page of sketch book
Decided in 1463, the construction of the belfry was only completed 91 years later. However, it was a great success, this "prodigious slim belfry, indented with a thousand caprices, that raises to the clouds (…) its enormous, light structure" (Paul Verlaine, 1889). 75 metres high, this Gothic tower provides the finishing touch to the town hall and two famous squares in Arras, with the splendid row of 155 houses, all different, in Flemish baroque style. The belfry is topped with the imperial crown of Charles Quint, king of the Netherlands, inspired by that of Audenarde belfry in Belgium, recalling the fact that the county of Artois used to belong to the Germanic Holy Roman Empire. In 1914, everything collapsed under the bombing raids. Rebuilt “exactly as before”, the belfry has a cement framework onto which the stone dressing is attached. And in 1932, a set of 37 bells restored the soul to this splendid example of human genius.
Boys was born at Pentonville, London, on 2 January 1803. He was articled to the engraver George Cooke. When his apprenticeship came to an end he went to Paris where he met and came under the influence of Richard Parkes Bonington, who persuaded him to abandon engraving for painting. Some sources describe him as a pupil of Bonington, although William Callow, who later shared a studio with him in Paris, disputed this.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1824, and in Paris in 1827. In 1830 he went to Brussels, but returned to England on the outbreak of the revolution there. Paying another visit to Paris, he remained there until 1837, and then returned to England in order to lithograph the works of David Roberts and Clarkson Stanfield.
His most important work, Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp, Rouen, etc., a collection of colour lithographs, appeared in 1839, attracting a great deal of admiration.Drawn on the stone by Boys and printed by Charles Joseph Hullmandel, it was described in a review in the Polytechnic Journal as "the first successful effort in chroma-lithography hitherto brought to perfection". King Louis-Philippe sent the artist a ring in recognition of its merits. He also published Original Views of London as it is, drawn and lithographed by himself, (London, 1843). He drew the illustrations to Blackie's History of England, and etched some plates for John Ruskin's Stones of Venice.
Boys was a member of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and of several foreign artistic societies. He died in 1874.