Calvert was a follower of Blake and member of the 'Ancients'. His early works, few in number, are tiny intense prints of bucolic and pastoral scenes. He later produced oil paintings of classical idylls, ceasing to exhibit, working only for his own pleasure and destroying much of what he produced.
Calvert was born in Devon and entered the Navy, keeping up his interest in the classics and in drawing during his period of service, in which he visited Greece. He left the Navy after a close friend was killed during the bombardment ofAlgiers and decided to take up art. A meeting with Samuel Palmer's cousin around 1824 led to an introduction to Palmer and Blake and membership of the'Ancients'. The masterpiece of his early period is the wood engraving 'The Chamber Idyll' (1831) an erotic scene, less than 2 inches (5 centimetres) high. After this he abandoned engraving, perhaps because he knew he had reached perfection of expression, perhaps because of eye problems with fine work.
In later years he was a recluse and developed complex theories of music and colour. His later art is an expression of his interest in classical culture and his personal paganism which led him to erect an altar to Pan in the back garden of his house near Hampton Court. Raymond Lister's biography appeared in 1962.
Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989.
Stirling, A. M. W. The Richmond Papers. London: William Heinemann, 1926.
Last modified 20 December 2001