Francis Owen Salisbury (18 December 1874 – 31 August 1962) was an English artist known on both sides of the Atlantic as ‘Britain’s Painter Laureate’ who specialised in portraits, large canvases of historical and ceremonial events, stained glass and book illustration.
Born in 1874 in Hertfordshire, the son a plumber and glazier. Salisbury was a delicate child mainly educated at home. After a few weeks of formal schooling, he started work by mending bicycles. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to his older brother, who managed a major stained glass company in St Albans. He rapidly acquired all the practical skills of a stained-glass artist and exhibited exceptional skills in the painterly detail that was applied to glass before its final firing. His brother sponsored him to attend the Heatherley School of Art to further a career in painting. He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools for five years. He had seventy exhibits accepted for the annual Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, from 1899 until 1943.
Twenty-five members of the Royal Family sat for Salisbury and he was the first artist to paint HM Queen Elizabeth II. In England he painted Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Richard Burton and Field Marshall of Alamein, to name just a few.
The American Ambassador to London, encouraged Salisbury to go to the USA where he also had great success. He painted six presidents with Franklin D. Roosevelt remaining as the official White House portrait to this day. He also painted Will Kellog, Andrew Mellon, and many industrial and financial giants of the period.
He also painted over forty large canvases of historical and national events including The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth 1937, and many canvases of military commemoration. Despite his great success as a painter, it was stained glass that remained his favourite, art form.
Salisbury died at home in West Heath Road in 1962 at Sarum Chase, the neo-Tudor mansion he built for himself in 1932; which Sir Nicolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, described as “pure Hollywood Tudor”! In June 1968, Sarum Chase was the setting of a photoshoot for The Rolling Stones, for their Beggars Banquet album, by the photographer Michael Joseph. The house also appeared briefly in 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians as the exterior of Cruella De Vil’s mansion