Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Streater, Robert

STREATER, ROBERT (1624–1680), painter, born in Covent Garden, London, in 1624, is said to have been the son of a painter, and to have received his instruction in painting and drawing from an artist called Du Moulin. He was very industrious, and attained considerable ability in his art, which was highly extolled by his contemporaries. His style was founded on that of the late Italian painters. He excelled in architectural and decorative paintings on a large scale, especially those in which perspective and a knowledge of foreshortening were required. He painted landscapes, especially topographical, with skill, and also still life. A view of ‘Boscobel with the Royal Oak’ is in the royal collection at Windsor Castle. Sanderson, in his ‘Graphice’ (1658), speaks of ‘Streter, who indeed is a compleat Master therein, as also in other Arts of Etching, Graving, and his works of Architecture and Perspective, not a line but is true to the Rules of Art and Symmetry.’ In 1664 both Pepys and Evelyn mention, and the latter describes, ‘Mr. Povey's elegant house in Lincoln's Inn Fields [see Povey, Thomas], where the perspective in his court, painted by Streeter, is indeede excellent, with the vasas in imitation of porphyrie and fountains.’ Pepys, in 1669, writes that he ‘went to Mr. Streater, the famous history-painter, where I found Dr. Wren and other virtuosos looking upon the paintings he is making of the new theatre at Oxford,’ and describes Streater as ‘a very civil little man and lame, but lives very handsomely.’ Evelyn, in 1672, notes at Sir Robert Clayton's house ‘the cedar dining-room painted with the history of the Gyants War, incomparably done by Mr. Streeter, but the figures are too near the eye’ (the paintings were afterwards removed to Marden, near Godstone); and again in 1679 some of Streater's best paintings at Mr. Boone's (or Bohun's) house, Lee Place, Blackheath (pulled down in 1825). Streater's paintings in the roof of the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford were eulogised by Robert Whitehall [q. v.] in a poem called ‘Urania,’ in which it is said

That future ages must confess they owe
To Streater more than Michael Angelo!

Streater also painted part of the chapel at All Souls', Oxford, ceilings at Whitehall, and St. Michael's, Cornhill. Little of his decorative work remains, except in the theatre at Oxford. Besides landscape, history, and still life, Streater also painted portraits. He etched a view of the battle of Naseby, and designed some of the plates for Stapleton's ‘Juvenal.’ Seven pictures by him, including five landscapes, are mentioned in the catalogue of James II's collection. Streater was a special favourite with Charles II, who made him serjeant-painter on his restoration to the throne. When Streater in his later years was suffering from the stone, Charles II sent for a special surgeon from Paris to perform the necessary operation. Streater, however, died not long after, in 1680. He was succeeded as serjeant-painter by his son, at whose death, in 1711, Streater's books, prints, drawings, and pictures were sold by auction. He had a brother, Thomas Streater, who married a daughter of Remigius Van Leemput [q. v.], herself an artist. A portrait of Streater by himself was engraved for Walpole's ‘Anecdotes of Painting.’ Streater was the first native artist to practise his line of art.

[Walpole's Anecd. of Painting, ed. Wornum; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Seguier's Dict. of Painters; De Piles's Lives of the Painters; Plot's Hist. of Oxfordshire (for a description of the Sheldonian Theatre); Diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, passim.]

L. C.