Collet, John (DNB00)
|←Colles, Abraham||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11
COLLET, JOHN (1725?–1780), painter, born in London about 1725, and son of a gentleman holding a public office, was a pupil of George Lambert, and studied at the art school in St. Martin's Lane. He first exhibited at the exhibition of the Free Society of Artists in 1761, to which he sent three landscapes. In 1762 he exhibited with the same society 'A Gipsy telling some Country Girls their Fortune.' From this time, though he occasionally exhibited landscapes, portraits, animals, and other subjects, his pictures are mainly of a humorous description, based on the style of Hogarth, whose 'comedy in art' he strove to imitate, if not to surpass. There was a large demand for his pictures, and the engravings from them, many by first-class engravers, were published by Carington Bowles, Smith & Sayer, Boydell, and other well-known publishers. Collet represented scenes of debauchery, low life, and social weaknesses and absurdities. He did not possess, however, the force and deep moral of Hogarth's work, and his pictures are often mere plagiarisms, appealing only to a vulgar taste. When, however, he cared to be original, he showed great ability, and his pictures are always carefully executed. He continued to exhibit with the Free Society of Artists up to 1783. His pictures give a curious insight into the social manners at the end of the last century. In 1775 Sheridan brought out his comedy of 'The Duenna,' and Collet drew several pictures founded on scenes in this play. One of them, representing the drinking scene in the convent (act iii. scene 5), is figured in Wright's 'History of Caricature and Grotesque in Art.' Two water-colour pictures by him, entitled 'The Asylum for the Deaf' and 'Promenaders in St. James's Park,' are in the South Kensington Museum. In the print room of the British Museum there is a collection of engravings from his works, some very prohably engraved by his own hand. J. Goldar engraved after him 'The Sacrifice,' 'The Refusal,' 'The Recruiting Sergeant,' exhibited in 1767, 'The Female Bruisers,' exhibited in 1768, and also engraved in mezzotint by Butler Clowes [q. v.], 'The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak,' 'The Country Choristers,' 'The Unlucky Attempt,' 'The Discovery,' 'The Mutual Embrace,' and 'Modern Love,' in four scenes, 'Courtship, The Elopement, The Honeymoon, Discordant Matrimony,' painted in 1765, and published in 1782, after his death. J. Caldwall engraved 'The Gipsies,' 'The Ladies' Disaster,' 'The Bold Attempt,' 'The Unwelcome Customer,' 'The Guards of the Night defeated,' 'A Macaroni taking his Morning Ride in Hyde Park,' 'The Englishman in Paris,' 'High Life below Stairs,' 'The Cotillion Dancers,' exhibited in 1772. Among numerous others were: 'Sweets of Liberty' and 'The City Chanters,' in mezzotint by S. Okey; 'A Rescue, or the Tars Triumphant,' and 'Grown Gentlemen taught to dance,' in mezzotint by Butler Clowes; 'The Coaxing Wife' and 'An Holland Smock to be run for,' by T. Morris; 'January and May,' by C. Grignion; 'The Frenchman in London,' by C. White; 'A Taylor riding to Brentford,' by T. Stayner; 'Minerva protecting Innocence,' by F. B. Lorieux; and 'A Snare laid by Love,' by J. Pillement. Collet is said to have been of shy and retiring habits and much respected. He inherited a fortune from a relation, and resided in Chelsea, where he died, in Cheyne Row, on 6 Aug. 1780, and was buried there on 11 Aug. He etched one or two plates of a satirical description.
[Redgrave's Dict. of English Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; Edwards's Anecdotes of Painters; Wright's Hist. of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art; Gent. Mag. (1767), xxxvii. 239; Strutt's Dict. of Engravers; Andresen's Handbuch für Kupferstich-Sammler; Faulkner's Hist. of Chelsea; Catalogues of the Free Society of Artists and the National Art Collection, South Kensington; Chelsea Registers.]