Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lens, Bernard
LENS, BERNARD (1631–1708), enamel-painter, apparently of Netherlandish origin, was born in 1631, and practised in London as an enamel-painter. He died on 5 Feb. 1708, aged 77, and was buried in St. Bride's, Fleet Street.
Lens, Bernard (1659–1725), mezzotint-engraver and drawing-master, son of the above, was born in London in 1659, and received instruction in art from his father. He was employed at first to draw for engravers, but afterwards practised extensively as a mezzotint-engraver himself. He engraved a number of small biblical or mythological subjects after Vandyck, Van der Vaart, Sir Peter Lely, C. Maratti, Guido Reni, and others, as well as many portraits, including those of John, lord Cutts, Charles, duke of Richmond, Lady Mary Radclyffe, Mother George of Oxford, aged 120, and various members of the royal family. He engraved some curious mezzotint plates of displays of fireworks given on William III's return from his Irish campaign on 10 Sept. 1690, on the capture of Namur on 9 Sept. 1695, and on the general peace on 7 July 1713. Lens also drew a number of topographical sketches in Indian ink, several of which are preserved in the print room at the British Museum. Lens, with John Sturt [q. v.] the engraver, kept a drawing-school in St. Paul's Churchyard. In 1697 they issued a broadside setting forth the advantages of learning drawing in every profession. A portrait by Lens of Isaac Bickerstaffe was engraved by Sturt in 1710. Lens died on 28 April 1725, and was also buried in St. Bride's, Fleet Street.
Lens, Bernard (1682–1740), miniature-painter and drawing-master, son of the last-named by his wife Mary Lens, born in London in 1682, was a student of the Academy of Painting in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. He distinguished himself greatly as a miniature-painter in water-colours, and was esteemed the best exponent of this art in his time. Lens's miniatures are frequently to be met with in private collections, but the similarity of his signature, his initials interlaced, with those of Sir Peter Lely and Lawrence Crosse [q. v.] has sometimes caused their works to be confused. He painted several miniatures of Mary Queen of Scots, from a well-known original. One of these is in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch. A portrait of Sir Thomas Tipping on horseback, drawn by Lens in 1724, is in the print room at the British Museum. He also made several excellent copies in water-colour after Rubens, Vandyck, and other famous artists. Lens was appointed limner to George I and George II. He was also drawing-master to the Duke of Cumberland, the princesses Mary and Louisa, and to Horace Walpole, earl of Orford [q. v.], who paid special testimony to his excellent method of teaching. Lens also taught drawing at Christ's Hospital. He drew the portrait of G. Shelley, writing-master to Christ's Hospital, which was engraved by G. Bickham. His residence at this period was at ‘the Golden Head, between Bridewell Bridge and Fleet Street and Blackfriars’ (Wheatley and Cunningham, London, ii. 55). Lens executed a number of etchings, including some views of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and some sketches after Lucatelli. He drew from the life, etched and published on 30 Oct. 1735 a series of plates in outlines representing ‘The Granadier's Exercise of the Granado in his Majesty's first Regiment of Foot-Guards, commanded by his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland,’ and he drew and engraved sixty-two plates illustrating ‘A New and Compleat Drawing Book,’ which was not published till after his death; a portrait of him is prefixed, from a miniature by himself, and engraved by Boitard. Miniatures of Lens and several members of his family are described by their possessor in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 4th ser. viii. 262. Another portrait, engraved by G. von Gucht, figures with portraits of Laguerre and Charles Gervas [q. v.] in the title to the ‘Catalogue’ of the latter's pictures. Lens died at Knightsbridge on 30 Dec. 1740. He married, at Gray's Inn Chapel, on 30 Nov. 1706, Katherine Woods, and left three sons: Bernard studied art, but through the interest of Horace Walpole obtained a post as clerk in the exchequer office; Peter Paul Lens practised as a miniature-painter; his third son, Lens, Andrew Benjamin (fl. 1765–1770), miniature-painter, exhibited miniatures with the Incorporated Society of Artists from 1765 to 1770. In 1744 he re-engraved and published his father's ‘Granadier's Exercise.’ There are three drawings by him in the print room at the British Museum, including a large portrait of J. Claus, done in red chalk, from a portrait by T. Gibson. His collection of miniatures by his father and himself was sold in 1777.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Port. p. 300; Vertue's MSS. (Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 23073–6); Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Dodd's manuscript History of English Engravers (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 33402); Propert's Hist. of Miniature Painting.]