Highmore, Joseph

, an eminent painter, was born in the parish of St. James, Garlickhithe, London, June 13, 1692, being the third son of Mr. Edward Hightnore *, a coal-merchant in Thames-street. Having such an early and strong inclination to painting, that he could think of nothing else with pleasure‘, his father endeavoured to gratify him in a proposal to his uncle, who was serjeant-painter to king William, and with whom Mr. (afterward Sir James) Thorn hi 11 f had served his apprenticeship. But this was afterwards for good reasons declined, and he was articled as clerk to an attorney, July 18, 1707; but so much against his own declared inclination, that in about three years he began to form resolutions of indulging his natural disposition to his favourite art, having continually employed his leisure hours in designing, and in the study of geometry, perspective, architecture, and anatomy, but without any instructors except books. He had afterwards an opportunity of improving himself in anatomy, by attending the lectures of Mr. Cheselden, besides entering himself at the Painters’ Academy in Great Queen -street, where he drew ten years, and had the honour to be particularly noticed by sir Godfrey Kneller, who distinguished him by the name of “the Young Lawyer.” On June 13, 1714, his clerkship expired; and on March 26, 1715, he

* His grandfather, Abraham, who -f* The Hightnores and ThornhiHs

was n.’st cousin to Nathaniel, the ce!e-were connected by marriage j Edward,

brated physician, being a lieutenant-the uncle ef sir James, marrying Su.

colone! h> the royal service, had, in sanna, the daughter of Nathaniel

retu. for his losses, an honourable Highmore, rector of Purse Candell.

augm^ntat on, to his arms, as men-Dorsetshire, sister ty the physician, tiotied in the “Gentleman’s Magazine far ma,” p, 449. | began painting as a profession, and settled in the city. In the same year Dr. Brook Taylor published his “Linear Perspective: or anew method of representing justly all manner of objects as they appear to the eye, in all situations.” On this complete and universal theory our artist grounded his subsequent practice; and it has been generally allowed, that few, if any, of the profession at that time, were so thoroughly masters of that excellent, but intricate system. In 1716, he married miss Susanna Killer, daughter and heiress of Mr. Anthony Hiller, of Em’ngliam, in Surrey; a young lady in every respect worthy of his choice. For Mr. Cheselden’s “Anatomy of the Human. Body,” published in 1722, he made drawings from the real subjects at the time of dissection, two of which were engraved for that work, and appear, but without his name, in tables xii. and xiii. In the same year, on the exhibition of “The Conscious Lovers,” written by sir Richard Stecle, Mr. Highmore addressed a letter to the author, (puhlished in 1760 in the Gentleman’s Magazine), on the limits of filial obedience, pointing out a material defect in the character of Bevil, with that clearness and precision for which, in conversation and writing, he was always remarkable, as the pencil by no means engrossed his whole attention. His reputation and business increasing, he took a more conspicuous station, by removing to a house in Lincoln’s-innfields, in March 1723-4; and an opportunity soon offered of introducing him advantageously to the nobility, &c. from his being desired, by Mr. Pine the engraver, to make the drawings for his prints of the Knights of the Bath, on the revival of that order in 1725. In consequence of this, several of the knights had their portraits also by the same hand, some of them whole lengths; and the duke of Kichmond, in particular, was attended by l.is three esquiies, with a perspective view of king Henry the Vilth’s chapel. This capital picture is now at Goodwood. The artist was also sent for to St. James’s, by George I. to paint the portrait of William duke of Cumberland, from which Smith scraped a mezzotinto.

In 1728, Mr. Hawkins Browne, then of LincolnVinn, who had always a just sense of Highmore’s talents and abilities, addressed to him a poetical epistle “Ou Design and Beauty;” and, some years after, an elegant Latin ode, both now collected in his poems. In the summer of 1732, Mr. Highmore visited the continent, in company with Dr. | Pemberton, Mr. Benj. Robins, and two other friends, chiefly with a view of seeing the gallery of pictures belonging to the elector palatine at Dusseldorp, collected by Rubens, and supposed to be the best in Europe. At Antwerp also he had peculiar pleasure in contemplating the works of his favourite master. In their return they visited the principal towns in Holland. In 1734, he made a like excursion, but alone, to Paris, where he received great civilities from some of his countrymen, particularly the duke of Kingston, Dr, Hickman (his tutor), Robert Knight, esq. (the late cashier), &c. Here he had the satisfaction of being shewn, by cardinal de Polignac, his famous group of antique statues, the court of Lycomedes, then just brought from Rome, and since purchased by the king of Prussia, and destroyed at Charlottenbourg, in 1760, by the Russians. In 1742, he had the honour to paint Frederic prince and the princess of Wales, for the duke of Saxe Gotha; as he did some years after, the queen of Denmark, for that court. The publication of Pamela, ia 1744, gave rise to a set of paintings by Mr. Highmore, which were engraved by two French engravers, and published by subscription, in 1745. In the same year ha painted the only original of the late general Wolfe, then about 18. His Pamela introduced him to the acquaintance and friendship of the excellent author, whose picture he drew, and for whom he painted the only original of Dr. Young. In 1750 he had the great misfortune to lose his excellent wife. On the first institution of the Academy of Painting, Sculpture, &c. in 1753, he was elected one of the professors; an honour, which, on account of his many avocations, he desired to decline. In 1754 he published, “A critical examination of those two Paintings [by Rubens] on the cieling of the Banquetting-house at Whitehall, in which architecture is introduced, so far as relates to perspective together with the discussion of a question which has been the subject of debate among painters” printed in 4to, for Nourse. In the solution of this question he proved that Rubens, and several other great painters, were mistaken in the practice, and Mr. Kirby, and several other authors, in the theory and practice: and in the eighteenth volume of the “Monthly Review,” he animadverted (anonymously) on Mr. Kirby’s unwarrantable treatment of Mr. Ware, and detected and exposed his errors, even where he exults in his own superior science. | Of the many portraits which Mr. Highmore painted, in an extensive practice of 46 years, (of which several have been engraved), it is impossible and useless to discuss particulars. His principal historical pictures were “Hin;ar and Ishmael,” a present to the Foundling-hospital “The Good Samaritan,” painted for Mr. Shepherd of Cainpsey Ash “The fin ding of Moses,” purchasedathis sale by gen. Lister: “The Harlowe Family,” as described in “Cianssn,” in the possession of Tiiomas Watkinson Payler, esq. at Heden in Kent: “Clarissa,” the portrait mentioned in that work “The Graces unveiling Nature,” drawn by memory from Rubens “The Clementina of Grandison,” and “the ^iueen-mother of Edward IV. with her younger son, &c. in Westminster-abbey:” the three last in the possession of his son.

In 1761, on the marriage of his daughter to the Rev. Mr. Buncombe, son to one of his oldest friends, he took a resolution of retiring from business, and disposing of his collection of pictures, which he did by auction, in March 1762; and soon after removed to the house of his son-inlaw at Canterbury, where he passed the remainder of his life, without ever re-visiting the metropolis. But though he had laid down the pencil, he never wanted employment: so active; and vigorous was his mind, that, with a constitutional flow of spirits, and a relish for instructive society, he was “never less alone than when alone;” and, besides his professional pursuits (abovementioned), to philosophy, both natural and moral, and also divinity, he laudably dedicated his time and attention. No man lud more clearness and precision of ideas, or a more ardent desire to know the truth; and, when known, conscientiously to pursue it. With strong passions, ever guided by the strictest virtue, he had a tender, susceptible heart, always open to the distresses of his fellow-creatures, and always ready to relieve them. His capital work of the literary kind was his “Practice of Perspective, 9” the Principles of Dr. Brook

iect, but removed, by its perspicuity, the only objection that can be made to the system of Dr. Taylor. It accordincrly received, from his friends and the intelligent public, the applauses it deserved. In 1765, he published (without his name) Observations cm a pamphlet intituled, | Christianity not founded on Argument/ [by Dodwell];” in which, after shewing that it is a continued irony, and lamenting that so ample a field should be offered the author of it for the display of his sophistry, he gives up creeds, articles, and catechisms, as out-works raised by fallible men, and, confining himself to the defence of the Gospel, or citadel, shews, that pure primitive Christianity, though assaulted by infidels, will ever remain impregnable. His opinion of Rubens may be seen in the Gent. Mag. for 1766, p. 353, under the title of “Remarks on some Passages in Mr.” NVebb’s ‘ Enquiry into the Beauties of Painting,’ &c.“In the same year he published, with only his initials,J. H.“two small volumes of” Essays, moral, religious, and miscellaneous; with a translation in prose of Mr. Browne’s Latin poem on the Immortality of the Soul,“selected from a large number written at his leisure, at different periods of his life.” As such,“says Dr. Hawkesworth, in his review of them in Gent. Mag. vol. XXXV.” they do the author great credit. They are not excursions of fancy, but efforts of f thought, and indubitable indications of a vigorous and active mind.“In the Gent. Mag. for 1769, p. 287, he communicatedA natural and obvious manner of constructing sun-dials, deduced from the situation and motion of the earth with respect to the sun,“explained by a scheme: and in that for 1778, p. 526, his remarks on colouring, suggested by way of a note on the” Epistle to an eminent Painter," will shew that his talents were by no means impaired at the age of 86. He retained them indeed to the last, and had even strength and spirit sufficient to enable him to ride out daily on horseback, the summer before he died. A strong constitution, habitual temperance, and constant attention to his health in youth as well as in age, prolonged his life, and preserved his faculties to his 88th year, when he gradually ceased to breathe; and, as it were, fell asleep, on March 3, 1780. He was interred in the south aile of Canterbury cathedral, leaving one son, Anthony, educated in his own profession; and a daughter, Susanna, mentioned above.

His abilities as a painter appear in his works, which will not only be admired by his contemporaries, but by their posterity; as his tints, like those of Rubens and Vandycfc, instead of being impaired, are improved by time, which some of them have now withstood above 60 years. His idea of beauty, when he indulged his fancy, was of the | highest kind; and his knowledge of perspective gave him great advantages in family-pieces, of which he painted more than any one of his time. He could take a likeness by memory as well as by a sitting, as appears by his picture of the duke of Lorrain (the late emperor), which Faber engraved and those ol king George II. (in York assemblyroom) queen Caroline, the two miss Gunnings, &c. Like many other great painters, he had “a poet for his friend,” in the late Mr. Browne; to which may be added, a poem addressed to him in 1726, by the Rev. Mr. Bunce, at that time of Trinity-hall, Cambridge, who succeeded Mr. Highmore, and in 1780, was vicar of St. Stephen’s near Canterbury. 1

1 Gent. Mag, vol. L.