Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Earlom, Richard

EARLOM, RICHARD (1743–1822), mezzotint engraver, son of Richard Earlom, who for many years and till his death held the situation of a vestry-clerk of the parish of St. Sepulchre, London, was born in London in 1743, and resided in Cow Lane, Smithfield. A portion of the premises which he held was occupied by an eminent coachmaker, to whom the stage coach of the lord mayor was occasionally taken to be repaired and cleaned. The allegorical paintings by Cipriani which decorated the vehicle attracted the attention of Earlom, who made copies of them. He so far succeeded as to induce his father to place him under the tuition of Cipriani, and in 1765 became known to Alderman Boydell, who entertained so high an opinion of the young artist that he employed him to make drawings from the celebrated collection of pictures at Houghton, and now at St. Petersburg, for the engravers to work from. In 1757 he was awarded a premium by the Society of Arts. In the art of mezzotint engraving Earlom was his own instructor. His plates show great technical skill, especially those of flowers after Van Huysum, and are highly valued by the connoisseurs. They were produced in a style of engraving which till then had never been thought capable of representing the delicate texture of flowers. Earlom was not less successful in his engravings in the chalk manner. A fine example in this way may be seen in his figure of Alope after Romney. He also engraved a series of prints after the original drawings of Claude Lorraine, in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. These drawings were called the ‘Liber Veritatis,’ and were made for the purpose of identifying the real works of Claude from others that were said to be from his hand. These engravings are executed in imitation of the original drawings, and printed in a warm bistre colour to aid the resemblance. They were at first produced only in outline, simply with a view to show the character of the composition. It turned out that the demand was so extensive that the publisher, Boydell, caused Earlom to retouch and refresh the plates no less than five or six times. He died 9 Oct. 1822, in Exmouth Street, Clerkenwell, and was buried in the lower burial-ground of St. Mary, Islington. A widow and married daughter survived him. He engraved over sixty plates in mezzotint, among which are ‘The Royal Academy,’ after Zoffany; Samuel Barrington, after Reynolds; Richard, viscount Fitzwilliam, after Howard; William Henry, duke of Gloucester, after Hamilton; Horatio, lord Nelson, after Beechey; William Pitt, after Dupont; the set of six plates of the ‘Marriage à la Mode,’ after Hogarth; two flower pieces, after Huysum; Blacksmith's Shop, and the Forge, after Wright. His portrait by G. Stewart has been engraved in mezzotint by T. Lupton.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; J. C. Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, pt. i. p. 242; Art Journal, 1886, p. 241.]

L. F.