See paintings by Thomas Webster
Thomas Webster was the son of John Webster, member of the household of King George III at Windsor, and his wife Sarah. He trained as a chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor but at the age of 21 he decided to become an artist and he entered the Royal Academy Schools to begin studying. Webster was a talented and prolific artist. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1846 and, during his career, exhibited over seventy paintings there. His favourite subjects were genre scenes, particularly scenes of childhood. He sought inspiration from the artists of the Dutch school and English artists who followed their style, such as Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841).
Webster has been described as the ‘father’ of the Cranbrook Colony. He was certainly the oldest of the artists by almost two decades but he cannot be credited with founding the group. It was F.D. Hardy who introduced Webster to Cranbrook, a few years after moving there himself, and the two men shared a studio in the High Street. In fact Webster spent most of his career living in Kensington, London and he was in his fifties by the time he settled permanently in Cranbrook with his first wife, Betsy. Perhaps by then he preferred the quieter pace of life in the country and he was the only one of the group not to keep a second home in the city. He was certainly something of a mentor to F.D. Hardy but the relationship was a two way exchange of ideas, as can be seen in both artists’ work.In the 1890s visitors to Cranbrook could send a post-card of the pair standing outside their studio.
In 1859 Betsy Webster died and Thomas later re-married in 1861.His second wife, Ellen was twenty four years younger then him but sadly the couple did not have any surviving children.In later years he was a distinctive figure in the town, with his long white hair and velvet cloak, driving himself around the town in a bath chair drawn by a donkey. He died in 1886 and is buried in St. Dunstan’s churchyard.A memorial by the famous sculptor Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) was erected inside the church, depicting .Ellen survived him by several years and later lived with her sister in nearby Folkestone.