Bird, Edward

Bird, Edward in eminent English painter, was born at Wolverhampton, April 12, 1772. His father, a clothier by trade, was a man of sense and information, and gave him a fair education. A family tradition declares that he began to sketch at the age of four, and that his passion for drawing called him up at early dawn, and made the figured furniture and walls of his home subjects of continual washing and scrubbing. He was privately encouraged by his eldest sister, and produced his first composition worthy of notice in his fourteenth year — an imaginary interview between the earl of Leicester and the daughters whom Miss Lee conferred on Mary queen of Scots, in her novel, The Recess. When his father saw that his love of drawing was incurable he became anxious to turn it to some account, but could think of nothing better than apprenticing him to a maker of tea-trays in Birmingham; these accordingly it became the boy's business to embellish, at which he soon became famous. Thus self-instructed, at the age of about thirty he removed to Bristol and opened a drawing-school, employing his intervals in producing all kinds of sketches, both serious and comic, such as The Interior of a Volunteer's Cottage, and Clowns dancing in an Ale- house. Later, on visiting London and studying the historical pictures of the great painters, he dedicated his pencil to the illustration of sublime passages in the Bible, and scenes of religious tragedy which the Reformation furnished; such as The Fortitude of Job, The Death of Sapphira, The Crucifixion, and The Burning of Ridley and Latiner. As premature old age crept on he was neglected, and finally died Nov. 2, 1819, and was buried in a cloister of Bristol Cathedral. Mr. Bird was in stature below the middle size, and had a mild, expressive, winning countenance. Towards the close of his life he lost his bright geniality, and grew dark and melancholy. His earlier works have an original and unborrowed air, but his later compositions were but little above failures. See Harper's Family Library, "Lives of Painters and Sculptors," 2, 208.

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