Foster, Thomas (1798-1826) (DNB00)


FOSTER, THOMAS (1798–1826), painter, a native of Ireland, came to England at the age of fifteen or sixteen, and in 1818 became a student of the Royal Academy at Somerset House. He was patronised by the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker [q. v.], and painted numerous portraits of his family. In 1819 he exhibited at the Royal Academy ‘Portraits of Miss and Master Croker and a favourite dog.’ In 1820 he exhibited a portrait of the French general Dumouriez in his eighty-second year. Foster was a frequent visitor at the studio of J. Nollekens, R.A. [q. v.], the sculptor, where he used to model from antique heads, and was also on intimate terms with Sir Thomas Lawrence, several of whose portraits he copied for Croker. He painted portraits of H. R. Bishop [q. v.], the musician, which was engraved, and of Colonel Phillips (who was with Captain Cook at the time of his death), and showed rapid advancement in the art. In 1822 he exhibited ‘Mazeppa,’ a picture which showed considerable genius; in 1823, ‘Domestic Quarrels;’ and in 1825 ‘Paul and Virginia previous to their separation,’ all of which, besides portraits, he exhibited at the Royal Academy. Foster was considered by his friends to be a rising painter; he was good-looking, well connected, and popular in society, which occupied a good deal of his time. Croker gave him a commission to paint the scene at Carlton House when Louis XVIII received the order of the Garter, and for this ambitious subject he made numerous studies. In March 1826 he died by his own hand at an hotel in Piccadilly, leaving a letter stating that his friends had deserted him, and that he was tired of life. It is uncertain whether this act was prompted by the want of interest he felt in the subject of his picture, or by a hopeless attachment to a young lady whose portrait he was painting. He was in his twenty-ninth year. Foster painted numerous portraits of himself, and sat to Northcote for one of the murderers in his ‘Burial of the Princes in the Tower.’ According to Northcote, Foster was good-looking, good-natured, and a wit, all qualities which would have prevented him from becoming a great artist.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Arnold's Library of the Fine Arts, ii. 207; Hazlitt's Conversations of James Northcote; Royal Academy Catalogues.]

L. C.