Mortimer, John Hamilton

Mortimer, John Hamilton an English artist of high repute in his day, who gave himself largely to ecclesiastical and Biblical subjects, was born in 1741 of humble parentage, and was the youngest of four children. Having acquired a taste for drawing from an uncle who was an itinerant portrait-painter, he was at about the age of eighteen placed under Hudson, who had been the instructor of Reynolds. With him, however, he did not continue long; but, after having studied a while in the gallery of the duke of Richmond, Mortimer began to make himself known by his productions. One of his earliest works, founded on an incident in the life of Edward the Confessor, painted in competition with Romney, obtained from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts a premium of fifty guineas, and another, presenting St. Paul preaching to the Britons, one hundred guineas. He was further distinguished by the notice and friendship of Reynolds, which friendship has been attributed, not to the sympathy, but to the opposition of their tastes in art. Mortimer was no colorist, and but an indifferent portrait-painter, although he produced many admirable heads and likenesses in black and white chalk. His talent lay in design, and in wild and fantastic quite as much as in historical subjects. He designed The Brazen Serpent in the great window of Salisbury Cathedral, and the cartoons for that in Brazenose College. He died February 4, 1779, and was buried in the church at High Wycombe, near the altar where is his painting of St. Paul preaching to the Britons. See Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Spooner, Dict. of the Fine Arts, s.v.

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