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HAMILTON, HUGH DOUGLAS (1734?–1806), portrait-painter, born in Dublin about 1734, was a student in the Dublin art school under James Mannin. He practised as a portrait-painter from an early age, and achieved his first successes by drawing small oval portraits in crayons. These were executed in a low grey tone, and finished with red and black chalk. They are very clever in expression, and as Hamilton did not charge highly for them, he obtained a very large practice. His success tempted him to come to London, where he settled in Pall Mall. George III and Queen Charlotte sat to him, besides many of the aristocracy. He gained a premium of sixty guineas from the Society of Arts in 1765. In 1771 he exhibited some portraits at the exhibition of the Incorporated Society of Artists, of which he was a member. In 1772 he exhibited with the Free Society of Artists, and again in 1773, 1774, 1775 with the Incorporated Society, including in the last year two conversation pieces. In 1778 he went to Rome, where he settled for some years, and drew the portraits of many of the British visitors to that city. By the advice of Flaxman he tried oil-painting, and subsequently confined himself to painting portraits in that method. Though he maintained his reputation and had many sitters, he never reached the same excellence that he showed in his crayon drawings. About 1791 he returned to Dublin, where he resided until his death in 1806. There are several important portraits by Hamilton at Dublin, including those of the Right Hon. John Foster, speaker of the Irish House of Commons, in the possession of the Dublin corporation, and ‘Dean Kirwan preaching,’ in the Dublin Royal Society. He also tried historical painting, such as ‘Medusa’ (a colossal head), ‘Prometheus,’ and ‘Cupid and Psyche.’ Many of his portraits were engraved, notably, Chief Baron Burgh, by W. Barnard; the Duke of Gloucester, by R. Earlom; Colonel Barré, by R. Houston (a portrait of Barré by Hamilton is in the collection of Baroness Burdett-Coutts); Mrs. Hartley, the actress, by Houston; Mrs. Frederick, by Laurie; Mrs. Brooksbank, by J. R. Smith; Dean Kirwan, by W. Ward; Mr. Joseph Gulston, by J. Watson, and many others. Hamilton's portrait of Anne, lady Temple, which is now in the National Portrait Gallery, was engraved by W. Greatbach for Cunningham's edition of Walpole's ‘Letters.’ A portrait of Hamilton himself was engraved by W. Holl. Another by G. Chinnery is in the possession of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and was exhibited at the Irish Exhibition in London, 1888.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Pasquin's Artists of Ireland; Chaloner Smith's Brit. Mezzotinto Portraits; Exhibition Catalogues.]

L. C.