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Shearer West

(b Kilbride, Western Isles, May 23, 1718; d London, March 30, 1783).

Scottish physician, patron, collector and museum founder. His father intended him for the Church, but Hunter’s desire to practise medicine took him in 1741 to London, where he was assistant to Dr James Douglas. From 1746 he gave public lectures on anatomy. He obtained his licence from the Royal College of Physicians in 1756 and became an FRS in 1768, when he was also appointed the first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy. Johann Zoffany’s painting of Dr William Hunter Lecturing at the Royal Academy of Arts (c. 1773; London, Royal Coll. Physicians) reveals Hunter’s method of lecturing before écorché casts modelled from the corpses of criminals executed at Tyburn. Hunter’s interest in natural history combined with that in anatomy and dissection induced him to stress the minute study of nature—an emphasis that contrasted with Joshua Reynolds’s insistence on the generalized presentation of forms.

Hunter was an avid collector of paintings, books and manuscripts, as well as geological, ethnographic, zoological and anatomical objects. He began collecting at the sale of ...

Article

David Mannings

(b Plympton, Devon, July 16, 1723; d London, Feb 23, 1792).

English painter, collector and writer. The foremost portrait painter in England in the 18th century, he transformed early Georgian portraiture by greatly enlarging its range. His poses, frequently based on the Old Masters or antique sculpture, were intended to invoke classical values and to enhance the dignity of his sitters. His rich colour, strong lighting and free handling of paint greatly influenced the generation of Thomas Lawrence and Henry Raeburn. His history and fancy pictures explored dramatic and emotional themes that became increasingly popular with both artists and collectors in the Romantic period. As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he did more than anyone to raise the status of art and artists in Britain. His Discourses on Art, delivered to the students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790, are the most eloquent and widely respected body of art criticism by any English writer.

Although Reynolds’s father, a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and master of Plympton Grammar School, had intended that his son train as an apothecary, Joshua chose instead to seek fame as a painter. In ...

Article

Ilaria Bignamini

(b London, 1715; d Maidstone, Dec 28, 1803).

English drawing-master. The son of a stationer, he began his career as a painter and drawing-master at Northampton. He developed his ideas for art premiums in part from similar awards introduced at the time at local horse fairs and races; eventually this led to Shipley’s publication of two pamphlets, the Proposal for Raising by Subscription a Fund to be Distributed in Premiums for the Promoting of Improvements in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Manufactures, etc and the Scheme for Putting the Proposals in Execution (1753). These provided the foundation stones of the new Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. The Society was established in London in 1754, shortly after Shipley had moved there and set up (1753) a private drawing school—Shipley’s Academy—in the Strand. This school played an influential role in art instruction during the later 1750s and 1760s; its students included the landscape watercolour painter ...