General Roberts from Cabul to Candahar which was exhibited at the Jennings Gallery, Cheapside, in the spring of 1883. The picture was literally crammed with portraits of many of the participants. Desanges also exhibited works at the Royal Academy between 1846 and 1887, many of which were portraits, but in 1862, he showed a large battle scene of Battle of Inkermann (now destroyed). Several sources give conflicting and erroneous dates for his death. In fact, the abstract of his will shows that he died on 2 October 1905 at Vine House, West Drayton, Middlesex. He left an estate valued at £2399.