Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hearne, Thomas (1744-1817)

HEARNE, THOMAS (1744–1817), water-colour painter, was born at Brinkworth near Malmesbury, in 1744. He came in early youth to London, where in 1763 he was awarded a premium by the Society of Arts. In 1765 he was apprenticed to Liam Woollett, the engraver, with whom he stayed for six years. In 1771 he accompanied to the Leeward Islands Sir Ralph Paynes, Lord Lavington, the newly appointed governor, and remained there three years and a half, making drawings of the characteristic features of the islands. This work employed him for two years after his return , and turned the direction of his art from engraving to drawing in water-colours. In 1777, in conjunction with William Byrne [q. v.], he commenced the most important undertaking of his life. 'The Antiquities of Great Britain'. This work occupied him till 1781. For it he executed all the drawings, fifty-two in number, and they were exhibited at the gallery in Spring gardens. During the extensive tour throughout Great Britain which the work necessitated, Hearne studied nature with care, investing his topographical drawings with effects of light and atmosphere seldom attempted by previous draughtsmen in water-colour. He may thus be said to have done much to revive attention to Gothic architecture, and to have been one of the founders of the English school of water-colours. His art had much influence on Girtin and Turner, both of whom copied his drawings at the houses of Dr. Thomas Munro [q. v.] and John Henderson, senior, the well-know connoisseurs and patrons of young artists. From 1781 to 1802 he exhibited drawings of landscape and antiquarian remains at the Royal Academy. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He died in Macclesfield Street, Soho, on 13 April 1817, and was buried at Bushey.

There Is a fine collection of his drawings in the British Museum, and there are others at South Kensington.

[Redgrave's Dict.; Bryan's Dict., ed. Graves; Graves's Dict ; Monkhouse's Earlier English Water-colour Painters]

C. M.