Essex, William (1784?-1869) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18
Essex, William (1784?-1869)

by Lionel Henry Cust
Contains subarticles: Alfred Essex, brother, & William B. Essex (1822-1852), his son.

ESSEX, WILLIAM (1784?–1869), enamel-painter, was for many years the chief, and, after the death of H. P. Bone, the sole, exponent of the art of painting in enamel, which had been brought to such perfection by Henry Bone, R.A. [q. v.] and Charles Muss [q. v.] Essex and his brother Alfred worked for and under Muss, and laboured conjointly to show to the public that works could be executed in enamel possessing the transparency, crispness, and texture of other methods of painting. He accordingly painted numerous miniature reproductions of pictures by Correggio, Guido, Wilkie, Abraham Cooper, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and others, displaying the wide capacity of the art. A private exhibition of these was held in the spring of 1839. Essex first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818, sending a ‘Terrier's Head,’ after Abraham Cooper. He continued to exhibit copies of well-known pictures and portraits, and also portraits from the life, up to 1864, and his works were always very much admired. He also contributed to the exhibitions at the British Institution, Suffolk Street Gallery, Liverpool Society of Fine Arts, &c. He was appointed enamel-painter to Princess Augusta, in 1839 to the queen, and subsequently to the prince consort. He died at Brighton 29 Dec. 1869, aged 85. His son, William B. Essex (1822-1852), followed his father's profession as an artist, but was prevented by his early death from obtaining any reputation. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1845 to 1851. Alfred Essex executed plates for Muss, notably the large plate for the Holy Family, after Parmigiano, now in the royal collection. He prepared the plates and the colours for his brother's paintings. There is in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, a series of examples showing the colours prepared by him which had the quality of remaining the same after vitrification. He published in June 1837 a valuable paper on the art of painting in enamel (‘London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine,’ 3rd ser. x. 442). He also published some drawing-slates, and it is stated that he subsequently emigrated.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760-1880; Art Journal, 1870, p. 53; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. R. E. Graves; Catalogue of Essex's Exhibition, 1839; Catalogues of Royal Academy, &c.; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. i. 434: information from F. W. Rudler, curator of the Museum of Practical Geology.]

L. C.