(b Eastbourne, Sept 17, 1740; d London, Feb 4, 1779).
English painter, draughtsman and etcher. He was closely involved with the Society of Artists of Great Britain, becoming its president in 1774, and his flamboyant personality, radical politics and romantic penchant for depictions of picturesque banditti led contemporaries to perceive him as a latter-day Salvator Rosa. Mortimer’s works include portraiture, decorative interiors and book illustration, but he was first and foremost a history painter. Unlike most fellow artists in this genre, however, he derived much of his subject-matter from Anglo-Saxon history rather than from antiquity.
Mortimer was the son of an excise officer, while his uncle, Roger Mortimer (1700–69), was a painter of portraits and altarpieces (e.g. Moses and Aaron, 1721; St Clement’s, Hastings, E. Sussex); it may have been this example that first drew his nephew to the visual arts. By 1757 Mortimer was in London, working in Thomas Hudson‘s studio; his fellow pupils included Joseph Wright (i), who became a lifelong friend. Mortimer, characteristically, moved on before the end of his three-year term with Hudson—in ...