Open main menu

Capon, William (1757-1827) (DNB00)

CAPON, WILLIAM (1757–1827), scene-painter, decorative artist, and architect, the son of an artist, was born at Norwich 6 Oct. 1757. Under his father he commenced to paint portraits, but preferring architecture was placed under Novozielski, whom he assisted in the buildings and decorations of the Italian Opera House (reopened 1791) and Ranelagh Gardens. In 1794 he erected a theatre for Lord Aldborough at Belan House, Kildare, and in the same year was engaged by John Kemble as scene-painter for the new Drury Lane Theatre. An enthusiastic student of old English architecture, he greatly assisted Kemble in his efforts to represent plays with historical accuracy, and the scenes at Drury Lane (and at Covent Garden after 1802) in which he endeavoured to reconstruct ancient buildings were greatly celebrated. Among these were a view of the ancient palace of Westminster (fifteenth century), ‘wings’ representing English streets, the Tower of London (for the play of ‘Richard III’), the council chamber at Crosby House (for ‘Jane Shore’), a state chamber temp. Edward III, a baronial hall temp. Edward IV, and a Tudor hall temp. Henry VII. His connection with Drury Lane (burnt 1809) resulted in a loss of 500l. He made drawings of the interiors of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, which were exhibited in 1800 and 1802. He was also employed for the Royal Circus and the theatre at Bath (1805). In 1804 he was appointed architectural draughtsman to the Duke of York. His leisure was employed in architectural research, and his plans of the old palace of Westminster and the substructure of the abbey are said to have occupied him thirty years. The former was in 1826 purchased by the Society of Antiquaries for 120 guineas, and was engraved by Basire. Though his preference was for Gothic architecture, his last work of importance was a design for a church of the Doric order. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and also (between 1788 and 1827) sent drawings to the Society of Artists (one), the British Institution (five), and the Society of British Artists (five). His subjects were chiefly views of buildings and architectural remains, with some landscapes. He died at his house in North Street, Westminster, 26 Sept. 1827. A portrait of Capon, engraved by W. Bond, after a miniature by W. Bone, was published in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ xcviii. 105. Some of his original drawings are in the British Museum.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists, 1878; Gent. Mag. 1827 and 1828; Boaden's Life of Kemble.]

C. M.