Dewit, James

, a painter of history and portrait, was born at Amsterdam in 1695, and acquired the principles of his art from Albert Spiers, a portrait painter. He afterwards became a disciple of Jaques Van Halen, an historical painter of considerable reputation; under whose instructions he made great improvement, particularly by copying some capital paintings of Rubens and Vandyke. In 1713, he obtained the first prize in the academy, for designing after a living model, and the first prize for painting history; and he became more known by sketching several of the ceilings in the Jesuits’ church at Antwerp, originally painted by Rubens and Vandyke, which had been much injured by lightning. He declined the painting of portraits, though much solicited to engage in this branch of his art, and chiefly restricted himself to the painting of ceilings and grand apartments, in which he excelled by an elegance of taste, and tolerable correctness of design. His most noted work was for the burgo masters of Amsterdam, in their great council-chamber; in which | he chose for his subject Moses appointing the 70 elders, and which he executed in a manner highly honourable to him as an artist. Without ever having seen Rome, he acquired the style of the Italian masters, by studying after the finest designs of the best artists of that country, which he collected with great judgment and ex pence. The colouring of Dewit is extremely good, and his compositions are grand and pleasing; his pencil is free, and his touch abounds with spirit and brilliancy; and a better taste of design would have rendered him truly eminent. But his singular excellence consisted in his imitations of bas-relief in stone, wood, or plaster, which he painted both in oil and in fresco, so as to give them the appearance of real carvings. His sketches, though slight, are much admired for their freedom and spirit, and are purchased by persons of the best taste. This artist, who died at Amsterdam in 1754, etched, from his own designs, a set of six small plates, representing “groupes of boys,” which are executed in a very spirited style; and the “Virgin and Child.1


Pilkington. —Strutt’s Dict. in Wit.