Posts Tagged ‘John Boydell’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Boydell Shakespeare Gallery
4 May 1789 – (after) 28 January 1805


Boydell Shakespeare Gallery

Boydell Shakespeare Gallery project contained three parts: an illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays; a folio of prints from the gallery (originally intended to be a folio of prints from the edition of Shakespeare’s plays); and a public gallery where the original paintings for the prints would hang.

The idea of a grand Shakespeare edition was conceived during a dinner at the home of Josiah Boydell (John’s nephew) in late 1786. Five important accounts of the occasion survive. From these, a guest list and a reconstruction of the conversation have been assembled. The guest list reflects the range of Boydell’s contacts in the artistic world: it included Benjamin West, painter to King George III; George Romney, a renowned portrait painter; George Nicol, bookseller to the king; William Hayley, a poet; John Hoole, a scholar and translator of Tasso and Aristotle; and Daniel Braithwaite, secretary to the postmaster general and a patron of artists such as Romney and Angelica Kauffman. Most accounts also place the painter Paul Sandby at the gathering.

Boydell wanted to use the edition to help stimulate a British school of history painting. He wrote in the “Preface” to the folio that he wanted “to advance that art towards maturity, and establish an English School of Historical Painting”. A court document used by Josiah to collect debts from customers after Boydell’s death relates the story of the dinner and Boydell’s motivations:
[Boydell said] he should like to wipe away the stigma that all foreign critics threw on this nation—that they had no genius for historical painting. He said he was certain from his success in encouraging engraving that Englishmen wanted nothing but proper encouragement and a proper subject to excel in historical painting. The encouragement he would endeavor to find if a proper subject were pointed out. Mr. Nicol replied that there was one great National subject concerning which there could be no second opinion, and mentioned Shakespeare. The proposition was received with acclaim by the Alderman [John Boydell] and the whole company.

However, as Frederick Burwick argues in his introduction to a collection of essays on the Boydell Gallery, “[w]hatever claims Boydell might make about furthering the cause of history painting in England, the actual rallying force that brought the artists together to create the Shakespeare Gallery was the promise of engraved publication and distribution of their works.”

After the initial success of the Shakespeare Gallery, many wanted to take credit. Henry Fuseli long claimed that his planned Shakespeare ceiling (in imitation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling) had given Boydell the idea for the gallery. James Northcote claimed that his Death of Wat Tyler and Murder of the Princes in the Tower had motivated Boydell to start the project. However, according to Winifred Friedman, who has researched the Boydell Gallery, it was probably Joshua Reynolds’s Royal Academy lectures on the superiority of history painting that influenced Boydell the most.

The logistics of the enterprise were difficult to organise. Boydell and Nicol wanted to produce an illustrated edition of a multi-volume work and intended to bind and sell the 72 large prints separately in a folio. A gallery was required to exhibit the paintings from which the prints were drawn. The edition was to be financed through a subscription campaign, during which the buyers would pay part of the price up front and the remainder on delivery. This unusual practice was necessitated by the fact that over £350,000—an enormous sum at the time, worth about £38.8 million today—was eventually spent. The gallery opened in 1789 with 34 paintings and added 33 more in 1790 when the first engravings were published. The last volume of the edition and the Collection of Prints were published in 1803. In the middle of the project, Boydell decided that he could make more money if he published different prints in the folio than in the illustrated edition; as a result, the two sets of images are not identical.

Advertisements were issued and placed in newspapers. When a subscription was circulated for a medal to be struck, the copy read: “The encouragers of this great national undertaking will also have the satisfaction to know, that their names will be handed down to Posterity, as the Patrons of Native Genius, enrolled with their own hands, in the same book, with the best of Sovereigns.” The language of both the advertisement and the medal emphasised the role each subscriber played in the patronage of the arts. The subscribers were primarily middle-class Londoners, not aristocrats. Edmund Malone, himself an editor of a rival Shakespeare edition, wrote that “before the scheme was well-formed, or the proposals entirely printed off, near six hundred persons eagerly set down their names, and paid their subscriptions to a set of books and prints that will cost each person, I think, about ninety guineas; and on looking over the list, there were not above twenty names among them that anybody knew”.

The “magnificent and accurate” Shakespeare edition which Boydell began in 1786 was to be the focus of his enterprise—he viewed the print folio and the gallery as offshoots of the main project. In an advertisement prefacing the first volume of the edition, Nicol wrote that “splendor and magnificence, united with correctness of text were the great objects of this Edition”. The volumes themselves were handsome, with gilded pages that, unlike those in previous scholarly editions, were unencumbered by footnotes. Each play had its own title page followed by a list of “Persons in the Drama”. Boydell spared no expense. He hired the typography experts William Bulmer and William Martin to develop and cut a new typeface specifically for the edition. Nicol explains in the preface that they “established a printing-house … [and] a foundry to cast the types; and even a manufactory to make the ink”. Boydell also chose to use high-quality wove Whatman paper. The illustrations were printed independently and could be inserted and removed as the purchaser desired. The first volumes of the Dramatic Works were published in 1791 and the last in 1805.

Boydell was responsible for the “splendor”, and George Steevens, the general editor, was responsible for the “correctness of text”. Steevens, according to Evelyn Wenner, who has studied the history of the Boydell edition, was “at first an ardent advocate of the plan” but “soon realized that the editor of this text must in the very scheme of things give way to painters, publishers and engravers”. He was also ultimately disappointed in the quality of the prints, but he said nothing to jeopardize the edition’s sales. Steevens, who had already edited two complete Shakespeare editions, was not asked to edit the text anew; instead, he picked which version of the text to reprint. Wenner describes the resulting hybrid edition:
The thirty-six plays, printed from the texts of Reed and Malone, divide into the following three groups: (1) five plays of the first three numbers printed from Reed’s edition of 1785 with many changes adopted from the Malone text of 1790 (2) King Lear and the six plays of the next three numbers printed from Malone’s edition of 1790 but exhibiting conspicuous deviations from his basic text (3) twenty-four plays of the last twelve numbers also printed from Malone’s text but made to conform to Steevens’s own edition of 1793.

Throughout the edition, modern (i.e. 18th-century) spelling was preferred as were First Folio readings.

Boydell sought out the most eminent painters and engravers of the day to contribute paintings for the gallery, engravings for the folio, and illustrations for the edition. Artists included Richard Westall, Thomas Stothard, George Romney, Henry Fuseli, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Robert Smirke, John Opie, Francesco Bartolozzi, Thomas Kirk, Henry Thomson, and Boydell’s nephew and business partner, Josiah Boydell.

The folio and the illustrated Shakespeare edition were “by far the largest single engraving enterprise ever undertaken in England”. As print collector and dealer Christopher Lennox-Boyd explains, “had there not been a market for such engravings, not one of the paintings would have been commissioned, and few, if any, of the artists would have risked painting such elaborate compositions”. Scholars believe that a variety of engraving methods were employed and that line engraving was the “preferred medium” because it was “clear and hardwearing” and because it had a high reputation. Stipple engraving, which was quicker and often used to produce shading effects, wore out quicker and was valued less. Many plates were a mixture of both. Several scholars have suggested that mezzotint and aquatint were also used. Lennox-Boyd, however, claims that “close examination of the plates confirms” that these two methods were not used and argues that they were “totally unsuitable”: mezzotint wore quickly and aquatint was too new (there would not have been enough artists capable of executing it). Most of Boydell’s engravers were also trained artists; for example, Bartolozzi was renowned for his stippling technique.

Boydell’s relationships with his illustrators were generally congenial. One of them, James Northcote, praised Boydell’s liberal payments. He wrote in an 1821 letter that Boydell “did more for the advancement of the arts in England than the whole mass of the nobility put together! He paid me more nobly than any other person has done; and his memory I shall ever hold in reverence”. Boydell typically paid the painters between £105 to £210, and the engravers between £262 and £315. Joshua Reynolds at first declined Boydell’s offer to work on the project, but he agreed when pressed. Boydell offered Reynolds carte blanche for his paintings, giving him a down payment of £500, an extraordinary amount for an artist who had not even agreed to do a specific work. Boydell eventually paid him a total of £1,500.

There are 96 illustrations in the nine volumes of the illustrated edition and each play has at least one. Approximately two-thirds of the plays, 23 out of 36, are each illustrated by a single artist. Approximately two-thirds of the total number of illustrations, or 65, were completed by three artists: William Hamilton, Richard Westall, and Robert Smirke. The primary illustrators of the edition were known as book illustrators, whereas a majority of the artists included in the folio were known for their paintings. Lennox-Boyd argues that the illustrations in the edition have a “uniformity and cohesiveness” that the folio lacks because the artists and engravers working on them understood book illustration while those working on the folio were working in an unfamiliar medium.

The print folio, A Collection of Prints, From Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakspeare, by the Artists of Great-Britain (1805), was originally intended to be a collection of the illustrations from the edition, but a few years into the project, Boydell altered his plan. He guessed that he could sell more folios and editions if the pictures were different. Of the 97 prints made from paintings, two-thirds of them were made by ten of the artists. Three artists account for one-third of the paintings. In all, 31 artists contributed works.

In June 1788, Boydell and his nephew secured the lease on a site at 52 Pall Mall (51°30′20.5″N 0°8′12″W) to build the gallery and engaged George Dance, then the Clerk of the City Works, as the architect for the project. Pall Mall at that time had a mix of expensive residences and commercial operations, such as bookshops and gentleman’s clubs, popular with fashionable London society. The area also contained some less genteel establishments: King’s Place (now Pall Mall Place), an alley running to the east and behind Boydell’s gallery, was the site of Charlotte Hayes’s high-class brothel. Across King’s Place, immediately to the east of Boydell’s building, 51 Pall Mall had been purchased on 26 February 1787 by George Nicol, bookseller and future husband of Josiah’s elder sister, Mary Boydell. As an indication of the changing character of the area, this property had been the home of Goostree’s gentleman’s club from 1773 to 1787. Begun as a gambling establishment for wealthy young men, it had later become a reformist political club that counted William Pitt and William Wilberforce as members.

Dance’s Shakespeare Gallery building had a monumental, neoclassical stone front, and a full-length exhibition hall on the ground floor. Three interconnecting exhibition rooms occupied the upper floor, with a total of more than 4,000 square feet (370 m2) of wall space for displaying pictures. The two-storey façade was not especially large for the street, but its solid classicism had an imposing effect. Some reports describe the exterior as “sheathed in copper”.

The lower storey of the façade was dominated by a large, rounded-arched doorway in the centre. The unmoulded arch rested on wide piers, each broken by a narrow window, above which ran a simple cornice. Dance placed a transom across the doorway at the level of the cornice bearing the inscription “Shakespeare Gallery”. Below the transom were the main entry doors, with glazed panels and side lights matching the flanking windows. A radial fanlight filled the lunette above the transom. In each of the spandrels to the left and right of the arch, Dance set a carving of a lyre inside a ribboned wreath. Above all this ran a panelled band course dividing the lower storey from the upper.

The upper façade contained paired pilasters on either side, and a thick entablature and triangular pediment. The architect Sir John Soane criticised Dance’s combination of slender pilasters and a heavy entablature as a “strange and extravagant absurdity”. The capitals topping the pilasters sported volutes in the shape of ammonite fossils. Dance invented this neo-classical feature, which became known as the Ammonite Order, specifically for the gallery. In a recess between the pilasters, Dance placed Thomas Banks’s sculpture Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry, for which the artist was paid 500 guineas. The sculpture depicted Shakespeare, reclining against a rock, between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting. Beneath it was a panelled pedestal inscribed with a quotation from Hamlet: “He was a Man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again”.

The Shakespeare Gallery, when it opened on 4 May 1789, contained 34 paintings, and by the end of its run it had between 167 and 170. (The exact inventory is uncertain and most of the paintings have disappeared; only around 40 paintings can be identified with any certainty.) According to Frederick Burwick, during its sixteen-year operation, the Gallery reflected the transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism. Works by artists such as James Northcote represent the conservative, neoclassical elements of the gallery, while those of Henry Fuseli represent the newly emerging Romantic movement. William Hazlitt praised Northcote in an essay entitled “On the Old Age of Artists”, writing “I conceive any person would be more struck with Mr. Fuseli at first sight, but would wish to visit Mr. Northcote oftener.”

The gallery itself was a fashionable hit with the public. Newspapers carried updates of the construction of the gallery, down to drawings for the proposed façade. The Daily Advertiser featured a weekly column on the gallery from May through August (exhibition season). Artists who had influence with the press, and Boydell himself, published anonymous articles to heighten interest in the gallery, which they hoped would increase sales of the edition.

At the beginning of the enterprise, reactions were generally positive. The Public Advertiser wrote on 6 May 1789: “the pictures in general give a mirror of the poet … [The Shakespeare Gallery] bids fair to form such an epoch in the History of the Fine Arts, as will establish and confirm the superiority of the English School”. The Times wrote a day later:
This establishment may be considered with great truth, as the first stone of an English School of Painting; and it is peculiarly honourable to a great commercial country, that it is indebted for such a distinguished circumstance to a commercial character—such an institution—will place, in the Calendar of Arts, the name of Boydell in the same rank with the Medici of Italy.

Fuseli himself may have written the review in the Analytical Review, which praised the general plan of the gallery while at the same time hesitating: “such a variety of subjects, it may be supposed, must exhibit a variety of powers; all cannot be the first; while some must soar, others must skim the meadow, and others content themselves to walk with dignity”. However, according to Frederick Burwick, critics in Germany “responded to the Shakespeare Gallery with far more thorough and meticulous attention than did the critics in England”.

Criticism increased as the project dragged on: the first volume did not appear until 1791. James Gillray published a cartoon labelled “Boydell sacrificing the Works of Shakespeare to the Devil of Money-Bags”. The essayist and soon-to-be co-author of the children’s book Tales from Shakespeare (1807) Charles Lamb criticised the venture from the outset:
What injury did not Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery do me with Shakespeare. To have Opie’s Shakespeare, Northcote’s Shakespeare, light headed Fuseli’s Shakespeare, wooden-headed West’s Shakespeare, deaf-headed Reynolds’ Shakespeare, instead of my and everybody’s Shakespeare. To be tied down to an authentic face of Juliet! To have Imogen’s portrait! To confine the illimitable!

Northcote, while appreciating Boydell’s largesse, also criticised the results of the project: “With the exception of a few pictures by Joshua [Reynolds] and [John] Opie, and—I hope I may add—myself, it was such a collection of slip-slop imbecility as was dreadful to look at, and turned out, as I had expected it would, in the ruin of poor Boydell’s affairs”.

By 1796, subscriptions to the edition had dropped by two-thirds. The painter and diarist Joseph Farington recorded that this was a result of the poor engravings:
West said He looked over the Shakespeare prints and was sorry to see them of such inferior quality. He said that excepting that from His Lear by Sharpe, that from Northcote’s children in the Tower, and some small ones, there were few that could be approved. Such a mixture of dotting and engraving, and such a general deficiency in respect of drawing which He observed the Engravers seemed to know little of, that the volumes presented a mass of works which He did not wonder many subscribers had declined to continue their subscription.

The mix of engraving styles was criticised; line engraving was considered the superior form and artists and subscribers disliked the mixture of lesser forms with it. Moreover, Boydell’s engravers fell behind schedule, delaying the entire project. He was forced to engage lesser artists, such as Hamilton and Smirke, at a lower price to finish the volumes as his business started to fail. Modern art historians have generally concurred that the quality of the engravings, particularly in the folio, was poor. Moreover, the use of so many different artists and engravers led to a lack of stylistic cohesion.

Although the Boydells ended with 1,384 subscriptions, the rate of subscriptions dropped, and remaining subscriptions were also increasingly in doubt. Like many businesses at the time, the Boydell firm kept few records. Only the customers knew what they had purchased. This caused numerous difficulties with debtors who claimed they had never subscribed or had subscribed for less. Many subscribers also defaulted, and Josiah Boydell spent years after John’s death attempting to force them to pay.

The Boydells focused all their attention on the Shakespeare edition and other large projects, such as The History of the River Thames and The Complete Works of John Milton, rather than on lesser, more profitable ventures. When both the Shakespeare enterprise and the Thames book failed, the firm had no capital to fall back upon. Beginning in 1789, with the onset of the French revolution, John Boydell’s export business to Europe was cut off. By the late 1790s and early 19th century, the two-thirds of his business that depended upon the export trade was in serious financial difficulty.

In 1804, John Boydell decided to appeal to Parliament for a private bill to authorise a lottery to dispose of everything in his business. The bill received royal assent on 23 March, and by November the Boydells were ready to sell tickets. John Boydell died before the lottery was drawn on 28 January 1805, but lived long enough to see each of the 22,000 tickets purchased at three guineas apiece (£250 each in modern terms)

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Stothard
17 August 1755 – 27 April 1834


Thomas Stothard

Thomas Stothard was born in London, the son of a well-to-do innkeeper in Long Acre A delicate child, he was sent at the age of five to a relative in Yorkshire, and attended school at Acomb, and afterwards at Tadcaster and at Ilford, Essex. Showing talent for drawing, he was apprenticed to a draughtsman of patterns for brocaded silks in Spitalfields. In his spare time, he attempted illustrations for the works of his favourite poets. Some of these drawings were praised by Harrison, the editor of the Novelist’s Magazine. Stothard’s master having died, he resolved to devote himself to art.

In 1778 he became a student of the Royal Academy, of which he was elected associate in 1792 and full academician in 1794. In 1812 he was appointed librarian to the Academy after serving as assistant for two years. Among his earliest book illustrations are plates engraved for Ossian and for Bell’s Poets. In 1780, he became a regular contributor to the Novelist’s Magazine, for which he produced 148 designs, including his eleven illustrations to The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (by Tobias Smollett) and his graceful subjects from Clarissa and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (both by Samuel Richardson).

From 1786, Thomas Fielding, a friend of Stothard’s and engraver, produced engravings using designs by Stothard, Angelica Kauffman, and of his own. Arcadian scenes were especially esteemed. Fielding realized these in colour, using copper engraving, and achieved excellent quality. Stothard’s designs had an exceptional aesthetic appeal.

He designed plates for pocket-books, tickets for concerts, illustrations to almanacs, and portraits of popular actors. These are popular with collectors for their grace and distinction. His more important works include illustrations for:

  • Two sets for Robinson Crusoe, one for the New Magazine and one for Stockdale’s edition
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress (1788)
  • Harding’s edition of Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield (1792)
  • The Rape of the Lock (1798)
  • The works of Solomon Gessner (1802)
  • William Cowper’s Poems (1825)
  • The Decameron

His figure-subjects in Samuel Rogers’s Italy (1830) and Poems (1834) demonstrate that even in old age, his imagination remained fertile and his hand firm.

Art historian Ralph Nicholson Wornum estimated that Stothard’s designs number five thousand and, of these, about three thousand were engraved. His oil pictures are usually small. His colouring is often rich and glowing in the style of Rubens, who Stothard admired. The Vintage, perhaps his most important oil painting, is in the National Gallery. He contributed to John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, but his best-known painting is the Procession of the Canterbury Pilgrims, in Tate Britain, the engraving from which, begun by Luigi and continued by Niccolo Schiavonetti and finished by James Heath, was immensely popular. The commission for this picture was given to Stothard by Robert Hartley Cromek, and was the cause of a quarrel with his friend William Blake. It was followed by a companion work, the Flitch of Bacon, which was drawn in sepia for the engraver but was never carried out in colour.

In addition to his easel pictures, Stothard decorated the grand staircase of Burghley House, near Stamford in Lincolnshire, with subjects of War, Intemperance, and the Descent of Orpheus in Hell (1799–1803); the library of Colonel Johnes’ mansion of Hafod, in North Wales, with a series of scenes from Froissart and Monstrelet painted in imitation of relief (1810); and the cupola of the upper hall of the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh (later occupied by the Signet Library), with Apollo and the Muses, and figures of poets, orators, etc. (1822). He prepared designs for a frieze and other sculptural decorations for Buckingham Palace, which were not executed, owing to the death of George IV. He also designed a shield presented to the Duke of Wellington by the merchants of London, and executed a series of eight etchings from the various subjects that adorned it.

He married Rebecca Watkins in 1783. They had eleven children, six of whom – five sons and one daughter – survived infancy. They lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, until 1794, when they moved to a house at 28 Newman Street, of which Stothard had bought the freehold. His wife died in 1825. His sons included Thomas, accidentally shot dead in about 1801; the antiquarian illustratorCharles Alfred Stothard, who also predeceased his father; and Alfred Joseph Stothard, medallist to George IV.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Banks
December 29, 1735 – February 2, 1805


Thomas Banks

Thomas Banks was the son of William Banks, a surveyor who was land steward to the Duke of Beaufort, he was born in London. He was educated at Ross-on-Wye.

He was taught drawing by his father, and from 1750 to 1756 was apprenticed to a woodcarver, William Barlow, in London. In his spare time he worked at sculpture, spending his evenings in the studio of the Flemish émigré sculptor Peter Scheemakers. During this period he is known to have worked for the architect William Kent. Before 1772, when he obtained a travelling studentship given by the Royal Academy and proceeded to Rome, he had already exhibited several fine works.

Returning to England in 1779 he found that the taste for classic poetry, ever the source of his inspiration, no longer existed, and he spent two years in Saint Petersburg, being employed by the empress Catherine the Great, who purchased his Cupid Tormenting a Butterfly. On his return he modelled his colossal ‘Achilles Mourning the Loss of Briseis, a work full of force and passion; and then he was elected, in 1784, an associate of the Royal Academy and in the following year a full member.

Banks died in London on 2 February 1805. He is buried in Paddington Churchyard.
A monument to his memory was also erected in Westminster Abbey.

Among other works in St Paul’s Cathedral are the monuments to Captain George Blagden Westcott and Captain Richard Burgess, and in Westminster Abbey to Sir Eyre Coote, General Loten, Sir Clifton Wintringham and William Woollett. His bronze bust of Warren Hastings is in the National Portrait Gallery.

Banks’s best-known work is perhaps the colossal group of Shakespeare Attended by Painting and Poetry, now in the garden of New Place, Stratford-on-Avon.

The high-relief sculpture was commissioned in 1788 to be placed in a recess in the upper façade of John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall.

Banks was paid 500 guineas for the group which depicts Shakespeare, reclining against a rock, between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting. Beneath it was panelled pedestal inscribed “He was a Man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again”. The sculpture remained in Pall Mall until the building was demolished in 1868 or 1869, when it was moved to New Place.

One of his most bizarre works is “Anatomical Crucifixion” (1801) held in the Hunterian (Anatomical) Museum in London. This shows a dissected body nailed to a cross.

  • Isaac Watts, Westminster Abbey (1774)
  • Bishop Thomas Newton, St. Mary-le-Bow (1782)
  • Sir Eyre Coote, Westminster Abbey (1783)
  • Dean Smith, Chester Cathedral (1787)
  • John Heaviside, Hatfield, Hertfordshire (1787)
  • Bishop Edmund Law, Carlisle Cathedral (1787)
  • Robert Markham, St Marys, Whitechapel, London (1788)
  • Giuseppe Baretti, Marylebone Chapel (1789)
  • Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, Flitton, Bedfordshire (1790)
  • Samuel Northcote, St Andrews, Plymouth (1791)
  • William Woollett, Westminster Abbey (1791)
  • Shukburgh Ashby, Hungarton, Leicestershire (1792)
  • Penelope Boothby, Ashbourne, Derby (1793)
  • Joseph Hurlock FRS, Stoke Newington Parish Church (1793)
  • Anna Matthews, Chester Cathedral (1793)
  • Joan Gideon Loten, Westminster Abbey (1793)
  • Sir Clifton Wintringham, Westminster Abbey (1794)
  • Mrs Halifax, Ewell, Surrey (1795)
  • Margaret Petrie, Lewisham Parish Church (1795)
  • Stephen Storace, Marylebone Parish Church (1796)
  • Colonel Thomas Kyd, memorial in Calcutta Botanical Gardens, India (1796)
  • Cornelia Millbank, Croft, Yorkshire (1796)
  • John Halliday, Halesowen, Worcestershire (1797)
  • John Clarke, Ickenham, Middlesex, (1800)
  • Captain Richard Burgess, St Paul’s Cathedral (1802)
  • Captain George Blagden Westcott, St Paul’s Cathedral (1805)

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Isaac Taylor of Ongar


Isaac Taylor

Isaac Taylor of Ongar was the son of Isaac Taylor by his wife Sarah, daughter of Josiah Jefferys of Shenfield, Essex, he was born in London on 30 January 1759. With his elder brother Charles Taylor, after some education at Brentford grammar school, he was brought up as an engraver in the studio of his father, and worked both in landscape and portraiture.

During his apprenticeship the plates for Abraham Rees’s edition of Chambers’s Cyclopaedia were executed under his superintendence at his father’s establishment, and he met Rees. In 1781 he commissioned Richard Smirke to paint four small circular subjects representing morning, noon, evening, and night, which he engraved and published; and two years later he painted and engraved a set of views on the Thames near London. In 1783 he moved from Islington to Red Lion Street, Holborn, and in June 1786 he left London for Lavenham in Suffolk, where he rented a house and a large garden.

He continued his work as an engraver. He was commissioned to engrave a number of plates for John Boydell’s Bible and Shakespeare. In 1791 he engraved the assassination of Rizzio after John Opie (for which the Society of Arts awarded him their gold palette and twenty-five guineas), and in 1796 he completed a book of forty plates illustrating the architectural details of the fifteenth-century church at Lavenham, entitled Specimens of Gothic Ornaments selected from the parish church of Lavenham in Suffolk. He also sketched in watercolours and engraved a series of Suffolk mansions.

From beginning of the Napoleonic Wars the export of English engravings, which had increased rapidly since 1775, as rapidly diminished. Taylor, who had acquired some fame locally as a preacher, moved to Colchester in 1796 on receiving a call to act as pastor to the independent congregation in Bucklersbury Lane. While there he continued working on plates for Boydell’s Shakespeare which he had commenced at Lavenham. That of Henry VIII’s first sight of Anne Boleyn, after Charles Alfred Stothard, was completed in 1802 and brought him £500. In 1812 he engraved a set of designs for James Thomson’s The Seasons.

In December 1810 Taylor was called as nonconformist pastor to Ongar in Essex, and there he lived during the remaining eighteen years of his life. Taylor died on Saturday, 12 December 1829, and was buried on 19 December at Ongar. A portrait engraved by Blood from a drawing by himself was published in the Evangelical Magazine for 1818.

The long series of books from Ongar by members of the family had them talked of as “Taylors of Ongar”, to distinguish them from the contemporary literary family, the “Taylors of Norwich”. The literary productiveness of the extended family of Isaac Taylor of Ongar, led Francis Galton Hereditary Genius (1869), to illustrate from the history of the family his theory of the distribution through heredity of intellectual capacity. Of a family of eleven, six survived childhood, and from the time of his residence at Lavenham Taylor dedicated his spare time to the education of his children; he himself was self-taught. Years of teaching led him to evolve a series of educational manuals. His own books were:

  • ‘The Biography of a Brown Loaf’ (London, n.d.);
  • ‘Self-cultivation recommended, or hints to a youth on leaving school’ (1817,; 4th ed. 1820);
  • ‘Advice to the Teens’ (1818, two editions);
  • ‘Character essential to Success in Life’ (London, 1820);
  • ‘Picturesque Piety, or Scripture Truths illustrated by forty-eight engravings, designed and engraved by the author’ (London, 1821);
  • ‘Beginnings of British Biography: Lives of one hundred persons eminent in British Story’ (London, 2 vols., 1824, two editions);
  • Beginnings of European Biography’ (London, 2 vols. 1824–5; 3 vols. 1828–9);
  • ‘Bunyan explained to a Child’ (London, 1824, 2 vols., and 1825);
  • ‘The Balance of Criminality, or Mental Error, compared with Immoral Conduct’ (London, 1828).

Taylor also issued, with engravings from designs mostly by himself (a few were by his son Isaac), a series of topographies: ‘Scenes in Europe’ and ‘Scenes in England’ (1819), extended to ‘Scenes in Asia,’ ‘Scenes in Africa,’ ‘Scenes in America,’ ‘Scenes in Foreign Lands,’ ‘Scenes of British Wealth,’ and (posthumously in 1830) ‘Scenes of Commerce by Land and Sea.’

On 18 April 1781 Taylor married at Islington Ann Martin, and had issue:

  • Ann born at Islington on 30 January 1782, who married Joseph Gilbert;
  • Jane Taylor;
  • two Isaacs who died in infancy;
  • Isaac (1787–1865);
  • Martin Taylor (1788–1867), the father of Helen Taylor;
  • Harriet, Eliza, and Decimus, who died in infancy;
  • Jefferys;
  • and Jemima (1798–1886), who married, on 14 August 1832, Thomas Herbert.

Born on 20 June 1757, from the time of the move to Lavenham at in 1786 Mrs. Ann Taylor (1757–1830) shared the educational ideals of her husband. She corresponded with her children during their absences from home, and this correspondence was the nucleus of a series of short manuals of conduct:

  • ‘Advice to Mothers’ (London, n.d.);
  • ‘Maternal Solicitude for a Daughter’s best Interests’ (London, 1813; 12th ed. 1830);
  • ‘Practical Hints to Young Females, or the duties of a wife, a mother, and a mistress of a family’ (London, 1815; 11th ed. 1822);
  • ‘The Present of a Mistress to a Young Servant’ (London, 1816; several editions);
  • ‘Reciprocal Duties of Parents and Children’ (London, 1818; 3rd ed. 1819);
  • ‘The Family Mansion’ (London, 1819; a French version appeared in the same year; 2nd ed. 1820);
  • ‘Retrospection, a Tale’ (London, 1821);
  • ‘The Itinerary of a Traveller in the Wilderness’ (London, 1825,); and also
  • ‘Correspondence between a Mother and her Daughter [Jane] at School’ (London, 1817; 6th ed. 1821).
  • Ann Taylor died at Ongar on 4 June 1830; she was buried beside her husband under the vestry floor of Ongar chapel.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Sandby
1721 – 25 June 1798


Thomas Sandby

Sandby was born in Nottingham, the son of Thomas Sandby, a textile worker, and was self-taught as a draughtsman and architect. Paul Sandby was his brother.

According to architect James Gandon’s autobiography, Thomas and his brother Paul ran a drawing academy in Nottingham before they came up to London in 1741, in order to take up employment in the military drawing department at the Tower of London (a post procured for them by John Plumptre, MP for Nottingham). Another source says that Thomas initially came to London for the purpose of having one of his pictures – a view of Nottingham – engraved.

In 1743 Sandby was appointed private secretary and draughtsman to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and accompanied him in his campaigns in Flanders and Scotland (1743–1748). Sandby was at the battle of Dettingen in 1743. Pasquin says that he was appointed draughtsman to the chief engineer of Scotland, in which capacity he was at Fort William in the highlands when the Young Pretender landed, and was the first person to convey intelligence of the event to the government in 1745.

Sandby accompanied the Duke of Cumberland in his expeditions against the rebels, and made a sketch of the battle of Culloden, together with three panoramic views of Fort Augustus and the surrounding scenery, showing the encampments, in 1746, and a drawing of the triumphal arch erected in St. James’s Park to commemorate the victories. In this year the Duke was appointed ranger of Windsor Great Park, and selected Sandby to be deputy ranger; but Sandby again accompanied the duke to the Netherlands during the War of the Austrian Succession, and probably remained there till the conclusion of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October 1748. He drew four views of the camps in the Low Countries, covering extensive tracts of country, and another inscribed ‘Abbaye près de Sarlouis’.

Sandby continued to draw a salary from the Board of Ordnance, and this, together with his appointment as deputy ranger of Windsor Great Park, which he held till his death, placed Sandby in a position of independence, and afforded scope for his talent both as an artist and as an architect. The Great Lodge (now known as Cumberland Lodge) was enlarged under his supervision as a residence for the Duke. The lower lodge was occupied by himself. His time was now principally spent in extensive alterations of the park, and in the formation of the Virginia Water Lake, in which he was assisted by his younger brother, Paul, who came to live with him. In 1754, Thomas made 8 drawings of the lake which were engraved on copper by Paul Sandby and other engravers and dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland. They were republished by John Boydell in 1772. George III, who took great interest in the undertaking, honoured Sandby with his confidence and personal friendship, and on the death of the Duke of Cumberland, in 1765, the king’s brother, Henry Frederick (also Duke of Cumberland, and ranger of the park), retained Sandby as deputy.

Although devoted to his work at Windsor and preferring a retired life, it was Sandby’s custom to spend a portion of each year in London. He rented a house in Great Marlborough Street from 1760 to 1766. He was on the committee of the St. Martin’s Lane Academy, which issued a pamphlet in 1755 proposing the formation of an academy of art, and he exhibited drawings at the Society of Artists’ exhibition in 1767, and afterwards for some years at the Royal Academy. Both he and his brother Paul were among the twenty-eight of the original members of the Royal Academy who were nominated by George III in 1768. He was elected the first professor of architecture to the academy, and delivered the first of a series of six lectures in that capacity on 8 October 1770. He continued these lectures with alterations and additions annually till his death. They were never published, but the manuscripts were held in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The illustrations were sold with his other drawings after his death.

In February 1769 he entered a competition to design the Royal Exchange at Dublin, winning third prize of 40 pounds. Perhaps Sandby’s most notable architectural commission was the design of the (first) Freemason’s Hall at Great Queen Street in central London, linking two houses purchased by the United Grand Lodge of England (the Hall was extended in the 1820s by Sir John Soane, but was demolished in 1930 after suffering irreparable structural damage in a fire in 1883). The building was opened with great ceremony on 23 May 1776, when the title of ‘Grand Architect’ was conferred on him by the Freemasons.

Sandby designed a carved oak altar-screen for St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and a stone bridge over the Thames at Staines, opened in 1796, but removed a few years afterwards on account of its insecurity. He built several houses in the neighbourhood of Windsor, including St Leonard’s Hill for the Duchess of Gloucester, and one for a Colonel Deacon, later known as “Holly Grove”. Designs exist for many others of his architectural works which cannot now be identified. In 1777 he was appointed, jointly with James Adam, architect of his majesty’s works, and in 1780 master-carpenter of the his majesty’s works in England.

Sandby died at the deputy ranger’s lodge in Windsor Park on Monday, 25 June 1798. He was buried in the churchyard of Old Windsor.

Sandby was twice married. The name of his first wife is stated to have been Schultz. His second wife was Elizabeth Venables, to whom he was married in 1753. She had a dowry of 2,000 pounds, and bore him ten children, six of whom (five daughters and one son) survived him. In his will, and in some simple verses addressed to his daughters after their mother’s death, he named only 4 daughters, Harriott, Charlotte, Maria, and Ann, omitting his eldest girl, Elizabeth, who was twice married, and is said to have died about 1809. His daughter Harriott married (1786) Thomas Paul, the second son of his brother Paul, and kept house for her father after her mother’s death.

Though he was self-educated as an architect, and left few buildings by which his capacity can be tested, the hall of the freemasons shows no ordinary taste, while of his skill as an engineer and landscape-gardener Windsor Great Park and Virginia Water are a permanent record. He was an excellent and versatile draughtsman, and so skilful in the use of watercolour that his name deserves to be associated with that of his brother Paul in the history of that branch of art.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Boydell
19 January 1720 – 12 December 1804


John Boydell

Boydell was born, according to his monument in St Olave Old Jewry, London, at Dorrington, in the parish of Woore, Shropshire, to Josiah and Mary Boydell (née Milnes) and was educated at least partially at Merchant Taylors’ School. His father was a land surveyor and young Boydell, the oldest of seven children, was expected to follow in his footsteps. In 1731, when Boydell was eleven, the family moved to Hawarden, Flintshire. In 1739 he became house steward to MP John Lawton and accompanied him to London. A year later, like many other enterprising young men of the time, Boydell resolved to sail to the East Indies in hopes of making his fortune, but he abandoned the scheme in favour of returning to Flintshire and Elizabeth Lloyd, the woman he was courting. Whether or not he intended to pursue land surveying at this time is unclear.

In either 1740 or 1741, Boydell saw a print of Hawarden Castle by William Henry Toms and was so delighted with it that he immediately set out again for London to learn printmaking and Lloyd promised to wait for him. Boydell apprenticed himself to Toms and enrolled in St. Martin’s Lane Academy to learn drawing. Each day he worked about fourteen hours for Toms and then attended drawing classes at night. After six years, Boydell’s diligence allowed him to buy out the last year of his apprenticeship, and in 1746 he set up an independent shop on the Strand that specialised in topographical prints that cost six pence for a cheap print or one shilling for an expensive print.

Boydell’s willingness to assume responsibility for his own business so early in his career indicates that he had ambition and an enterprising spirit. Independent shops were risky in the 1740s because no strict copyright laws, other than the Engraving Copyright Act of 1734 (known as “Hogarth’s Act”), had yet been instituted. The pirating of published books and prints became a profession in its own right and greatly decreased the profits of publishers such as Boydell.

Around 1747, Boydell published his first major work, The Bridge Book, for which he drew and cut each print himself. It cost one shilling and contained six landscapes in each of which, not surprisingly, a bridge featured prominently. A year later, in 1748, Boydell, apparently financially secure, married Elizabeth Lloyd. The couple did not have any children and Elizabeth died in 1781.

Boydell realised early in his career that his engravings had little artistic merit, saying later that they were collected by others “more to show the improvement of art in this country [Britain], since the period of their publication, than from any idea of their own merits”. This may explain why in 1751, when he became a member of the Stationers’ Company, he started buying other artists’ plates and publishing them in addition to his own. Ordinarily an engraver, such as William Hogarth, had his own shop or took his finished engravings to a publisher. In adopting the dual role of artist and print dealer, Boydell altered the traditional organisation of print shops. He was not subject to the whims of public taste: if his engraves did not sell well, he could supplement his earnings by trading in the prints of other artists. He also understood the concerns of both the engraver and the publisher. In fact, as a publisher, he did much to help raise the level of respect for engravers in addition to furnishing them with better paying commissions.

In 1751, with his large volume of prints, Boydell moved to larger premises at 90 Cheapside. By 1755, he had published A Collection of One Hundred and Two Views, &C. in England and Wales. This cheap but successful book gave him capital to invest. He became increasingly immersed in the commercial side of the print business and like most print dealers began importing prints to sell. These included print reproductions of landscapes by artists such as Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa. The bulk of the imports came from the undisputed masters of engraving during the 18th century: the French. Boydell made a small fortune in the 1750s from these imported prints. His early success was acknowledged in 1760 when he was named a member of the Royal Society. Winifred Friedman, who has written extensively on Boydell, explains that despite this success, “[w]hat rankled Boydell was that the French would not extend credit, or exchange prints; he was required to produce hard cash. Boydell took action, and this was the turning point.”

In 1761, Boydell decided that he would attempt to trade with the French in kind—something they had refused in the past because of the poor quality of British engravings. To inaugurate this change, he had to have a truly spectacular print. To this end, he hired William Woollett, the foremost engraver in England, to engrave Richard Wilson’s Destruction of the Children of Niobe. Woollett had already successfully engraved Claude Lorrain’s 1663 painting The Father of Psyche Sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo for Boydell in 1760. Boydell paid him approximately £100 for the Niobe engraving, a staggering amount compared to the usual rates. This single act of patronage raised engravers’ fees throughout London. The print was wildly successful, but more importantly, the French accepted it as payment in kind. In fact, it was the first British print actively desired on the Continent. By 1770, the British were exporting far more prints than they were importing, largely due to Boydell.

Boydell’s business flourished and he soon hired his nephew, Josiah Boydell, to assist him. Boydell’s biographer, Sven Bruntjen, hypothesizes that one of the reasons for Boydell’s early and phenomenal success was his specialisation. Unlike “his competitors [who sold manuals, atlases and other assorted books] … his [business had an] almost exclusive concentration on the sale of reproductive prints”. Bruntjen argues that “despite the extensive sales of varied types of reproductive prints, it was the contemporary history print which accounted for the major part of Boydell’s success as a print dealer”. Most notable among these was the Death of General Wolfe a 1770 painting by Benjamin West, engraved by Woollett for Boydell in 1776. As early as 1767, Boydell had stopped engraving prints himself and began exclusively relying on commissions and trades and it was from these that he profited.

Boydell had opened up a new market with Niobe and he quickly followed up this success. With a prospering business and capital in reserve, he embarked on several ambitious projects, often simultaneously. In 1769, he began A Collection of Prints, Engraved after the Most Capital Paintings in England. Its last, and ninth volume, was finished in 1792 to great critical and financial success. In 1773, he began A Set of Prints Engraved after the Most Capital Paintings in the Collection of Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of Russia, Lately in the Possession of the Earl of Orford at Houghton in Norfolk, which was finished in 1788.

In addition to these projects and in the middle of his Shakespeare undertaking Boydell experimented with aquatint in An History of the River Thames, published in 1796. Bruntjen writes, “although not the first colored aquatint book, [it] was the first major one, and it was to set an example for the type of illustration that was to enjoy widespread popularity in England for some forty years”. Boydell also published The Original Work of William Hogarth in 1790 and The Poetical Works of John Milton and The Life of the Poet (i.e., Milton) in 1794.

The productivity and profitability of Boydell’s firm spurred the British print industry in general. By 1785, annual exports of British prints reached £200,000 while imports fell to £100. Boydell was acknowledged and praised throughout England as the agent of this stunning economic reversal. In 1773 he was awarded the Royal Academy Gold Medal for his services in advancing the print trade. In 1789, at the Royal Academy dinner, the Prince of Wales toasted “an English tradesman who patronizes art better than the Grand Monarque, Alderman Boydell, the Commercial Maecenas”.

Boydell’s crowning achievement was his Shakespeare project, which was to occupy much of the last two decades of his life. The project contained three parts: an illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays, a public gallery of paintings depicting scenes from the plays, and a folio of prints based on the paintings.

The idea of a grand Shakespeare edition was conceived at a dinner at Josiah Boydell’s home in November 1786. The guest list itself is evidence of Boydell’s extensive connections in the artistic world: Benjamin West, painter to King George III; George Romney, a renowned painter; George Nicol, bookseller to the king and painter; William Hayley, a poet; John Hoole, a scholar and translator of Tasso and Aristotle; and Daniel Braithwaite, an engineer. Most sources also list the painter Paul Sandby. Although the initial idea for the edition was probably not Boydell’s, he was the one to seize and pursue it. He wanted to use the edition to facilitate the development of a British school of history painting.

The “magnificent and accurate” Shakespeare edition which Boydell began in 1786 was the focus of the enterprise. The print folio and the gallery were simply offshoots of the main project. In an advertisement prefacing the first volume of the edition, Nicol wrote that “splendor and magnificence, united with correctness of text were the great objects of this Edition”. Boydell was responsible for the “splendor”, and George Steevens, a renowned Shakespearean editor, was responsible for the “correctness of text”. The volumes themselves were handsome, with gilded pages. Even the quality of the paper was extraordinarily high. The illustrations were printed independently and could be inserted and removed as the customer desired. The first volumes of the Dramatick Works were published in 1791 and the last in 1805. The edition was financed through a subscription campaign in which the buyers would offer partial payment up front and then pay the remaining sum on delivery. This practice was necessitated by the fact that over £350,000—an enormous sum at the time—was eventually spent on the enterprise.

When it opened on 4 May 1789 at 52 Pall Mall, the Shakespeare Gallery contained 34 paintings and by the end of its run it had between 167 and 170. The Gallery itself was a hit with the public and became a fashionable attraction. It took over the public’s imagination and became an end in and of itself.

To illustrate the edition and to provide images for the folio, Boydell obtained the assistance of the most eminent painters and engravers of the day. Artists included Richard Westall, Thomas Stothard, George Romney, Henry Fuseli, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Robert Smirke, John Opie, and Boydell’s nephew and business partner, Josiah Boydell. Among the engravers were Francesco Bartolozzi and Thomas Kirk. Boydell’s relationships with his artists, particularly his illustrators, was generally congenial. James Northcote praised Boydell’s liberal payments. He wrote in an 1821 letter that Boydell “did more for the advancement of the arts in England than the whole mass of the nobility put together! He paid me more nobly than any other person has done; and his memory I shall every hold in reverence”.

At the beginning of the enterprise, reactions were generally positive. Two reviews from the most influential newspapers in London at the time solidified and validated the public’s interest in the project and the artists’ efforts. However, there was also some criticism. In particular the satirical engraver James Gillray appears to have been peeved at not being commissioned to engrave any of the Shakespeare scenes and, in revenge, published Shakespeare Sacrificed: Or the Offering to Avarice just six weeks after the gallery opened. Gillray followed up with further cartoons such as Boydell sacrificing the Works of Shakespeare to the Devil of Money-Bags. As the project dragged on, the criticism increased. Yet, Boydell’s project still inspired imitators. Thomas Macklin attempted to found a Poet’s Gallery similar to the Shakespeare Gallery and several histories of England on the scale of the Shakespeare edition were also started. However, like Boydell’s venture, they ultimately ended in financial disaster.

The folio, which collected together the engravings from the paintings, has been the most lasting legacy of the Boydell enterprise: it was reissued throughout the 19th century and scholars have described it as a precursor to the modern coffee table book.

Amidst all of the work generated by these publishing enterprises, Boydell still found time to be alderman of Cheap ward in 1782, master of the Stationers’ Company in 1783, sheriff of London in 1785, and Lord Mayor of London in 1790. With both a dedicated civic spirit and an eye towards business promotion, Boydell took advantage of his public positions to advocate public and private patronage of the arts. He frequently donated paintings from his own collections to the Corporation of London to be hung in the Guildhall. He hoped that his donation might spur others to similar generosity. However, he remained a solitary contributor. A catalogue was published in 1794 listing all of the works Boydell had donated to the Guildhall. In the preface, he explained why he had made such large gifts:

It may be a matter of wonder to some, what enducements I could have to present the City of London with so many expensive Pictures; the principal reasons that influence me were these: First: to show my respect for the Corporation, and my Fellow Citizens, Secondly: to give pleasure to the Public, and Foreigners in general, Thirdly: to be of service to the Artists, by shewing their works to the greatest advantage: and, Fourthly: for the mere purpose of pleasing myself.

In 1794 Boydell commissioned and donated Industry and Prudence by Robert Smirke. Most of the other works Boydell donated were similarly didactic. He was appealing to his fellow tradespeople and craftspeople with these gifts, a middle class which would have been only too pleased to see their values promoted by such a prominent figure.

In a speech before the Council to advocate the renovation of a building for the purpose of displaying public art, Boydell made the striking claim that if the rich could be persuaded to patronise art, they would forgo their wicked ways:
one might be found amongst the many spendthrifts of the present age, instead of ruining themselves by gaming, or laying snares to debauch young Females, by their false promises and many other bad vices; would be rejoiced at such an opportunity, of reclaiming themselves by withdrawing from the snares laid for them by bad and designing Men and Women, who constantly lay wait to lead astray the young and unwary that are possessed of large property, such might here have the pleasure and satisfaction to make a real Paradise on earth, by illuminating a place that would for ever shine and display their generosity.

Boydell’s middle-class consumers would have approved of his connection between morality and art.

In 1789, the French revolution broke out and four years later war erupted between Britain and France. Throughout the next tumultuous decade, trade with Europe became increasingly difficult. As Boydell’s business relied heavily on foreign trade, especially French, his livelihood was threatened. When this market was cut off due to war in 1793, Boydell’s business declined substantially. He was forced to sell the Shakespeare Gallery, via a lottery, in order for his business to remain solvent. He died in December 1804 before the lottery was drawn, but after all of its 22,000 tickets had been sold.

According to Josiah, John Boydell caught a cold by going to the Old Bailey on a damp, foggy day to do his duty as an alderman. He died on 12 December 1804 almost bankrupt, but not without great public acclaim. He was buried on 19 December 1804 at the Church of St. Olave Old Jewry, his funeral attended by the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and several artists.

Boydell had, almost single-handedly, made British prints a viable economic commodity and had demolished the French domination of the trade. In a letter to Sir John Anderson, asking Parliament for the private Lottery Act to sell off the Shakespeare Gallery, Boydell stated that it was “sufficient to say, that the whole course of that commerce [print trade] is changed”. The Times wrote on 7 May 1789: “Historical painting and engraving are almost exclusively indebted to Mr. Boydell for their present advancement.” Boydell also played a part in changing the nature of art patronage in Britain. Until he advocated public patronage in his various civic posts, the government had little to do with British art. According to Bruntjen, “it was due to the enthusiasm of Boydell and others that the English government eventually provided funds for the establishment of the National Gallery in 1824”. Boydell helped to make artists independent of aristocratic patronage by providing commercial opportunities for them. He “attempted to free artists from the traditional forms of state and aristocratic patronage by creating a public taste for reproductive prints of historical subjects”. Boydell’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography ends with the assessment that “no print publisher before or since has ever exerted as much influence on the course of British art”.

Boydell’s nephew and business partner, Josiah Boydell, continued his uncle’s business for some time at 90 Cheapside, but by 1818, the business was wound up by Jane Boydell, and the assets purchased by Hurst, Robinson, and Co.

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