John Downman - Encyclopedia




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JOHN DOWNMAN (1750-1824), English portrait painter, was the son of Francis Downman, attorney, of St Neots, by Charlotte Goodsend, eldest daughter of the private secretary to George I.; his grandfather, Hugh Downman (1672-1729), having been the master of the House of Ordnance at Sheerness. He is believed to have been born near Ruabon, educated first at Chester, then at Liverpool, and finally at the Royal Academy schools, and he was for a while in the studio of Benjamin West. His exquisite pencil portrait drawings, slightly tinted in colour, usually from the reverse, are well known, and many of them are of remarkable beauty. Several volumes of sketches for these drawings are still in existence. Downman is believed to have been "pressed" for the navy as a young man, and on his escape settled down for a while in Cambridge, eventually coming to London, and later (1804) going to reside in Kent in the village of West Mailing. He afterwards spent some part of his life in the west of England, especially in Exeter, and then travelled all over the country painting his dainty portraits. In 1818 he settled down at Chester, finally removing to Wrexham, where his only daughter married and where he died and was buried. He was an associate of the Royal Academy. The Downman family is usually known as a Devonshire one, but the exact connexion between the artist 2 Cal. of St Pap.; Dom. (1661-1662) p. 408; Notes and Queries, ix. ser. vii. 92.

3 Diary, March 12, 17, 1662.4 lb. May 27, 1667. Sibley, i. 46.

and the Devonshire branch has not been traced. Many of his portraits have attached to them remarks of considerable importance respecting the persons represented.

See John Downman, his Life and Works, by G. C. Williamson (London, 1907). (G. C. W.)

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