Graves, Robert (1798-1873) (DNB00)

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GRAVES, ROBERT (1798–1873), line engraver, was born in Tottenham Court Road, London, on 7 May 1798. He was of Yorkshire descent, but his father and grandfather, who bore the same christian name as himself, were printsellers of note in London; the latter died in 1802, the former in 1825. Having manifested a strong predilection for art, he became in 1812 a pupil of John Romney, the line engraver, and at the same time studied in the life school in Ship Yard, Temple Bar. Soon afterwards he turned his attention with much success to executing in pen and ink facsimiles of rare prints by Hollar, Faithorne, Van de Passe, and other engravers, for which he received many commissions from collectors who were unable to obtain the original works. His grandfather also had excelled in the same branch of art. Before long Graves decided to devote the whole of his time to engraving, and among his earliest works were some of the plates in Caulfield's ‘Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons from the Revolution in 1688 to the end of the Reign of George II,’ London, 1819–20. These were followed by many portraits and vignettes for Dove's ‘English Classics’ and other works. His first exhibited work, a medallion portrait of Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, bart., after Peter Rouw, appeared in 1824 in the first exhibition of the Society of British Artists, where other small plates by him appeared until 1830. He engraved some of the portraits of the deans of Westminster for Neale's ‘History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster,’ 1818–23, and at a later date the portraits for Burnet's ‘History of the Reformation,’ 1838. Between 1831 and 1834 he executed the three plates of ‘The Enthusiast’ and ‘Mathematical Abstraction’ after Theodore Lane, and ‘The Musical Bore,’ after Robert W. Buss. For the author's edition of the ‘Waverley Novels’ he engraved some excellent plates after Sir David Wilkie, Sir Edwin Landseer, Mulready, and others. He also worked for the ‘Literary Souvenir,’ ‘Iris,’ ‘Amulet,’ ‘Forget-Me-Not,’ and ‘Keepsake Français’ on plates, after Murillo, Sir David Wilkie, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Rochard, and other painters. In 1836 he was elected an associate engraver of the Royal Academy, in succession to James Fittler [q. v.], and presented as his diploma work the fine portrait of Lord Byron, from the painting by Thomas Phillips, R.A., in the possession of Mr. John Murray. After his election the most important works which he sent to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy were ‘The Abbotsford Family,’ after Sir David Wilkie, in 1837; ‘The Examination of Shakespeare before Sir Thomas Lucy on a charge of Deer-stealing,’ and ‘A Castaway,’ both after Sir George Harvey, in 1839 and 1841; ‘The Highland Whiskey Still,’ after Sir Edwin Landseer, in 1842; ‘The First Reading of the Bible in the Crypt of Old St. Paul's,’ after Sir George Harvey, in 1846; ‘Lord Nelson,’ after Lemuel F. Abbott, in 1847; ‘The Baron's Charger,’ after J. F. Herring, and ‘The Highland Cradle,’ after Sir Edwin Landseer, in 1850; ‘Cromwell resolving to refuse the Crown,’ after C. Lucy, in 1858; ‘The Slide,’ after Thomas Webster, in 1861; ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘The Immaculate Conception,’ both after Murillo, in 1863 and 1865; ‘The Hon. Mrs. Graham,’ after Thomas Gainsborough, in 1866; ‘The Blue Boy’ (Master Burrell), also after Gainsborough, and ‘Mrs. Lloyd,’ afterwards Mrs. Peter Beckford, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, in 1868; ‘Via Dolorosa,’ after Raphael (or Cima da Conegliano?), in 1869; ‘Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,’ and ‘Mrs. Beaufoy,’ both after Gainsborough, in 1870 and 1872. He also exhibited several plates engraved for the ‘Art Journal,’ including ‘Haidee, a Greek Girl,’ and ‘The Sisters,’ after Sir Charles L. Eastlake; ‘The Princess Amelia,’ after Sir Thomas Lawrence; ‘The Princess Victoria Gouramma of Coorg,’ after F. Winterhalter; ‘The Princesses Mary, Sophia, and Amelia, daughters of George III,’ after John Singleton Copley; ‘The Origin of the Harp,’ after Maclise; and ‘Paolo and Francesca da Rimini,’ after Sir John Noel Paton. His last finished plate was a portrait of Charles Dickens, after W. P. Frith, for John Forster's ‘Life’ of the great novelist; but he left unfinished a plate after Gainsborough's portrait of ‘Lady Bowater,’ which was completed by James Stephenson. ‘His plates generally,’ writes an art critic, ‘are characterised more by their refinement and delicacy—and in these qualities they can scarcely be surpassed—than by any remarkable vigour of line; his best subject plate is undoubtedly “The Whiskey Still.”’

Graves died of paralysis at 20 Grove Terrace, Highgate Road, London, on 28 Feb. 1873, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. There are three portraits of him: one by Robert W. Buss, which was engraved in mezzotint by his only pupil, John Richardson Jackson; another, by John Miller, which was lithographed by Thomas Fairland; and a third, by his younger son, Frederick P. Graves.

[Art Journal, 1873, p. 125; Illustrated London News, 8 and 15 March 1873, the latter with portrait; Graphic, 22 March 1873, with portrait; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1886–9, i. 596; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1862, ii. 222–3; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Academy, 1837–73; Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of British Artists, 1824–30.]

R. E. G.