Kettle, Tilly (DNB00)


KETTLE, TILLY (1740?–1786), portrait-painter, born in London about 1740, was the son of a house-painter, apparently Henry Kettle, sen., who in 1772 was residing in Silver Street, Wood Street, and exhibited at the Society of Arts a cylindrical painting. Kettle learnt first from his father, then studied in the Duke of Richmond's gallery of casts, and later at the academy in St. Martin's Lane. He practised as a portrait-painter, and in 1761 exhibited a portrait at the Free Society of Artists. In 1762 he was employed to repair Streater's painting on the ceiling of the theatre at Oxford. In 1765 he exhibited at the Society of Artists, of which he afterwards became a fellow, a full-length portrait of Mrs. Yates as ‘Mandane,’ and a kit-cat portrait of Mrs. Powell, wife of the actor, in Turkish dress. In 1767 he exhibited a portrait of Miss Eliot as ‘Juno,’ and in 1768 ‘Dead Game.’ He continued to exhibit portraits and conversation-pieces until 1770, when he went to India. He remained there seven years, and acquired a considerable fortune. He sent home many pictures for exhibition. One contained full-length portraits of Mahomed Ali Caun, nabob of Arcot, and his five sons in 1771; another in 1772 depicted native dancing girls. In 1775 he exhibited a painting representing Sujah Dowlah, vizier of the Mogul Empire, and his four sons meeting Sir Robert Barker, his two aides-de-camp and interpreter at Fyzabad, in order to conclude a treaty with the East India Company in 1772. This group, painted for Sir Robert Barker [q. v.], was afterwards placed at Bushbridge Park, near Godalming, Surrey. In 1776 Kettle forwarded to the Academy ‘The Ceremony of a Gentoo woman taking leave of her relations, and distributing her jewels prior to ascending the funeral pile of her deceased husband.’ Kettle returned to England about 1777, settled in London, and married the younger daughter of James Paine, senior [q. v.], the architect. In 1779 he exhibited a portrait at the Royal Academy, and in 1781, with other portraits, ‘The Great Mogul, Shah Allum, reviewing the third Brigade of the East India Company's Troops at Allahabad’ (now at Bushbridge Park). In 1782, the last year but one that he exhibited, he sent a full-length portrait of Admiral Kempenfeldt (now at Greenwich Hospital, engraved by J. H. Robinson as three-quarters for Locker's ‘British Admirals’). Kettle built a house for himself in Old Bond Street, opposite Burlington Gardens, but fell into financial difficulties, became bankrupt, and retired to Dublin. In 1786 he started on a second visit to India, which he determined to reach overland. He was taken ill near Aleppo and died there. He left a widow and two children.

Kettle's portraits show great merit in colour and drawing, and have been mistaken for the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds. He often apparently placed his sitter with the light on a level with the face. In the National Portrait Gallery there is a portrait of Warren Hastings by him, and in the Bodleian Library one of Sir William Blackstone. He also painted for Sir Robert Barker of Bushbridge a large picture of ‘The Mother and her seven Sons martyred by Antiochus,’ 1 Maccabees chap. vii. Many of his portraits were engraved.

[Edwards's Anecd. of Painters; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Gent. Mag. 1786, pt. ii. 1091, 1145; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; Catalogues of the Royal Academy, &c.; information from George Scharf, esq., C.B.]

L. C.