Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Webber, John

WEBBER, JOHN (1750?–1793), landscape-painter, was born in London about 1750. His father, Abraham Weber, was a Swiss sculptor, who, at the age of twenty-four, settled in England, anglicised his name, and married an English woman named Maria Quandt. John, their eldest child, was sent when six years old to Berne to be brought up by a maiden aunt who resided there. At the age of thirteen he was placed with J. L. Aberli, a Swiss artist of repute, by whom he was instructed in both portraiture and landscape. Three years later he was enabled, with pecuniary assistance from the municipal authorities of Berne, to proceed to Paris to complete his training, and there he resided for five years, studying in the academy and under J. G. Wille. He then returned to his family in London, and was for a time employed by a builder in decorating the interiors of houses. In 1776 he exhibited at the Royal Academy a portrait of his brother, which attracted the notice of Dr. Solander, and this led to his appointment as draughtsman to the third and last expedition of Captain Cook to the South Seas. He returned in 1780, having witnessed the death of Cook, and was then employed for some time by the Admiralty in making finished drawings from his sketches for the illustrations to the account of the expedition which was published in 1784. These were engraved by Woollett, Pouncy, and others. Subsequently Webber painted many views of picturesque parts of England and Wales, as well as of Switzerland and North Italy, which he visited in 1787. Between 1787 and 1792 he published a series of sixteen views of places visited by him with Captain Cook, etched and coloured by himself. From 1784 he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, of which he was elected an associate in 1785, and a full member in 1791. His paintings were carefully finished, but weak in colour and drawing. His representation of the death of Captain Cook was engraved by Byrne and Bartolozzi, and his portrait of the explorer (now in the National Portrait Gallery), which he painted at the Cape of Good Hope, was also engraved by Bartolozzi. Webber died unmarried in Oxford Street, London, on 29 April 1793. He bequeathed his Academy diploma to the public library at Berne, where also is a portrait of him painted by himself. His brother, Henry Webber, practised as a sculptor, but without distinction; the monument to Garrick in Westminster Abbey is his work.

[Neujahrstück der Künstlergesellschaft in Zurich, No. 17 (with portrait); Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists.]

F. M. O'D.