John Raphael Smith
John Raphael Smith was an English painter and mezzotint engraver, son of Thomas Smith of Derby, the landscape painter, and father of John Rubens Smith, a painter who emigrated to the United States.
He was apprenticed to a linen-draper in Derby, and afterwards pursued the same business in London, adding to his income by producing miniatures. He then turned to engraving and executed his plate of the "Public Ledger," which had great popularity, and was followed by his mezzotints of "Edwin the Minstrel" (a portrait of Thomas Haden), after Wright of Derby, and "Mercury Inventing the Lyre," after Barry.
He reproduced some forty works of Reynolds, some of which ranked among the masterpieces of mezzotint, and he was appointed engraver to the Prince of Wales. Adding to his artistic pursuits an extensive connexion as a print-dealer and publisher, he would soon have acquired wealth had it not been for his dissipated habits. He was a boon companion of George Morland, whose figure-pieces he excellently mezzotinted.
Smith was the teacher of J. M. W. Turner.
He painted subject-pictures such as the "Unsuspecting Maid," "Inattention" and the "Moralist," exhibiting in the Royal Academy from 1779 to 1790. Upon the decline of his business as a printseller he made a tour through the north and midland counties of England, producing much hasty and indifferent work, and settled in Doncaster, where he died.
As a mezzotint engraver Smith occupies the very highest rank. His prints are delicate, excellent in drawing and finely expressive of colour. His small full-lengths in crayons and his portraits of Fox, Horne Tooke, Sir Francis Burdett and the group of the duke of Devonshire and family support his claims as a successful draughtsman and painter. He had a very thorough knowledge of the principles and history of art, and was a brilliant conversationalist.
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