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John Downman

Welsh, 1750 - 1824

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Downman studied at the Royal Academy Schools and under Benjamin West. He first exhibited at the Free Society in 1768. In 1771 he set off to Rome with Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797). During this time he departed from portraiture and, mastering watercolors, produced beautiful soft landscape and architectural studies. On his return he continued with the oval portraits in watercolors for which he is best known. Throughout his career he also worked on a small scale in oils where his enamel-like finish of a miniaturist reveals his debt to his "beloved master" West. The popularity of his style of painting in watercolors was advanced by many of his popular subjects, actresses, etc. becoming prints and Peltro William Tomkins perfected a special technique of printing the delicate complexions in color. The artist himself was innovative, frequently working on very thin paper, coloring the complexion from the reverse side of the sheet. He became an A.R.A. in 1795, having exhibited at the Academy from 1789-1819. (extracted from William Drummond, An Exhibition of Portraits and Figures, London, n.d.)

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