Robert Ponsonby Staples: The Barefoot Baronet

Amongst the treasures of Lissan House there is a substantial collection of fine paintings and sketches by the artist Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples, 12th Baronet of Lissan and Faughanvale.

Youngest son of Sir Nathaniel Staples, ‘Ponsy’ was actually born in Dundee in 1853 but came to Lissan when his father inherited the Baronetcy and took up residence there in the 1870’s. His formal education had begun in 1865 when he enrolled in the Academy of Fine arts in Louvain, Belgium. Having studied also in Paris and Brussels he eventually moved to England where, through the patronage of his cousin, Sir Coutts Lindsay, he was introduced to London society.

Staples’ charm, good humour and gregarious nature won him many new friends and potential clients as well as entrée to the grandest events on the social calendar. His close friendship with Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII ) is well documented and his circle of friends, many of whom were the subjects of his art, reads like a Who’s Who of the great and the good : Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Yvette Guilbert, Lily Langtry . . . .!

Though his main occupation was as a Sketch Artist – an illustrator for periodicals such as ‘Punch’ and ‘the Illustrated London News’ he was also a portraitist and landscape painter. Staples’ finest works are to be found in major collections. (egs. National Portrait Gallery London. National Gallery Dublin).

He favoured barefoot walking as an aid to health and so earned the nickname, the Barefoot Baronet.

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