Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thurston, John (1774-1822)

THURSTON, JOHN (1774–1822), draughtsman, was born at Scarborough in 1774, and commenced his career as a copperplate engraver, working under James Heath [q. v.], whom he assisted on two of his chief plates, ‘The Death of Major Peirson,’ after Copley, and ‘The Dead Soldier,’ after Wright of Derby. He then took up wood-engraving and eventually devoted himself exclusively to designing book illustrations, in which he was highly successful, and most of the editions of the poets and novelists published during the first twenty years of the present century, especially those issued by the Chiswick Press, were embellished by his pencil. Many of Thurston's drawings were engraved on copper for Sharpe's and Cooke's classics and similar works, but the bulk of them, drawn on the block, were cut by Clennell, Branston, Nesbit, Thompson, and other able wood-engravers. Among his designs of this class are the illustrations to Thomson's ‘Seasons,’ 1805; Beattie's ‘Minstrel,’ 1807; Thomas's ‘Religious Emblems,’ 1809 (a much admired work, which was reissued in 1816 and published in Germany in 1818); Shakespeare's works, 1814; Somerville's ‘Rural Sports,’ 1814; Puckle's ‘Club,’ 1817; Falconer's ‘Shipwreck,’ 1817; and Savage's ‘Hints on Decorative Printing,’ 1822. Thurston's drawings were graceful and pleasing, though somewhat artificial and admirably adapted to the wood-engraver's art, which was carried to its greatest perfection under his influence. He was elected an associate of the Water-colour Society in 1806, but contributed only to the exhibition of that year, sending five Shakespearean groups; he was also an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1794 to 1812. Being of delicate constitution and retired habits, Thurston was personally little known; he died at his house at Holloway, London, in 1822, his life being shortened by excessive devotion to his art. He had two sons, G. and J. Thurston, who practised as artists and occasionally exhibited at the Royal Academy.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Jackson and Chatto's Hist. of Wood Engraving; Linton's Masters of Wood Engraving; Nagler's Künstler-Lexikon; Annual Biography and Obituary, 1823.]

F. M. O'D.