De La Motte, William (DNB00)

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DE LA MOTTE, WILLIAM (1775–1863), painter, was born at Weymouth, Dorsetshire, on 2 Aug. 1775, the eldest son of Peter De la Motte, by his wife Sarah, daughter of the Rev. Digby Cotes of Abbey Dore, Herefordshire. His great-grandfather, Peter De la Motte, a citizen and dyer of London, has left a manuscript describing how his great-grandfather, Philippe De la Motte, escaped from Tournay during the persecution under the Duke of Alva, came to Southampton, and became minister there to the French protestant congregation (1586). Extracts from this narrative are given in Smiles's ‘Huguenots in England and Ireland,’ pp. 383–4, where the minister is unaccountably called Joseph. His father was postal agent at Weymouth, ‘at which place he built an elegant library on the esplanade, with the assembly rooms over it.’ During his frequent visits to the town George III took much notice of young De la Motte, and encouraged him in his taste for art. In 1794 the king placed him with Benjamin West, P.R.A., that he might go through a course of instruction at the Royal Academy. Eventually he decided to devote himself to landscape and marine views. Taking Girtin as his model, he gained considerable reputation towards the end of the century by some able representations of Welsh scenery in water colours. Afterwards he drew his landscapes chiefly with the pen, and tinted them. His manner was peculiar, but effective. His architecture has been praised for its accuracy; he was fond, too, of introducing animals and cattle into his pictures. He contributed to the Academy exhibitions from 1796 to 1848. In 1798–9, when living at Oxford, he restored Streater's work in the Sheldonian theatre. In 1803 he was appointed drawing-master at the Royal Military College at Great Marlow and Sandhurst, which post he held for forty years. In 1805–6 he retouched Hogarth's altarpiece in the church of St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol. As ‘fellow-exhibitor’ of the Water-Colour Society he contributed to the exhibitions of 1806, 1807, and 1808. In 1816 he published ‘Thirty Etchings of Rural Subjects.’ For a large etching of Windsor Forest, dedicated to the king, he received in 1821 the silver Isis medal of the Society of Arts. Two of his best oil-paintings, ‘The Wood Girls, Great Marlow,’ and ‘A Lane Scene,’ were exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862. The five drawings by him in the South Kensington Museum are the least happy of his works.

De la Motte died at his daughter's house, The Lawn, St. Giles's Fields, near Oxford, on 13 Feb. 1863 (Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. xiv. 528). He married, on 28 Aug. 1804, Mary Ann, eldest daughter and coheiress of Thomas Gage, and niece of the Rev. H. D. Gabell, D.D., head-master of Winchester, by whom he had nine children, the surviving sons being Professor P. H. De la Motte of King's College, London, and Edward De la Motte of Harrow School; another son, Freeman Gage De La Motte, who died in July 1862, published several works on alphabets and illumination. The sale of all his drawings and sketches took place at Sotheby's in the May twelvemonth after his death. He was an intimate friend of Turner and of Girtin.

A cousin, Lieutenant-colonel Philip De La Motte, was the author of a work entitled ‘The Principal Historical and Allusive Arms borne by Families of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland … Collected by an Antiquary, with biographical memoirs … and copper-plates,’ 4to, London, 1803. He died at Batsford, Gloucestershire, on 11 March 1805 (Gent. Mag. vol. lxxiii. pt. ii. p. 1052, vol. lxxv. pt. i. p. 293).

[Family information; Burn's Hist. of the Protestant Refugees, pp. 85, 86, 89; Agnew's Protestant Exiles, 2nd ed. iii. 88–9; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists (1878), p. 121; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880, p. 65; Cat. of National Gallery of British Art at South Kensington (1884), pt. ii. p. 53.]

G. G.