Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/De Wilde, Samuel

DE WILDE, SAMUEL (1748–1832), portrait-painter, the son of Dutch parents, was born in Holland, 1 July 1748, and was brought as an infant to England by his widowed mother. He was apprenticed to a carver in Denmark Street, Soho. His earliest essays in art seem to have been a series of etchings and mezzotint engravings, published under the pseudonym of ‘Paul’ from about 1770 to 1777. As the etchings are signed ‘P. Paul’ and the mezzotint engravings ‘S. Paul,’ it is difficult to believe that De Wilde was the engraver of both, though Mr. Sutherland (Catalogue of the Sutherland Collection of Portraits) states that he was. Among the former were portraits of John, lord Byron, Patrick Ruthven, earl of Brentford, and Sir Francis Windebank; and among the latter portraits of Sir William Parsons, the Misses Wright, after Wright, a few after Reynolds, and some subject pictures after Steen, Vanloo, Vernet, and others. He first appears as an exhibitor of paintings at the exhibition of the Society of Artists at Spring Gardens in 1776, to which he contributed some portraits. To the Royal Academy in 1782 he sent some sketches of ‘Banditti,’ in 1784 ‘A Sportsman with Spaniels,’ in 1786 a frame containing ten small portraits in oil and three fancy pictures, in 1788 another ‘Banditti.’ In 1795 he exhibited two theatrical scenes, and in 1797 some portraits of actors in character, a line of art to which from that time he almost wholly devoted himself, and throughout a long lifetime there was hardly an actor or actress whom he did not draw in their principal characters, thereby forming a storehouse for theatrical biography. Charles Mathews, jun., describes De Wilde towards the close of his life as constantly to be found at the corner of Drury Lane Theatre, portfolio under his arm, and as having had a happy knack of invariably hitting off a likeness. Many portraits by De Wilde collected by Mr. Harris, the lessee of Covent Garden Theatre, were purchased in 1820 by Charles Mathews, sen. [q. v.], and were presented by John Rowland Durrant to the Garrick Club in 1852, where they now remain. Twenty similar portraits are in the print-room at the British Museum. Another collection of De Wilde's theatrical portraits, formed by Charles Mathews the younger, became the property of a collector named Wylie, who died in 1901. This collection was exhibited at the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street, London, in June 1902, and was dispersed. A catalogue, with an introduction by Joseph Grego, was issued. De Wilde died in London 19 Jan. 1832, aged eighty-four, and was buried in the burial-ground adjoining Whitefield's Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road. Among other children he left a son, George James De Wilde, born in London 1804, who, originally destined for an artist, adopted a literary career. A friend of Leigh Hunt, the Cowden Clarkes, Sir James Stephen, and others, he wrote for various periodicals. He was long editor of the ‘Northampton Mercury.’ He died on 16 Sept. 1871. He was twice married, and much respected at Northampton. ‘Rambles round about,’ a collection of his writings, chiefly topographical, was edited after his death by his friend Edward Dicey.

[Information from Robert Walters, esq.; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Fortnightly Review, March 1886; Catalogues of the Royal Academy, &c.]

L. C.