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Drawing - Street scene in China
  • Street scene in China
    Chinnery, George, born 1774 - died 1852
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Street scene in China

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:


  • Date:


  • Artist/Maker:

    Chinnery, George, born 1774 - died 1852 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Graphite on rough paper

  • Credit Line:

    Gift of Herbert Spies

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case BECK1, shelf 3

George Chinnery (1774-1852) was born in London, the son of a writing master with artistic ambition, who exhibited portraits at the Free Society of Artists in 1764 and 1766. Chinnery established himself as a miniature painter (small portraits in watercolour on ivory), exhibiting miniature portraits at the Royal Academy from 1791 to 1795. In 1796 he moved to Dublin, where he had some relations, marrying there in 1799. He began to paint landscapes and large portraits in oil. The abolition of the Irish parliament in 1800 led many of Dublin's wealthier inhabitants to leave the city, and perhaps for this reason, fearing the loss of potential patrons, Chinnery also left. In 1802 he received permission from the East India company to travel from England to India, where he worked as a painter, leaving his wife and children behind in Britain. He was initially based in Madras with his elder brother, a merchant and employee of the East India Company. Gradually he received more prestigious portrait commissions, and by 1812 he was established in Calcutta as the principal Western artist in the capital of British India. His wife joined him there in 1818. While in India he made many sketches in pencil of local life, people engaged in their everyday activities, and painted scenes of local architecture in watercolour. Although he was successful and well paid, he was often in debt. In 1825 he abandoned his wife and creditors and sailed for China. He was based in the Portuguese enclave of Macau, which was to be his home for the rest of his life, apart from visits to Canton (modern Guangzhou), Whampoa and Hong Kong. Trade between China and the West was centred on Canton, but Western merchants were only allowed to stay there briefly, and their families were based in Macau. As in India, Chinnery sketched local scenes in pencil, painting finished topographical scenes in watercolour and in oil back in his studio. He received commissions however for portraits of British merchants, especially those associated with the firm of Jardine, Matheson, and also painted Chinese, Portuguese, American, Swedish and Parsi sitters. Chinnery's Chinese sitters included many Cantonese "hong merchants" who were responsible for all dealings with Western traders. As Hong Kong developed in the 1840s the Western traders and their families began to move from Macau to the new settlement. But Chinnery chose to stay in his home in Macau and died there in 1852 from a stroke.

Physical description

Graphite drawing of a busy street scene

Place of Origin





Chinnery, George, born 1774 - died 1852 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Graphite on rough paper


Height: 17.8 cm, Width: 26.2 cm

Object history note

Given to the museum in 2013 by the great-great grandson of George Chinnery, Herbert Spies

Descriptive line

Drawing by George Chinnery of a street scene in China, 1826






Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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