Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dupont, Gainsborough

DUPONT, GAINSBOROUGH (1754?–1797), portrait-painter and mezzotint engraver, born about 1754, was the nephew of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. [q. v.], whose sister Sarah married Philip Dupont of Sudbury, Suffolk. He was a pupil of his uncle, whose style of painting he acquired so well that after his death in 1788 he completed most successfully some of his unfinished works. He painted also landscapes, with architectural ruins, in which he imitated Nicolas Poussin.

He first contributed to the exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1790, in which year he sent a picture of a ‘Cottage Girl’ and five portraits, all unnamed, as was the custom of the period. These were followed in 1792 by two landscapes and four portraits; in 1793 by five portraits, including that of Sir James Sanderson, lord mayor of London; in 1794 by portraits of George III and of John Quick, the comedian, in the character of Spado, and two other works; and in 1795 by four more portraits. All these works showed considerable ability, but he is now known better by his engravings in mezzotint from portraits by Gainsborough, in which he has caught well the spirit of the painter. The best of these plates is the superb full-length of Queen Charlotte, to which that of George III forms a pendant. Next is the group of the Princess Royal, with the Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth, the picture of which the hanging in 1783 led to Gainsborough's withdrawal of his works from the exhibitions of the Royal Academy. Besides these Dupont engraved his uncle's full-length portraits of Lord Rodney, General Conway, and Colonel St. Leger, as well as heads or half-lengths of Prince William Henry, afterwards William IV (of which the only impression known is in the British Museum), Lord Frederick Campbell, Sir Richard Perryn, baron of the exchequer, and the Rev. Richard Graves, author of the ‘Spiritual Quixote.’ He also engraved after Gainsborough full-lengths of the Rev. Sir Henry Bate Dudley, bart., and of Mrs. Sheridan, a plate of which it is said that only one impression was taken, but neither of these works was ever quite finished.

Dupont resided with Mrs. Gainsborough in Pall Mall for a few years after the death of his uncle, but he afterwards removed to the corner of Grafton Street, Fitzroy Square, London, where he died on 20 Jan. 1797, aged 42. He was buried in Kew churchyard in the same grave as his uncle. There is a head of him by Gainsborough in the possession of Mr. George Richmond, R.A., and Mr. Dupont of Sudbury has two unfinished portraits of him, also by Gainsborough.

His principal painting is a large picture, twenty feet long, representing the elder brethren of the Trinity House, which is in the court-room of that corporation on Tower Hill, and for which he received 500l. A half-length portrait of William Wyndham, lord Grenville, prime minister in 1806–7, is in the possession of Earl Fortescue, and a head of William Pitt in that of Lieutenant-colonel Fortescue of Dropmore, Buckinghamshire. Valentine Green, in his plate of ‘The British Naval Victors,’ engraved after Dupont the head of Earl Howe, and Earlom engraved that of William Pitt. Other portraits by Dupont have been reproduced in mezzotint by Dickinson, Murphy, and John Jones.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters, 1808, p. 143; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878–83, i. 237–42; Fulcher's Life of Thomas Gainsborough, 1856; Royal Academy Catalogues, 1790–5.]

R. E. G.