Portrait miniatures: artist biographies M-Z
Lucy MacDonald, born 1872
The most recent major dictionary of 'British Miniature Painters', by Daphne Foskett (published 1972) covers the years 1520 to 1910. This means that artists working at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century are rarely noted. Consequently biographical information is not readily accessible. Lucy MacDonald is not mentioned by Foskett, but a dictionary of exhibitors in Britain notes that she was born Lucy Cary. As well as being a miniature painter she was also apparently a restorer and manageress of the Arlington Galleries Ltd. She was also a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters from 1897, the year after its foundation, and from 1918 was the society's secretary. She is not however included in the anniversary publication of that society 'The Royal Society of Miniature Painters Sculptors and Gravers, One Hundred Years', (Lucas Art,1995). She exhibited at various venues from 1896 to 1940, including 16 works at the Royal Academy.
Alexandrine McEwan 1876-1965
The most recent major dictionary of 'British Miniature Painters', by Daphne Foskett (published 1972) covers the years 1520 to 1910. This means that artists working at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century are rarely noted. Consequently biographical information is not readily accessible. Alexandrine McEwan is not mentioned by Foskett, and she is also not mentioned in other general dictionaries of exhibitors in Britain.
Anne Mee, born Foldsone, about 1770-1851
Anne Foldsone was the daughter of John Foldsone, a London-based portrait painter. Anne attended Madame Pomier's school in Westminster where she apparently showed an aptitude for art, music and poetry. She also apparently mixed her father's colours and could prepare his canvases for him. She began to paint herself at the age of twelve and was a pupil of the portrait painter George Romney. As it is not clear when she was born it is not certain what age she was when her father died in 1784. But it is clear that she became the sole support of her mother and eight brothers and sisters at a young age. Her role as a professional portrait painter exposed her inevitably to comment about her character.
The poet William Hayley described her as a 'young female genius in miniature' and 'a pretty, modest and sensible girl'. Horace Walpole, the ageing diarist, however called her 'a prodigy of dishonest impertinence'. Anne Foldsone was introduced to Queen Charlotte and with her sister she was placed to board with a Madame de Lafitte who lived in a house in the cloisters at Windsor. One of Madame de Lafitte's duties was to read German with the princesses, and she was often accompanied by Anne Foldsone who would paint miniatures of the Queen and her daughters. Anne Foldsone married Joseph Mee in 1793 and thereafter was generally known simply as 'Mrs Mee'. Mrs Mee did not abandon professional miniature painting on her marriage. But it is recorded that her husband would only consent to let her paint 'Ladies Only' and they were not to be accompanied into the painting room by gentlemen. In 1814 Mrs Mee completed an important commission for George IV to paint a series of large miniature portraits of fashionable ladies - these were engraved as 'The Gallery of Beauties of the Court of…George the Third', a reference to other series of court beauties painted in the seventeenth and early 18th centuries. Mrs Mee died in Hammersmith in 1851.
Jeremiah Meyer RA 1735-89
Jeremiah Meyer was born in Tubingen, Wurttemberg, the son of a German painter. At the age of twelve he was brought to England by his father. For two years, in 1757 and 1758, Meyer studied enamel painting with C. F Zincke. Enamel painting was an expensive practice and Meyer's father paid Zincke £200 for tuition and £200 for materials. It seems that Meyer also spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth, taking life classes. Like many of his contemporaries Meyer took immediate advantage of the first exhibiting society in London - a chance to show work to a public eager to view the work of artists grouped alongside each other for the first time. He was to become a founder member of the Royal Academy which held its first annual exhibition in 1769.
Meyer had first trained as an enamel painter, in contrast to British-born miniaturists such as Gervase Spencer who first worked in watercolour on ivory. It appears that the success of their contemporary Zincke had led these artists to learn enamel painting so as to additionally offer it to their clients. But as Meyer began his career in the early 1760s the increasing popularity of watercolour meant that he too offered his customers a choice of watercolour and enamel. In 'Mortimer's Universal Director' (1763), an early trade directory advertising the services of artists and other trades, he was advertised as 'Enamel and Miniature Painter'. In 1764 he was appointed miniature painter to Queen Charlotte, and painter in enamel to George III. Meyer was naturalized in 1762 and in 1763 married Barbara Marsden, who as a child had won prizes for drawing from the Society of Arts. They had a number of children. He retired to Kew where he died in 1789.
John Miers, about 1758-1821
John Miers was the most famous profilist of the eighteenth century. He was born in Leeds in 1758, the son of a painter of heraldic signs on coaches. It is possible that he was descended from a family of Dutch painters called Mieris, though his grandfather spelt his name 'Myers'. Miers assisted his father as a coach painter, but within a few months of his marriage he set up independently as a painter and gilder. He advertised in 1781 in the 'Leeds Mercury', adding that he also sold paint, and further adding that he offered 'Profile Shades in Miniature… neatly framed at 2s.6d each'. Miers was to have eleven children and their baptismal records show he moved from Leeds to Edinburgh and finally to London. Miers also took his growing profile business to Manchester, Newcastle and other towns probably in the north of England. Interestingly Miers and his wife Sarah were Nonconformists and in London they used Dr. Hunter's Chapel; Hunter had translated Lavater's 'Essays on Physiognomy' into English, published in 1792. Lavater's publication of 1775, illustrated with profiles, had given the art of profiles an added popularity - his claim was that by concentrating on a person's main features one could detect their character, both their virtues and their vices. By 1788 Miers was established in London. His business thrived, earning him a fortune, and he was assisted by a number of colleagues, including John Field. From 1800 he personally painted few profiles but he was still active in the business until his health failed around 1820. It has been suggested that he was mainly involved with cataloguing and maintaining the duplicate profiles for his hugely successful studio.
Isaac Oliver, about 1560-1617
Oliver was born in Rouen, France, the son of the goldsmith Pierre Olivier. The documented facts about his life are few and little is known particularly of his early life. He was in London with his family in 1568, after they fled France and the wars of religion. In 1577 he was still recorded as resident in London, but a drawing by him from 1586 of the 'Lamentation' has an inscription which suggests it was done in Tournai in France. His first miniatures (then called limnings) date from 1587. There are therefore effectively ten 'lost' years between 1577 and 1587 where it is unclear where Oliver was based, and the nature of his artistic training. According to the writer Richard Haydocke, who knew Hilliard, Oliver was Hilliard's 'well profitting scholar'. It seems certain that Oliver did not have a traditional seven year apprenticeship with Hilliard, but was already a formed artist when he studied the techniques of miniature painting with Hilliard.
His early miniatures are not dependent on Hilliard stylistically, and instead show the influence of contemporary portrait engravings, especially the work of Hendrik Goltzius, a Netherlandish engraver and painter. Unlike Hilliard, Oliver also travelled to Italy, in 1596, as shown by an inscription on a miniature; but again no details are known. In the 1590s Oliver became a formidable rival to his former teacher Hilliard and from 1603, he too worked for the new court of James I, being especially favoured by the Prince of Wales, Prince Henry and the queen, Anne of Denmark. Oliver was married three times, his first wife dying 1599. In 1602 he married the sister of the oil painter Marcus Gheeraerts, Sara, and in 1606 he married Elizabeth Harding who was probably the daughter of a court musician. He died in his house in Blackfriars, London in 1617.
Peter Oliver, about 1594-1647
Peter Oliver was the eldest son of Isaac Oliver. He trained with his father as a miniature painter (then called a limner), and also worked in his workshop in Blackfriars, London. Consequently it is sometimes hard to distinguish the work of father and son between 1610 and 1617, when Isaac Oliver died. Like his father, Oliver also worked for the children of James I, particularly Princess Elizabeth, whose husband became King of Bohemia but was driven into exile. The couple became a European cause célèbre, and Elizabeth used portrait miniatures in the same propagandist fashion as her father. However, from the late 1620s Peter Oliver seems to have moved away from portraiture, possibly because he chose not to adapt to the new portrait style of the famous portrait painter, Anthony Van Dyck, popularised in miniature by John Hoskins. Instead, Oliver concentrated on painting for the King exquisite copies in miniature of oil paintings in Charles I's magnificent collection; such as Titian's 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt' [cross ref. to British Galleries Web page - museum no. 740-1882]. He had also acquired property in the Thames village of Isleworth and in his will described himself as a 'Gentleman of Isleworth'. He died in 1647 and was buried in Blackfriars, London.
Sir James Palmer 1584-1658
James Palmer was baptised in 1585, the youngest son of Sir Thomas Palmer. His father was an author, known as the 'Travailer', and was created a baronet in 1621. The order of baronets was invented by James I (who came to the throne in 1603) in order to raise money, and baronets were addressed as 'Sir' in the same fashion as knights. James Palmer followed his older brother to court, and having a handsome face secured an appointment in the household of James I, and became a close friend of Prince Charles (later Charles I). Soon after his father became a baronet, James Palmer was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber to James I. This position meant that he attended the King personally. After the death of James I in 1623 he kept his position in the new court of Charles I.
In 1629 the king knighted Palmer and he became Sir James Palmer. His friendship with the king was undoubtedly due to their shared interest in art. He actively helped the king expand his collection of paintings. He also became governor of the Mortlake tapestry works, set up by James I in 1619. Personally Palmer was interested in the practice of heraldry, an important aspect of a gentleman's knowledge. One aspect of heraldry was actually painting designs for coats of arms called the 'blazon of arms'. This too was argued for as a gentlemanly accomplishment. The art required the same materials as miniature painting - watercolour on parchment or a finer version known as vellum - and it is perhaps not surprising that Sir James tried his hand at miniature painting (then called limning). It is even possible that he learnt the art from Nicholas Hilliard. Palmer married twice and had a number of children. He died in 1658 in Buckinghamshire, two years before Charles II was restored to the throne of England.
David Paton, worked about 1660-95
Little is known about David Paton other than he was Scottish. His earliest known dated works are from1667, and are drawn in so-called 'plumbago' (black lead). These are actually in graphite, which was once thought to be lead-based, and are usually on vellum, fine animal skin. Paton also worked in pen and ink on vellum. Paton's early works were mostly copies, some after works by miniaturists such as John Hoskins and Samuel Cooper and some after Old Masters such as Titian. Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart and later Duchess of Lauderdale, was to be Paton's most important patron. She inherited Ham House, on the Thames, and this is where a number of Paton's works can still be seen today.
During the late 1670s and early 1680s Paton accompanied the Duchess's youngest son from her first marriage, William Tollemache, on his Grand Tour to Italy. However, the plumbago drawing of an unknown young man aged 21 in the V&A is inscribed by Paton as having been drawn in Rome in 1674. The implication is that he was in Italy at an earlier date. Two of his self-portrait drawings are in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and one is signed and inscribed that it was done in Florence in 1683. On his return from Italy, Paton worked mostly in Edinburgh, and is noted in various city documents such as the poll tax records. It is known that around 1708 he moved to London, but it is not know when exactly he died.
Jean Petitot 1607-91
Jean Petitot was born in Geneva in modern day Switzerland, the son of a sculptor. Until he was about 19 he studied with his uncle, a goldsmith in Geneva. Around 1633 he moved to Paris. Here he probably met with Jean Toutin who had recently revived and revolutionised the traditional art of painting on metal with enamel. Early enamel painters had favoured large pieces painted on copper. But Toutin refined the process, working on small pieces of gold for jewellery such as watches. By 1637 Petitot is documented as working at the English court. By this date he was clearly already a skilled enameller. In England he was able to collaborate with his fellow countryman, Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, a physician and chemist. This co-operation led him to further refine the technique, introducing a broader range of colours and new pigments.
This allowed him to create a more naturalistic appearance, especially in the flesh tones, and to emulate the quality of contemporary oil portraiture by artists such as Anthony Van Dyck. Some of his later portraits of Louis XIV were the result of sittings, but most of his enamels would seem to be copies after oils. At the English court Petitot met Jacques Bordier who became his collaborator. Enamel painting is a demanding technique, both fraught with danger and labour-intensive. The first colours to be laid on the metal support have to be those needing the highest temperature when firing. More colour is then added and the enamel re-fired, the process ending with the colours needing the lowest temperature. It is said that Bordier painted the hair, draperies and background of Petitot's enamels, while Petitot painted the most demanding areas of the face and hands. Around 1643 or 1644 Petitot left London and returned to Paris, probably due to the turmoil of the English Civil War. He established a successful practice in Paris working for the Royal Family, and died in Geneva.
Andrew Plimer 1763-1837
Plimer was born in Wellington, Shropshire, the son of a clockmaker. Apparently, although trained as clockmakers, he and his older brother Nathaniel ran away with a troupe of gypsies, finally settling in London. Around 1781 both brothers entered domestic service. Andrew was a manservant to the miniaturist Richard Cosway and Nathaniel worked for the enamellist Henry Bone and eventually also became a miniature painter. Cosway was generous in encouraging Andrew Plimer. He allowed him to act as his studio assistant, taught him the basics of miniature portraiture, and possibly even paid for drawing lessons with the engraver John Hall in Soho. Around 1785 Plimer set up his own practice as a miniature painter in London and in 1801 he married. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1786 until 1810, around which time he apparently left London. For some years he worked in Exeter, but by 1818 was back in London, effectively advertising his return by exhibiting at the Royal Academy the following year. It seems likely however that he found it increasingly difficult to attract clients. From 1820 he travelled widely, as far afield as Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Wales and Scotland, presumably in search of commissions. He died in Brighton in 1837 and was survived by his wife and four daughters. His obituary in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' rather sadly described him as 'many years ago an eminent miniature painter in Exeter'.
Andrew Robertson 1777-1845
Robertson was born in Aberdeen, the son of an architect. In 1791, after attending school, Robertson's parents sent him to college to train for the medical profession. But his father's illness meant that in 1792 he had to go to Edinburgh to earn his living. He worked as a theatrical scene-painter and a portrait miniaturist, and although he finally obtained an M.A. from Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1794, he effectively changed direction from 1792. Helped by a family friend he took lessons in drawing from Alexander Nasmyth and met the painter Henry Raeburn and copied some of his pictures. Robertson however was ambitious in his new career. He left for London and joined the Royal Academy Schools in 1801, where the focus of his studies in London were anatomy, dissection and the life drawing classes. Writing endless letters to his father in Scotland, he recorded the struggles which led him to develop a new style of miniature painting, which eventually set the standard for the next generation of miniaturists - his great protégé was William Charles Ross.
He found a number of important supporters among the Royal Academicians, including Benjamin West, President of the Academy. Robertson believed that the small oval miniatures of the previous generation of painters were 'but toys' and their cool, blue colouring 'too much like china'. He resolved to develop a 'great style' of miniature painting which emulated oils in its strength of colour and which did not just concentrate on the head of a sitter, but used his skills as a draughtsman of the human figure. Robertson soon established his reputation and found patrons among the Royal family. He worked in London for the rest of his career, visiting Scotland occasionally. But he soon found that his new style was too labour intensive to live by, and, like his fellow miniaturists, painted smaller, oval miniatures still in demand with the public. He married twice and died in Middlesex in 1845.
Christina Robertson, born Saunders 1796-1854
Christina Saunders was born at Kinghorn, Fife, and was the daughter of a coach painter. Her uncle was the miniaturist George Sanders (whose name could also be spelt Saunders) who was based in London. She probably came to London about 1819 and it seems that it was her uncle who taught her miniature painting and who introduced her to her first patrons in London. She also worked as a portrait painter in oil and watercolour on paper. In 1823 she married James Robertson, who was also an artist, and had eight children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Throughout the 1830s however, she left her family for long periods to travel abroad, cultivating new clients from among the elite of European society. Between 1836 and 1838 she worked in Paris and in 1839 she went to work in St Petersburg, staying there until 1841. She was awarded the title of honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Arts in recognition of her full-length oil portraits of the Empress and her daughters. But at the height of her success in Russia she returned to London, setting up a studio and exhibiting at the Royal Academy. Eight years later however, in 1849, she was tempted back to Russia, again working predominantly as an oil painter, and especially for the family of the Tsar. Unfortunately, the royal family did not pay for much of the work she did for them and she staved off financial disaster by painting endless watercolours for more general sale. She died in St Petersburg in 1854, her husband having died some years before.
Sir William Charles Ross RA 1794-1860
William Charles Ross was the son of a portrait and miniature painter, William Ross, who was of Scots descent. His mother, Maria, originated from London and was also an accomplished portrait painter, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1808-1814. Inevitably Ross was encouraged to draw by his mother. At the age of twelve he won the first of a number of prizes in competitions to encourage young artists funded by the Society of Arts. In 1808 he was enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. Despite an interest in history painting, he pragmatically opted to pursue portraiture and from 1814 he worked in the studio of the successful Scottish miniaturist Andrew Robertson as an assistant. Robertson had developed an innovative style of miniature painting; large rectangular half or three-quarter length portraits on ivory, the watercolour heavily gummed and laboriously applied with tiny touches, giving a glossy, highly-finished quality which echoed oil painting in its effect.
These were very time-consuming and it is likely that Ross assisted in painting the backgrounds of such miniatures. Ross emulated this style and made it his own, quickly winning an elite clientele who could afford such expensive miniatures. He established his own studio in London in 1817. When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 Ross was quickly appointed Miniature Painter to the queen. He was also made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1838, and in 1842 a full Academician. The same year he was knighted by the Queen. Ross had no direct pupils but his style was emulated by a number of artists and has come to epitomise miniature painting in the early Victorian period. The introduction of photography in 1839, which by the 1850s was firmly established as a portrait option, did not directly affect Ross who was nearing the end of his career. He died in London, unmarried, in 1860.
Susannah-Penelope Rosse, about 1655-1700
Rosse was the daughter of the miniature painter (then called a limner) Richard Gibson and his wife Anne. Her parents were famous at the court of Charles I for their tiny stature, but Susannah and her siblings were of average height. The family lived in Long Acre in London, and after her marriage to the jeweller Michael Rosse she moved only a few streets away to Henrietta Street. She knew leading artists such as the oil painter Peter Lely and shared sittings with another oil painter, Godfrey Kneller, for one important sitter. She seems to have painted mostly for her own interest, but probably provided her husband with miniatures to set as jewels. A sale held after her husband's death in 1723, which included miniatures by her father and by his contemporary and neighbour Samuel Cooper, also included many works Susannah-Penelope, many of which were copies after Cooper whose work she had greatly admired.
Her father, Richard Gibson had become drawing master to the daughters of the Duke of York, brother of Charles II, and when Princess Mary married Prince William of Orange in 1677 he had accompanied her to Holland. When Gibson and his wife returned to London in 1688 on the accession of William and Mary, they moved in with Susannah-Penelope and her husband in Henrietta Street. She also gave a home to her sister after she returned from Holland after a failed marriage. Unsurprisingly Rosse's family and friends in Henrietta Street were the subject of many of her miniatures.
James Scouler, about 1740-1812
Scouler was born in London, the son of an organ builder and music shop proprietor from Edinburgh. Nothing is known of his early life and education, but in 1755, at the age of about 15 he won a prize for drawing from the 'Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce'. This was only founded the same year, and 'encouragement' included cash prizes to boys and girls for the art of drawing, considered 'absolutely necessary in many employments, Trades and Manufactures'. His success undoubtedly encouraged him in his chosen career. He spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth, taking life classes.
He also drew from casts of classical sculpture at the Duke of Richmond's Gallery which opened to students in 1758. In this his 'training' in drawing was similar to that of Richard Cosway , John Smart , Richard Crosse and Ozias Humphry (q.v). It is not known how or from whom he learnt miniature painting. But when the first exhibiting society, the Society of Artists, opened in London in 1760, he soon took the opportunity to publicise his work, exhibiting there from 1761 to 1768. Its rival, the Royal Academy, opened in 1769, but he only chose to exhibit there from 1780 until 1787. There is the suggestion that he was in India from 1776 to 1780, but there is no real evidence for this. Scouler worked in miniature and also painted portraits in crayon, and lived in London until his death in 1812.
Samuel Shelley 1756-1808
Samuel Shelley was born in Whitechapel, London, but nothing is known of his parents. He entered the Royal Academy Schools on 21 March 1774; their records state that he was '17 last August'. He was self-taught as a miniaturist, but was greatly influenced by the Royal Academy and its first President, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds encouraged students towards 'history painting' - traditionally this meant elevated scenes from classical history, but by the late 18th century, included scenes from English history and literature. Shelley painted and exhibited many miniatures with subjects such as 'Macbeth and the Witches', but these rarely sold. He did however collaborate successfully with printers on such projects as the 'Cabinet of Genius' -collections of poems by writers such as Gray and Pope, illustrated by Shelley.
These illustrations however were not complicated, showing only a single figure, engraved in an oval format with a 'frame', very much in imitation of conventional oval portrait miniatures. In 1804 Shelley was a founder member of a society dedicated to exhibiting watercolours, later called the 'Old Watercolour Society'. Here he hoped to show his 'subject' miniatures to better effect than at the Royal Academy where they had to compete with large oil paintings. But he fell out with his fellow watercolour artists who mainly exhibited landscapes and resented him displaying portraits. When he died his studio contained many unsold 'subject' miniatures. Shelley was however a very successful portrait miniaturist and was ranked alongside his contemporary Richard Cosway [q.v.]. Alongside his subject miniatures he would exhibit frames containing often between five and ten miniatures, as a way to make his small portrait miniatures stand out in the crowded exhibiting room. He was also employed at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte, although he did not hold an official position.
John Smart, about 1742-1811
Little is known about John Smart's early life and education. The earliest reference to him is from 1755 when he came second to Richard Cosway in a drawing competition for under fourteens run by the 'Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce of Arts'. He won the competition the next three years. From 1755 he attended the new drawing school of William Shipley in London, the founder of the same society, along with Cosway and Richard Crosse [q.v.]. It is not known how Smart learned miniature painting, but his earliest known miniature dates from 1760 and its competency suggests it was not his first. Smart married three times and had six children, one of whom, also John Smart, he taught miniature painting.
From 1762 Smart exhibited at the first of the new London exhibiting societies, the Society of Artists, founded in only 1760. He became its President in 1778 and at this time did not exhibit at its rival, the Royal Academy, founded in 1768. In 1784 the East India Company granted him permission to set up in Madras, India, as a miniature painter - he set off on the six month voyage in 1785. Smart found clients from among the East India Company's personnel and their families, and also the local Indian Princes and their high ranking officials. He stayed in India for ten years, but like other artists working there found that local princes were keen to commission work but less keen to pay. Smart returned to London in 1795 and re-established himself back in the competitive London portrait market. His old exhibiting society had closed, so from 1797 he exhibited at the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions until his death in 1811.
Gervase Spencer, died 1763
Nothing is known about Gervase Spencer's origins. But according to a contemporary commentator he was a 'footman' to a 'Dr W'. Spencer had apparently enjoyed drawing and had asked to be allowed to copy a miniature belonging to his master's family. He was then encouraged by the family and was eventually able to set up as a fashionable miniature painter - his earliest miniatures date from about 1745. In the first half of the eighteenth century it was the norm for miniaturists in Britain to be self-taught rather than undergoing a formal apprenticeship with an established artist. Spencer established his practice in London, presumably through word of mouth and additionally through newspaper advertisements. The first public exhibiting society, where artists could show their work annually and attract new clients, did not open until 1760. But Spencer immediately took advantage of this new form of publicity and exhibited in 1761 and 1762.
Spencer's name also appears in 'Mortimer's Universal Director' (1763), an early trade directory advertising the services of artists and other trades. Spencer also worked as an enamel painter, a very difficult technique to learn involving unpredictable procedures and requiring a significant outlay in terms of equipment for firing. It is likely that Spencer received some formal training, although one of his contemporaries claimed that 'the knowledge he had gained in that Art was almost purely his own'. Spencer was one of the leading miniature painters of his day. A young competitor starting up in 1748 in London noted only 'two Miniature Painters of Eminence in London'; Spencer, who he admired, and someone he would not name since he despised him. Spencer also produced some etchings, as well as a self-portrait in Indian ink. It is not known when or whom Spencer married but he was survived by a daughter.
Luke Sullivan 1705-71
Luke Sullivan was apparently born in County Louth, Ireland, and was the son of a groom of the Duke of Beaufort. According to a contemporary his interest in drawing was recognised and he was apprenticed to an engraver, Thomas Major, who specialised in portrait prints. Sullivan also studied with another engraver, Bernard Baron, again helping with his portrait prints. Sullivan worked primarily as a print maker and most notably worked with the painter William Hogarth on one of his famous engraved series, the 'March to Finchley'. But Sullivan is typical of many of the artists who painted miniatures at this time but would not have identified themselves primarily as miniature painters.
Above all they did not learn miniature painting as an apprentice under a master. Miniature painting, working in watercolour on ivory, was an established genteel pastime, and many artists would have felt able to teach themselves, and have it as simply another string to their bow. As well as being an engraver and miniature painter, Sullivan also painted landscapes and architectural views. From 1764 to 1770 he exhibited both miniatures and landscape watercolours at one of the new London exhibiting societies, the Society of Artists. It is interesting however that by 1765 when he was elected to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, he in fact described himself as a 'miniature painter'. Sullivan had a reputation as a drinker and is said to have spent his time in the brothels of London. He died in a 'miserable state of disease and poverty' in 1771.
Levina Teerlinc, about 1510/20-76
Teerlinc was the daughter of the Flemish illuminator, Simon Bening. She was first mentioned in Henry VIII's household records in 1546, as Levina Teerlinc - but we do not know when she married George Teerlinc, who was paid as 'a gentleman pensioner' in the royal household. Initial payments to Levina Teerlinc were one-off and for work as a 'Paintrix'. Later she was paid an annuity and seems to have had a superior role at court as a gentlewoman to both Mary I and the young Princess Elizabeth. She continued in royal service through the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I until her death in 1576. Court records show that her New Year's Day gift to Elizabeth was often a miniature painting (called a liming), and the subjects of these limnings were often carefully noted.
These were sometimes a portrait of the Queen or showed the Queen amongst groups of courtiers. These records show that Teerlinc continued to paint, but none of the listed works have definitely survived. A small limning showing the Queen surrounded by courtiers on Maundy Thursday, when she washed the feet of poor women in imitation of Christ, is in a private collection. This seems to resemble in subject matter the limnings by Teerlinc described in court records and today other miniatures that seem similar to it in technique have been attributed to Teerlinc. But there is controversy over which surviving miniatures painted during Teerlinc's lifetime can actually be attributed to her. Teerlinc lived in Stepney and died in 1576.
Jan Wierix 1549 - about 1618
Jan Wierix was Flemish and was born in Antwerp in modern day Belgium. He worked as an engraver, a draughtsman and a publisher. His first dated prints were published in 1568. At this time he was living in a quarter of the city devoted to engravers workshops and booksellers. He worked for the printing press of Christopher Plantin, whose publishing house was called the 'Officina Planiniana'. Wierix became a master engraver, and often engraved and published his own designs. He also engraved small oval portraits, probably on silver, which were intended to be used as a form of medallion, rather than a plate for printing onto paper. In another version of such small portraits he produced delicate pen drawings on vellum (fine animal skin). He seems to have started producing these in the 1590s, though most dated ones occur about 1607 and 1608. About 1594 he left Antwerp and moved to Brussels, also in modern day Belgium. Here he worked at the court of Archduke Ernst of Austria, producing such small portrait drawings. He died in Brussels in 1618.
William Wood 1769-1810
Wood was born in Suffolk in 1769. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1785 aged sixteen; at this time R.A. students learned only drawing, not painting. It is not know when or from whom he learned miniature painting. But he soon established himself as a miniature painter, and exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibitions, possibly as early as 1788, and until 1808. In 1807 he was a founder member of the 'New Society of Painters in Miniature and Watercolours', also called the 'Associated Artists in Water Colour'. He was also their President from 1808 to 1809. This was set up to rival the first watercolour exhibiting society founded in 1804, which was run predominantly by landscape artists. Wood appears to have worked in Bristol in 1791 and 1803, and at Gloucester in 1798. He died at his house in London in 1810. As well as painting original portrait miniatures he is also known to have painted copies of miniatures by Richard Cosway, George Engleheart and John Smart. Wood is credited with discovering a means to improve the stability of colours on ivory. He also painted some water-colour drawings and landscapes, and was interested in landscape-gardening. In 1808 he published An Essay on National and Sepulchral Monuments.
Christian Friedrich Zince, about 1683/4-1767
Zincke was born in Dresden, the son of a goldsmith. He was apprenticed into the goldsmith trade but studied painting in his spare time. In 1706, Zincke came to England, where he was taught enamelling by Charles Boit, whose style his own resembled closely. He quickly made a lasting name for himself as an enamel painter copying oil paintings. This was the normal practice for enamel painters. The process of enamel painting was technically complex, laborious and fraught with danger. The first colours to be laid on the metal support have to be those needing the highest temperature when firing. More colour is added according to the requirements of temperature, and the enamel re-fired, the process ending with the colours needing the lowest temperature.
This time-consuming process makes it easier for the enameller to work from an oil painting rather than have sittings from life. Additionally, it became the fashion to have oneself painted in oil and then have tiny jewel-like versions made in enamel. Zincke married twice and had five or six children. He lived in London, making one known visit to Germany in 1737. The large number and varying quality of miniatures which bear his signature suggest he may have employed several assistants. But his best-known student, a fellow German Jeremiah Meyer [q.v.], was not an apprentice in the conventional sense, but received private tuition late in Zincke's life. Zincke's own output lessened as his eyesight deteriorated after 1725, and by 1752 he had retired and painted only for his own amusement. He died in London in 1767.