Kirby, John Joshua

, eminent for his talents in perspective, was the eldest son of Mr. John Kirby, who was originally a schoolmaster at Orforcl, and who is known to topographers by a map of Suffolk which he published, and by “The Suffolk Traveller,” 12mo, a new edition of which was published in 1764. He was born at Parham, near Wickham-market, in 1716, and settled as a house-painter at Ipswich about 1738. Me had a turn for drawing, and published, early in life, twelve prints of castles, ancient churches, and monuments, in Suffolk, with a small descriptive pamphlet. He afterwards became intimate with the celebrated artist Gainsborough, the contemplation of | whose works increased his taste for painting, but he had very little leisure to cultivate it, and has left only a few landscapes in the possession of his family; one of which, a view of the old kitchen at Glastonbury-abbey, was exhibited at Spring-gardens in 1770.

Being of a very serious and studious turn of mind, he, in his early years, from his very childhood, employed every leisure hour, and even abridged his natural rest, in the Acquisition of useful knowledge; but the study which rendered his name best known to the world, was that of perspective, on which he wrote a valuable treatise. When he had made a considerable progress in this, he happened to meet with Dr. Brook Taylor’s book, which furnished him, with additional hints, and rendered his system more perfect. On the publication of this work in 1754, he was requested by the society of arts to read lectures on the subject, for which he received the unanimous thanks of its members. But though his work was for the most part original, such was his modesty and candour, that he only called it “Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made easy.

On being admitted to the friendship and intimacy of sir Joshua Reynolds, Hogarth (who furnished the curious frontispiece to his perspective), and most of the other artists of the kingdom, he removed from Ipswich to London, where he obtained the patronage of the earl of Bute. This nobleman introduced him to his present majesty when prince of Wales, by whom he was ever after highly and deservedly honoured. He was made clerk of the works at Kew, and under his majesty’s patronage, who defrayed the expence of the plates, he published in 1761 his very splendid work, “The Perspective of Architecture,” 2 vols. folio. Tn this work Mr. Kirby wholly confined himself to architectural representations; and gave a variety of designs, elegantly drawn and engraved, which he submitted as “new principles for a complete system of the perspective of architecture, both as it relates to the true delineation of objects, and the doctrine of light and shadow.” Mr. Edwards, however, remarks, as a curious circumstance, that the plates of this work contain no example of architectural features disposed obliquely to the picture; a circumstance from which he would infer that Mr. Kirby was no great adept in architecture, and that his practice in perspective was not very comprehensive, especially as his first work is equally deficient with the last in what relates to | mouldings, when inclined to the picture, which position, if not the most abstruse in theory, is yet among the most troublesome in operation, and therefore ought to have been demonstrated.

Before the appearance of this work he wrote a pamphlet in vindication of the fame of Dr. Brook Taylor, which was indirectly struck at in the translation of a treatise on perspective by a foreigner. This pamphlet (which has no date) was entitled “Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective, compared with the examples lately published on the subject, as Sirigatti’i,” 4to. In 1766, in conjunction with his brother William, then of Witnesham, in the county of Suffolk, attorney at law (who died Sept. 25, 1791, aged seventy-two) he published an improved edition of their father’s map of Suffolk, on a larger scale, with engravings of the arms of the principal families in the county. In 1768 he published a third edition of his treatise on perspective, with a dedication to the earl of Bute. He was a member both of the royal aud antiquary societies; and when the chartered society of artists was disturbed by the illiberal conduct of some of the members, Mr. Kirby was elected president in the place of Hay man, but he soon resigned the chair. He died June 20, 1774, and his widow the following year, and were both buried in Kew churchyard. By his wife he had only two children, William, a promising artist, who died in 1771, and Sarah, afterwards the wife of Mr. James Trimmer, of Brentford, a lady justly celebrated for her numerous works for the religious instruction of the young. 1


Biographical Anecdotes of Hucarth, by Mr. Nichols, vol. I. 4to. Edwards’s. alpole. Mrs. T nmmerV Life, lately published, '2, vols. 4to,