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Hamilton, William (1751-1801) (DNB00)


HAMILTON, WILLIAM (1751–1801), historical painter, born at Chelsea in 1751, was of Scottish parentage. His father was an assistant to Robert Adam, the architect, who assisted young Hamilton to visit Italy, where he studied under Antonio Zucchi. He was, however, too young to derive much benefit from his residence in Rome, and after his return to England he became in 1769 a student of the Royal Academy. He soon distinguished himself as a portrait and historical painter, and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1774, when he sent 'King Edgar's first Interview with Elfrida,' and three other works. Between 1780 und 1789 his contributions consisted chiefly of portraits, especially of theatrical personages, among whom he painted a full-length portrait of Mrs. Siddons, with her son, in the character of Isabella. He also painted arabesques and ornaments in the style of Zucchi, as well as the panels of Lord FitzGibbon's state carriage, now in the South Kensington Museum, for which be received fire hundred guineas. In 1784 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1789 he became an academician, when he presented as his diploma work 'Vertumnus and Pomona.' After this date his works often represented subjects from poetry, history, or scripture. Among the best were 'The Woman of Samaria' and 'The Queen of Sheba entertained at a Banquet by King Solomon,' the latter being a design for a window executed by Francis Eginton for the great dining-room at Arundel Castle, It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790, and engraved by James Caldwall. In 1799 he Bent to the 'Royal Academy' Moses receiving the Law upon Mount Sinai,' and in 1801 'The Elevation of the Brazen Serpent in the Wilderness,' two of a series executed for the gallery at Fonthill Abbey, He painted also scenes from 'Much Ado about Nothing,' 'Love's Labour's Lost,' 'As you like it' 'Twelfth Night,' 'The Winter's Tale,' and 'Cymbeline,' for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, but he failed to catch either the spirit of the dramatist or the character of the times. He pained, however, more popularity by his small pictures of rural scenes, and the designs which he made for Macklin'a 'Bible' and 'British Poets,' Bowyer's 'History of England,' and Du Roveray's editions of Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' and Gray's and Goldsmith's 'Poems.' His best designs were those for Thomson's 'Seasons' (1797), engraved by Bartolozzi and P. W. Tomkins. His drawings are tasteful and rich in colour, but, like his pictures, are somewhat theatrical in style. Hamilton died offerer, after a few days' illness, in Dean Street, Soho, London, on 2 Dec. 1801, and was buried in St. Anne's Church, Soho, where there is a tablet to his memory. There is a medallion portrait of him on the frontispiece to Thomson's 'Seasons,' 1797. The South Kensington Museum possesses a 'Scene from Twelfth Night,' painted by him in oil, and 'Gleaners' and 'Eve and the Serpent' executed in watercolours. His portrait of the Rev. John Wesley, painted in 1789, and engraved bv James Fittler, is in the National Portrait Gallery.

[Edwards's Anecd. of Painters. 1808, pp. 272–275; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Acad. of Arts, 1862, i. 204–5; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1886–9, i. 623; Redgraves' Century of Painters. 1856, i. 408, 440; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Seguier's Critical and Commercial Dict. of the Works of Painters. 1870, p. 86; Royal Acad. Exhibition Catalogues, 1774–1801; Boydell's Cat. of the Pictures in the Shakespeare Gallery. 1790.]

R. E. G.