Jackson, John (1778-1831) (DNB00)
JACKSON, JOHN (1778–1831), portrait-painter, born 31 May 1778, was son of a tailor at Lastingham in the North Riding of Yorkshire, to whom he was apprenticed. At an early age he showed a predilection for art, and drew portraits of his boyish associates. His father, who did not wish to lose his services, discouraged such practices. In 1797 Jackson is said, however, to have offered himself as a painter of miniatures at York, and during an itinerant excursion to Whitby (whether as painter or tailor does not appear) he seems to have been introduced to Lord Mulgrave. Lord Mulgrave recommended him to the notice of the Earl of Carlisle, who gave him the advantage of studying the fine collection of pictures at Castle Howard. Finally Lord Mulgrave and Sir George Beaumont freed him by purchase from the last two years of his apprenticeship. His early portraits were in pencil, weakly tinted with water-colour, and his first essay in oils was a copy of a portrait of George Colman the elder, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, lent to him by Sir George Beaumont. He had to seek the materials in the shop of a local house-painter and glazier at Lastingham, and notwithstanding their roughness and paucity he managed to make so creditable a copy that Sir George advised him to go to London, promising him 50l. a year during his studentship, and a place at his table (some accounts say a room in his house, and Haydon says that the pension came from Lord Mulgrave). He arrived in London in 1804, and was admitted a student of the Royal Academy in the following year, the same year as Wilkie and the year after Haydon. The three students soon became fast friends, and Jackson generously introduced Haydon to Lord Mulgrave, and brought Lord Mulgrave and Sir George Beaumont to see Wilkie's picture of the ‘Village Politicians,’ a visit which laid the foundation of Wilkie's success. Jackson first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804, sending a portrait of Master H. Robinson. In 1806 he exhibited a portrait group of Lady Mulgrave and the Hon. Mrs. Phipps, and his contributions for several years testified to the kind patronage of that family, which continued till his death. Although the boldness of his effects of colour and chiaroscuro did not attract a taste which delighted in the smooth manner of Lawrence, Jackson made a good income by his admirable small portraits in pencil, highly finished with water-colour, and he obtained much employment in painting and copying portraits for Cadell's ‘Portraits of Illustrious Persons of the 18th Century.’ Though not greatly patronised by the aristocracy, he soon exhibited portraits of Lady Mary Fitzgerald, the Marquis of Huntly, the Marquis of Hartington, the Archbishop of York, Lord Normanby, and the Marquis of Buckingham, besides more than one of Lord Mulgrave, and he painted many of the academicians, Northcote, Bone, West, Stothard, Ward, Westmacott, Thomson, and Shee, to whom he afterwards added Nollekens, Dance, Flaxman, Soane, and Chantrey. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1815. In 1816 he travelled in Holland and Flanders with the Hon. General Phipps, making sketches, some of which are in the South Kensington and British Museums. In the following year he was raised to the full honours of the Academy, and received a premium from the British Institution of 200l. In 1819 he went to Rome by way of Geneva, Milan, Padua, Venice, Bologna, and Florence. Chantrey, who accompanied him, testifies to his merit as a companion, ‘easy and accommodating to a fault.’ At Rome he is said to have astonished the Italians by his portrait of Canova, one of his best works, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820, and by the rapidity and skill with which he copied Titian's ‘Sacred and Profane Love’ (or a portion of it). He was elected a member of the Roman Academy of St. Luke, and in the British Museum are several sketches in Italy taken in the course of the tour. During the remainder of his life Jackson sent yearly to the Academy from five to eight portraits, though he does not appear to have become fashionable or to have charged more than fifty guineas for a portrait. The most he made in a single year was probably not more than 1,500l., a sum which Lawrence once received for one picture—that of Lady Gower and her child—but the list of Jackson's sitters from 1815 to 1830 contains many notable names, such as the Duke of York, the Dukes of Devonshire and Wellington, the Marquis of Chandos, Viscounts Normanby and Lascelles, Earls Grosvenor, Grey, Villiers, and Sheffield, Lords Grenville, Braybrooke, and Dundas, Lady Dover, Ladies Georgina Herbert, Caroline Macdonald, Mary Howard, and Anne Vernon, and the Hon. Mrs. Agar Ellis. He also painted some actors and actresses, Liston and Macready (as Macbeth), Miss Wilson, and Miss Stephens (Countess of Essex). At the Loan Collection of National Portraits at South Kensington in 1868 were (besides some already mentioned) portraits of James Heath, A.R.A., Dr. Wollaston, F.R.S., Dr. Latham, F.R.S., president of the Royal College of Physicians, James Montgomery the poet, the Rev. Adam Clarke, Wesleyan preacher, Sir John Franklin, the arctic explorer, and Sir John Barrow, F.R.S.
Jackson was a Wesleyan methodist, and executed the monthly portrait in the ‘Evangelist Magazine,’ the organ of his sect. His religious opinions were earnest but gloomy, and are said to have ruined his health and spirits in his last years, while the low state of his finances at his death is partly attributed to his extravagant generosity in support of Wesleyan institutions. That his religious opinions were not illiberal is nevertheless testified by his painting for the church of his birthplace (Lastingham) a copy of the Duke of Wellington's Correggio—‘Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane’—the figures increased to life size. He also gave 50l. in order to improve the light about the part of the building in which it was placed.
The death of Sir Thomas Lawrence on 7 Jan. 1830 might have been expected to give Jackson much professional advantage, but his health was then declining. On returning from Lastingham he caught a cold, which was aggravated by a chill caught in attending the funeral of his old patron the Earl of Mulgrave. He died at his house at St. John's Wood, 1 June 1831. His addresses, given in the Royal Academy Catalogues, are: 1804, Hackley Street; 1806, 32 Haymarket; 1809, 54 Great Marlborough Street; 1811, 7 Newman Street, where his painting-room was to the last. He married twice. His first wife, daughter of a jeweller named Fletcher, died in 1817; his second wife, daughter of James Ward, R.A., survived him with three children. They were left without any resources, and the Royal Academy granted a pension to the widow.
As a man Jackson was simple and sincere, silent in society, but companionable and even lively with one or two friends. As a portrait-painter he was wanting in vivacity and elevation, but very faithful and vigorous in character. Of his female portraits, that of Lady Dover is regarded as the finest; of his male, that of Flaxman. This portrait and that of Chantrey were commissions from Lord Dover, and were intended to form part of a series of portraits of famous English artists, which was never completed. Sir Thomas Lawrence characterised the Flaxman, at the Academy dinner of 1827, as ‘a grand achievement of the English School, and a picture of which Vandyck might have felt proud to own himself the author.’ In execution Jackson was rapid and masterly. Several stories are told by Cunningham and others of his ‘marvellous alacrity of hand’ in painting portraits and copying the works of others, and he excelled as a colourist. ‘For subdued richness of colour,’ says Leslie, ‘Lawrence never approached him.’
At the National Gallery is Jackson's portrait of the Rev. William Holwell Carr; and at the National Portrait Gallery, Catherine Stephens (Countess of Essex), Sir John Soane, his own portrait, and one of John Hunter (copied from Reynolds). At the South Kensington Museum is another one of Earl Grey, besides the six sketches made in Holland and Belgium. Among the numerous drawings by him at the British Museum are portraits of Sir David Wilkie, Joseph Nollekens, R.A., Alexander, emperor of Russia, Mrs. Hannah More, and two copies (one a sketch in pencil and one highly finished in water-colour) of Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of George Colman the elder, already referred to. The sketch is inscribed ‘The first of Sir Joshua's pictures I ever saw, 13 Jan. 1802.’ At the British Museum is also a sketch of Lastingham. The Royal Academy possesses his diploma picture, ‘A Jewish Rabbi.’ Between 1804 and 1830 (both inclusive) Jackson exhibited 146 pictures at the Royal Academy, and twenty at the British Institution.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Redgraves' Century of Painters; Bryan's Dict. (Graves); Graves's Dict.; Library of Fine Arts; Cunningham's Lives (Heaton); Haydon's Autobiography; Cunningham's Life of Wilkie; European Magazine, August 1823; Annals of the Fine Arts, 1817; Cat. of Loan Collection of National Portraits at South Kensington, 1868; Catalogues of Royal Academy, &c.; Gent. Mag. 1831.]