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OWEN, WILLIAM (1769–1825), portrait-painter, was born at Ludlow, Shropshire, in 1769. He was the son of a bookseller, and, after having been educated at Ludlow grammar school, was sent in 1786 to London, where he became a pupil of Charles Catton, R.A., the coach-painter. Soon afterwards he attracted the notice of Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose picture of 'Perdita' he had copied, and he was indebted to Reynolds for some valuable advice. He entered the Royal Academy as a student in 1791, and his earliest exhibited works—a portrait of a gentleman and a view of Ludford Bridge, Shropshire—appeared in the exhibition of 1792; and in each succeeding year, except 1823, he contributed portraits and occasional rustic subjects. Some of the most eminent men of the day were among his sitters, and his portraits were truthful and characteristic, although somewhat weak in drawing. Among them were the Duke of Cumberland, afterwards king of Hanover; William Pitt, Lord Grenville, Lord-chancellors Eldon and Loughborough, Lord- chief-justice Abbott, afterwards Lord Tenterden; Sir William Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell; the Marquis of Stafford, the Earl of Bridgewater, Admiral Viscount Exmouth, Dr. Howley, bishop of London, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury; and Sir John Soane, R.A. His portraits of ladies were not equally successful. His fancy subjects included 'The Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green,' 1801; 'The Schoolmistress,' engraved by James Ward, and 'A Sleeping Girl,' 1802; 'The Children in the Wood,' 1806; 'Girl at the Spring' and 'The Roadside,' 1807; 'The Fortune Teller,' 1808; and 'A Cottage Door: Summer Evening,' 1809.

Owen was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1804, and an academician in 1806, when he presented as his diploma work a 'Boy and Kitten,' In 1810 he was appointed portrait-painter to the Prince of Wales, ana in 1813 principal portrait-painter to the prince-regent, who offered him the honour of knigthood, which he declined. His income was at this time 3.000l. a year; but not long afterwards his health began to fail, and eventually an affection of the spine confined him to his room and rendered him unable to paint. Many of his unfinished portraits were completed by Edward Daniel Leahy [q.v.]

Owen died of poison, through a mistake of a chemist's assistant, at 33 Bruton Street, Berkeley Square, London, on 11 March 1625.

His portraits of Alexander Wedderburn, Lord Lougborough (afterwords Earl of Rosslyn), and of John Wilson Croker, as well as a portrait of John Philpot Curran, which is in his style, are in the National Portrait Gallery.

[Gent. Mag. 1825, i. 570; Times, 15 and 16 March 1825; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878 : Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886-9, ii, 239; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1792-1831.]

R. E. G.