John Collier was born January 27, 1850. He was the son of a judge and amateur artist, Lord Monkswell. Collier was born in a talented and successful family. Both his grandfather and father were a Member of Parliament. John Collier was educated at Eton and studied at the Slade, in Paris and in Munich.
Collier's married his first wife Marian Huxley in 1879. She was a painter, who, like him, studied at the Slade. After the birth of their only child, she suffered severe post-natal depression and was taken to Paris for treatment where, however, she died in 1887.
Shortly afterwards, in 1889, Collier married her younger sister Ethel. As such a marriage was not possible in England the ceremony took place in Norway. By his second wife he had a daughter and a son.
Collier was one of the founding members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, of which he became Vice President. He was the author of several books concerning the arts, such as The Primer of Art, A Manual of Oil Painting (1886) and The Art of Portrait Painting.
His commissioned portrait of King George V as Master of Trinity House in 1901 when Duke of Cornwall and York, although very far from being his best work, shows the extent of his fashionable reputation.
Collier sent a steady stream of portraits and subject pictures to the Royal Academy from 1870 until the end of his life. As a portrait painter he can be linked to the work of John Everett Millais, but his glowering statesmen and confident captains of industry are reminiscent more of the severity of Frank Holl's portraits. Collier also revealed a much lighter side in his theatrical portraits.
A photocopy of John Collier's Sitters Book has been preserved. This is the artist's own handwritten record of all his portraits, including name of subject, date, fee charged, and details of any major exhibitions of the picture in question.
John Collier died April 11, 1934.