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Head, Edmund Walker, Sir

    Image Credit: ArtUK

    Full Name: Head, Edmund Walker, Sir

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1805

    Date Died: 1868

    Place Born: Wierton Place, Kent, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): painting (visual works)

    Career(s): art historians and public administrators


    Co-contributor to the first English version of Kugler’s Handbook of the History of Painting (1842) with Charles Lock Eastlake; Governor-in-chief of British North America. Head was born to the clergyman Sir John Head (d. 1838) and Jane Walker (Head) in Wiarton Place, Kent, England, UK, near Maidstone. He attended Winchester joining Oriel College, Oxford University in 1823, and receiving his B. A. in classics in 1827. The following year he traveled in Europe, becoming a fellow of Merton College, Oxford in 1830 in the meantime. He returned to England in 1835 and in 1836 was chosen as an assistant poor-law commissioner. When his father died in 1838, Head became the eighth Baron Head. He married Anna Maria Yorke (1808-1890), the same year. Head’s marriage forced him to leave his fellowship at Merton, and the salary that came with it. In 1841 he became a chief commissioner of the poor-law commission. Head wrote books in the humanities and political science throughout his career. In 1846 he contributed the section on the German, Flemish, and Dutch schools of painting for the English edition of Handbook of the History of Painting by Franz Kugler, which Charles Lock Eastlake issued beginning in 1842. The dissolution of the poor-law committee in 1847 struck another financial blow to Head. He accepted the lieutenant-governorship of New Brunswick, British North America (modern Canada). Head’s skill as an administrator and politic nature lead to his appointment as Governor-in-chief of the entire colony. The Dictionary of National Biography credits him with with the selection of Ottawa as Canada’s capital (though officially selected by Queen Victoria). Head’s tenure as Governor-in-chief was stormy, focusing primarily on better relations with the United States until his departure from office in 1861. Head was elected governor of the reconfigured Hudson’s Bay Company in 1863 after his return to England, which he held until his death. He suffered a heart attack at home in 1868 and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. Ballads and other Poems, his collected poetry and translations, appeared posthumously in 1868.

    Selected Bibliography

    “The German, Flemish, and Dutch schools of painting” pt. 2 of, Kugler, Franz. A Hand-book of the History of Painting: from the Age of Constantine the Great to the Present Time [translation of Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei von Constantin dem Grossen bis auf die neure Zeit by by Margaret Hutton.] 2 vols. London: J. Murray, 1842-1846; A Hand-book of the History of the Spanish and French Schools of Painting, Intended as a Sequel to “Kugler’s Hand-books of the Italian, German, and Dutch schools of Painting.” London: J. Murray, 1848; and Propertius, Sextus. Ballads and Other Poems. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1868.


    Gibson, J. A. “Head, Sir Edmund Walker.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography 9; St. Leger, A. “Head, Sir Edmund Walker, eighth baronet (1805-1868).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004; Robertson, David. Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978.


    "Head, Edmund Walker, Sir." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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