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Samuel John (Lamorna) Birch was born in Egremont, Cheshire in 1869. His father was a painter and decorator who died prematurely, leaving his wife with a young family of nine. As the eldest son, Birch left school at the age of twelve to help support his family.
Birch first developed an interest in drawing during a stay with a river-keeper, where he was introduced to fly fishing. Subsequent factory jobs allowed Birch to paint in his spare time and save the money needed to become an independent artist. Within no time, Birch had established a reputation as a promising young artist and he was successful in selling his work to wealthy industrialists. In 1889 Birch set off for the Newlyn School in Cornwall and was an entirely self-taught artist until 1895, when he travelled to Paris to study in the Atelier Colarossi.
Upon his return to England, Birch's career took off. At an exhibition in Lancaster he sold every piece of work painted during his stay in France, and in 1896 two of his paintings were accepted at the Royal Academy. By 1899 he was also exhibiting at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and the Walker Art Gallery. Settling in Lamorna, Birch soon attracted other artists and a Lamorna Colony was formed. Birch's excellence in water-colours was officially recognised in 1912 when he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours in, becoming a full member in 1914. Birch was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and in 1934 he became a Royal Academician, having been an Associate for eight years.
Birch was a highly respected, likeable individual with such enthusiasm for life. He died in his beloved Lamorna in 1955.