Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Archer, John Wykeham

ARCHER, JOHN WYKEHAM (1808–1864), artist and antiquary, was the son of a prosperous tradesman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne,where he was born in 1808. At an early age he showed skill in drawing, and copied in a vigorous manner some of the designs of the Bewicks and other artists. After he had received a good general education, he was apprenticed to John Scott, Who was a fellow-townsman, then practising in Coppice Row, Clerkenwell, as an animal engraver. He afterwards returned to his native place, and in conjunction with William Collard, a local engraver, produced a series of large views of Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire, from drawings by Mr. Carmichael. During his visit to Yorkshire, Archer also engraved several plates for Mackenzie's 'History of Durham.' About 1831 he returned to London, and procured an engagement in the engraving establishment of Messrs. William and Edward Finden. He was subsequently employed by other publishers; and during the next few years he engraved many plates for the 'New Sporting Magazine.' When the introduction of lithography and engraving on wood superseded almost entirely the old-fashioned plates as a means of book illustration, Archer turned his attention to painting in water-colours, and made numerous sketches of the relics of bygone days in the metropolis. Some of these sketches were purchased by Mr. W. Twopeny, of the Temple, who commissioned Archer to produce twenty drawings each year of the relics of antiquity scattered about in the highways and byways of London. Up to the close of the artist's life this work was carried regularly forward, and the result was that Mr. Twopeny obtained a collection of drawings of the utmost value illustrative of the varied aspects of the great city. This collection was afterwards acquired by purchase for the nation, and is now deposited in the print-room of the British Museum. Archer was a diligent antiquary, and made copious notes descriptive of the sites and objects which he pictorially represented. After the decline of steel engraving he began to draw on wood, and some specimens of his work are to be found in Charles Knight's 'London,' the 'Illustrated London News,' and Blackie's 'Comprehensive History of England.' Many of the illustrations in the first series of Dr. William Beattie's 'Castles and Abbeys of England' (1844) are from drawings by Archer. In consequence of an inspection of the drawings in Mr. Twopeny's possession, the Duke of Northumberland commissioned Archer to make sketches, in the course of each summer, of the interesting antiquities on his grace's extensive estates. Archer also executed several monumental brasses, particularly one which was ordered for India by Lord Hardinge to the memory of the officers who fell in the battles of the Punjab. He was for many years an associate of the new Society of Painters in Water Colours. His death occurred in London, 25 May 1864.

Archer's published works are: 1. 'Vestiges of Old London, a series of Etchings from Original Drawings illustrative of the Monuments and Architecture of London in the first, fourth, twelfth, and six succeeding centuries, with Descriptions and Historical Notices,' London, 1851, fol. It contains 37 plates. The subjects are very pictorially treated, with numerous figures well introduced. 2. 'Posthumous Poems,' London, 1873, 8vo. A pamphlet of 22 pages, published by the author's son, George R. Wykeham Archer.

[Pinks's Clerkenwell, 1865, pp. 90, 239, 388, 393, 639-41; The Builder, 4 June 1864, p. 409; Art Journal, N.S. iii. 243; Gent. Mag. ccxvii. 246; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists.]

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