Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Durno, James

DURNO, JAMES (1750?–1795), historical painter, was the son of the proprietor of a brewery at Kensington Gravel Pits, who was a native of the north of England. He was a pupil of Andrea Casali [q. v.], and also received instruction from Benjamin West [q. v.], whom he assisted in preparing repetitions of his pictures. In 1771 he gained a premium of thirty guineas at the Society of Arts, and was further successful in 1772 in gaining the first premium of a hundred guineas for the best historical painting. He was a member of the Society of Incorporated Artists, and subscribed their roll declaration in 1766. He contributed a few pictures to their exhibitions at Spring Gardens in 1769, 1772, 1773. He also assisted Mortimer in the ceiling which he painted for Lord Melbourne at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire. In 1774 he went to Rome, where he resided until his death (13 Sept. 1795). Fuseli states that he employed himself ‘partly practising and partly dealing in art,’ and that ‘he once made an attempt at some grandeur of style in one or two Greek and Roman subjects, but soon dwindled into the meagre Gothic method exposed in his two pictures for the Boydell Gallery.’ These two pictures represented ‘Falstaff examining the Recruits’ and ‘Falstaff in disguise, led out by Mrs. Page.’ They were both engraved by Thomas Ryder, the former also by T. Hollis; the latter is now in Sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields. There is an etching by Durno in the print room at the British Museum, representing an ‘Antique Funeral.’

[Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists; Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters; Catalogues of the Society of Artists; manuscript notes by Fuseli, in Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters (British Museum Library).]

L. C.