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Cunningham, Edmund Francis (DNB00)

CUNNINGHAM or CALZE, EDMUND FRANCIS (1742?–1795), portrait-painter, was the son of a gentleman of good family, and is stated to have been born at Kelso about 1742. His father, being involved in the Jacobite rebellion, fled from Scotland after the defeat of the Pretender in 1745, and settled in Italy, apparently at Bologna. Cunningham was brought up under the name of ‘Calze’ or ‘Calzo,’ doubtless from Kelso, his native place, and first studied painting at Parma, in the academy started by the duke at that town, taking Correggio as his principal model. Subsequently he worked at Rome under Raphael Mengs and Pompeo Batoni at Naples, where he studied the works of Solimena and Corrado, and also worked in the studio of Francesco de Mura and at Venice, where he studied the paintings of the contemporary painters there, and where he might have had considerable success himself had he not wished to continue his travels. He then visited Paris, and on this journey had the good fortune to paint a portrait of the king of Denmark, which brought him into great repute at court, and gained him numerous commissions. About this time he inherited his father's property, and seems to have resumed his family name; for a time he abandoned painting, but from his extravagance and irregular habits soon ran through his property, and another that also fell to him, becoming bankrupt in 1777. He was compelled to leave England, where he had resided for some years, drawing portraits in crayons, and occasionally exhibiting them and other paintings at the Royal Academy (1770–1781), always under the name ‘Calze,’ with sometimes the addition of ‘Il Bolognese.’ He then went in the train of the Duchess of Kingston to St. Petersburg, and, as he met with success there, quitted her service for that of the empress, Catharine II. In 1788 he went to Berlin, where he was extensively patronised by the court, and where he painted most of his best pictures in oil and in pastel. Subsequently he returned to London, where he continued to earn large sums of money; but his continued extravagance always kept him in debt, and he eventually died very poor in 1795. His finest portrait is generally reckoned to be that of ‘Frederick the Great returning to Sans Souci after the manœuvres at Potsdam, accompanied by his generals.’ Many of his portraits have been engraved, notably those of the Prussian court and nobility by D. Cunego, Haas, Townley, and others, and some of English ladies by Valentine Green. There is a portrait of the queen of Prussia by him at Hampton Court.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Nagler's Künstler-Lexikon; Seubert's Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon; Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters; Heineken's Dictionnaire des Artistes; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Royal Academy Catalogues.]

L. C.