Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baillie, William (1723-1810)

BAILLIE, WILLIAM (1723–1810), amateur engraver and etcher, was born at Kilbride, in the county of Carlow, 5 June 1723. He was educated in Dublin under Dr. Sheridan, and at the age of eighteen came to London and entered the Middle Temple for the purpose of studying the law, but he soon accepted a commission in the army, and fought in the 13th foot at Culloden, and in the 51st foot at Minden. He afterwards exchanged into the cavalry, but retired from the service in 1701 with the rank of captain in the 18th light dragoons, and in 1773 was appiointed a commissioner of stamps, which office he held until 1795. Both before and after leaving the army Baillie devoted his leisure entirely to art, until he was considered one of the most accomplished counoisseurs of his time. He practised engraving in nearly all its branches, blending mezzotint and etching with great success, but he shone most in his imitations of Rembrandt, whose 'Hundred Guilder ' print he exhibited at the Society of Artists in Spring Gardens in 1776, in two different states, before and after his reworking of the original plate which he had acquired in Holland. A few of his smaller pieces are etched after his own designs, but by far the larger number of his plates are executed in a mixed manner after the paintings or drawings of eminent masters of the Dutch and Flemish schools. He produced upwards of a hundred plates, of which he was himself the publisher, but nearly all were collected and issued in two folio volumes by Alderman Boydell in 1792, and reissued in 1803. Baillie died at Paddington, 22 Dec. 1810. His best known works are his restoration of Rembrandt's plate of 'Christ healing the Sick,' commonly called the 'Hundred Guilder' print; his completion in mezzotint of Rembrandt's own etching of 'Jesus disputing with the Doctors;' and his copies of the same master's 'Three Trees' and 'The Gold Weigher.' Besides these may be mentioned his etchings of Rembrandt's 'Christ and the Two Disciples at Emmaus' and 'Burial of Jacob' (often miscalled the 'Entombment of Christ'), Rubens's 'Christ washing the Feet of the Apostles,' Van den Eeckhout's 'Susannah and the Elders before Daniel,' Terborch's equestrian portrait of William, prince of Orange, and 'The Sacrifice of Abraham' and a very spirited whole-length figure of 'An Officer' from his own designs. His principal works in mezzotint are a whole-length portrait of James, duke of Monmouth, after Netscher and Wyck, a half-length of Frans Hals, the Dutch painter, after himself, and 'The Piping Boy,' after Nathaniel Hone. He also etched a small head of himself, and engraved in stipple another portrait of himself after Nathaniel Hone.

[Somerset House Gazette, 1824, i. 300; Ottley's Notices of Engravers and their Works, 1831; Meyer's Kunstler-Lexikon, ii. 549-56; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1884; Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists of the English School, 1878; Notes and Queries, 1st series, xii. 186, 5th series, iii. 309; Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878, i. 5-7.]

R. E. G.