Disputed Likenesses

13th August 2021

A curious dispute over two portrait miniatures was brought before a London magistrate in June 1824 and subsequently reported in the newspapers. Mr Jones of Stoke Newington was charged with riotous behaviour against the miniature painter Walter Stephens Lethbridge, then residing above a baker’s shop in the Strand. The story goes that Lethbridge had been commissioned by an elderly maiden lady to paint two likenesses of her for an agreed fee of £11. Before the… (show more)

John Woodhouse, Tradesman

31st July 2021

John Woodhouse is best known for his full-length profiles reverse painted on flat glass with ethereal scenic backgrounds set in deep wooden frames. Many of these were painted from memory following the death of old friends. But portrait painting was not always John’s main occupation as proved by the tagline ‘House Painter, Glazier’ on his only printed trade label. John Woodhouse was born around 1773 in Northumberland to John and Appalina/Appaline (née Elliot). Born in… (show more)

Amos Clitherall, Painter & Decorator

9th April 2021

Despite the continuing popularity of silhouettes during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, many profilists were not able to make a good living as artists and thus needed a second occupation. So it was with Amos Clitherall whose painted silhouettes have recently come to light. The silhouettes are dated 1826 when Amos was 23 years old. They are neatly painted in black watercolour with grey highlights and tiny touches of gilding to bring out… (show more)

Thomas London: Art with Tea

3rd March 2021

Thomas London’s silhouettes are stylistically distinctive: neatly painted on an ivory base in shades of grey watercolour with Chinese white highlights, the profiles are always beautifully detailed and are typically set against a lightly hatched background. He was painting around the turn of the 19th century, his latest known profile is dated 1817, a period of elegance and streamlined fashion that lent itself well to the profilist’s artform. London used two trade labels: his earliest… (show more)

The Rich Old Lady of Stamford Street

13th February 2021

Cordelia Angelina Read was born in 1801 into an artistic family. Her grandfather, Edward Beetham, was an inventor, her grandmother, Isabella Beetham, was a successful silhouette artist as was her mother Jane. Her father, John Read, was a wealthy solicitor with a property portfolio that included eight houses in Stamford Street, Blackfriars, houses on Skinner Street in Holborn and an inn on Old Coventry Street (now Piccadilly). John Read ran his practice initially from Lamb’s… (show more)

John Patey

26th January 2021

Between 21 April and 12 July 1786 John Patey ran 23 advertisements in the Dublin paper Saunders’s News-Letter and Daily Advertiser offering “Profile Shade Likenesses in Miniature” painted on a “Composition perfectly white”. He promised “animated and striking Likenesses” with a sitting time of just 3 minutes. Complete with gilt frames, he charged between 6s 6d and 7s 7d apiece. During his short stay in Dublin, Patey was, according to his adverts, based at 65… (show more)

Hanging Shades

21st January 2021

Given the simplicity of the silhouette (or shade) as an artform, they work remarkably well within the home and when hung in groups they can make a striking display. They can be arranged by shape, by size, by frame colour, by subject, by period . . . Silhouettes work particularly well in small spaces such as over a doorway – or parallel with a door frame – or a mantelpiece – They also look stunning… (show more)

Thomas Pole – Doctor, Preacher & Artist

28th December 2020

Primarily remembered as a physician and a Quaker minister, Thomas Pole was also a talented artist and draughtsman who enjoyed sketching local buildings and painting silhouettes of his friends and family. Thomas Pole’s ancestors came from Wiveliscombe in Somerset. His father, John Pole (1705-1755), was a tailor but financial difficulties prompted him to emigrate to Philadelphia where he established a new business and in time married Rachel Smith. Born in 1753, Thomas was their youngest… (show more)

William Angelo Grey

1st November 2020

Previously unrecorded as a silhouettist or indeed as an artist, William Angelo Grey nonetheless claimed to be a Royal Academician. It looked impressive in his advertisements as did his middle name which may also have been assumed as a marketing ploy! At the time of writing, William Angelo Grey is known from a single silhouette dated 1848 and three advertisements that appeared in Irish newspapers in Sligo and Boyle between September 1844 and March 1845.… (show more)

William Hamlet the Elder

20th October 2020

The chance discovery of an article published in the first Afro-American newspaper Freedom’s Journal (28 March 1829) has prompted new research into William Hamlet’s background and family. The article concerned the arrest in Norfolk, Virginia of William Hamlet’s third son, George. George was living in New York but, whilst travelling, he was ‘arrested and cast into a loathsome prison’ as he did not have the necessary documents to prove that he was a free man.… (show more)

John Church Dempsey, Street Artist

23rd September 2020

John Church Dempsey spent over twenty years as an itinerant artist starting out during the 1820s, known not only for his silhouettes but also for his fascinating character studies of the street people that he encountered on his travels. He himself came from a lowly background: his father, originally from Ireland, was in service so the family would have lived modestly. His background would have made Dempsey sympathetic to the characters he chose to portray:… (show more)

Hinton Gibbs & Miss Gibbs

20th June 2020

Silhouette collectors will be familiar with the name Hinton Gibbs and his distinctive profiles reverse painted on glass and backed with wax. But apart from his service in the Bedfordshire Militia, little else has been known about his background and family. Similarly, Miss Gibbs who was recorded by Sue McKechnie as a cutter of silhouettes on the strength of two advertisements in the West Briton in June 1824. No examples of her work had been… (show more)

Lonely Hearts in 1802-1805

1st June 2020

Dating websites may feel like a modern day concept but the idea is far from original. In post-revolutionary France it was the custom for such personal advertisements to be pasted in public places. Amongst them were the fortune-hunters . . . “A young man, without actual fortune, but having a person and education fit to appear in any company, and an amiable character, such as may please any reasonable and sensible woman; of respectable parents,… (show more)

Henry Readhead (Redhead)

26th May 2020

Little is known about the silhouette artist Henry Readhead who was working during the 1790s. His style of painting is distinctive but yet there are only a handful of known examples of his work. Where there has been provenance or sitters have been named, there is a link to Yorkshire so it’s possible that he may have had northern connections. His profiles are reverse painted on convex glass in an accomplished and detailed style. The… (show more)

C. H. Hudson – a little known artist of tender years mastering a delicate technique

26th May 2020

Miss C. H. Hudson is an artist who has long intrigued me. Though rarely seen, her work has great charm and is painted with delicacy. When British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860 was published, Sue McKechnie had only seen one example of a silhouette by C. H. Hudson and this dearth of information led her to suggest that the artist may be a son of the better-documented silhouette artist, Elizabeth Hudson (née Chilcot). Mrs Hudson, born in Bath… (show more)

Thomas Johnson of Harrogate

26th May 2020

  Although Thomas Johnson of Harrogate was first listed as a silhouettist in Silhouette by Mrs Jackson (1938), very few examples of his work are known even today. The Victoria & Albert Museum holds two silhouettes of ladies by him, and a gentleman was sold in 1995 as part of the Christie Collection. These are all illustrated in British Silhouette Artists and their Work by Sue McKechnie (1978). This further example of a stylish unnamed… (show more)

W. M. Young

18th May 2020

W. M. Young was first recorded as a silhouettist by Mrs Jackson in 1911 on the strength of a single signed full-length profile of a lady dated 1836. In The Art of Silhouette (1913), Desmond Coke mentions “a delicious study in dark green and white of a girl with all her dainty laces shown in touches so light … signed W.M. Young del, 1836” in the collection of Madame Dorotti of Ebury Street and speculates… (show more)

Jones’ Gallery of Art

12th May 2020

Jones’ Gallery of Art is hitherto unrecorded as a silhouette studio and only a couple of examples of their work has previously been noted including a profile of a lady with a dog that was sold by a London salesroom many years ago. So to discover two further profiles that are clearly a pair, albeit that only one of them is stamped, is an opportunity to study the characteristics of the artist’s style and so… (show more)