From: Pick-Me-Up magazine, 4 January 1890.

Major George Conrad Roller was a late 19th-century, early 20th-century British portrait painter and illustrator, best known for his advertising illustrations for the luxury London fashion house Burberry. He also gained fame for his military career, serving in both the Boer War and World War I.

Early life
George C. Roller was born in 1856 in the area around London-area. His German father Frederick was partner in a firm of import merchants, who was later naturalized as a Brit. His mother Eva came from the prominent Welsh Eyton family. Roller was educated at Westminster School, and then studied art in London at Lambeth Art School and at Julian's Academy in Paris (1888-1980). Around 1890 he settled in Cornwall, where he became a prominent member of the St. Ives art scene and a founding member of the St Ives Arts Club.

Painter and picture restorer
Roller's main occupation was as a portrait artist. He also restored pictures for galleries in England, America and the European mainland. One of his major clients was the Royal Academy at Burlington House, for whom he restored many pictures during a period of 20 years, including three pictures damaged by Suffragettes in May 1914. One of his close friends was the lauded American portrait artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), with whom he regularly travelled abroad on painting trips. Roller's own paintings often featured equestrian and sports settings, and were often exhibited in the period 1884-1906.

Burberry advertisements
George Roller also had a longtime association with Thomas Burberry, with whom he shared his interest in horses. He became the leading advertising illustrator for Burberry's clothing firm, which is nowadays one of the country's most luxury brands. For nearly 40 years, he was responsible for establishing the company's image in a time before photography got a more prominent role in advertising. His promotional drawings of Burberry's sports attire and equipment were printed in many national magazines.

Magazine work
From the 1890s on, Roller's sports drawings appeared in magazines such as Black and White, Pick-Me-Up and Pall Mall. Some of his contributions were humorous and sequential, like his spoof on Eadweard Muybridge's famous series of photographs 'The Horse in Motion' (1878), which show a jockey riding a horse in consecutive stills. Roller's version appeared in Pick-Me-Up on 4 January 1890 and presented a less successful action sequence in silhouettes of a rider and his horse. The so-called amateur of instantaneous photography however blamed his somewhat unsteady seat on a shifting camera. Apart from Roller, Henry Stull also spoofed Muybridge in a 1883 cartoon, published in the Philadelphian magazine Our Continent, followed in 1884 by A.B. Frost in Stuff and Nonsense.

Military career
In addition to his artistic career, Roller also had a prominent military career. He served in the Old Middlesex Company Yeomanry for twenty years, climbing up to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major. He served in the Boer War in the 34th Company of the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry in 1899-1900. Roller and his horse Gabardine (named after Burberry's cotton woven weatherproof material) were praised for their heroic antics during a disastrous attack an Senekal Kopje on 25 May 1900, when they carried a wounded soldier to safety. During World War I, Roller served in the Field Artillery in France. He returned home an invalid, resulting in him leaving the army with the rank of honorary Major.

George Conrad Roller died on 4 January 1941 at the age of 84.

Major George Roller on the JSS Gallery

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