Greenwood, John (1727-1792) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 23
Greenwood, John (1727-1792)

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GREENWOOD, JOHN (1727–1792), portrait-painter, born 7 Dec. 1727 in Boston, Massachusetts, was a son of Samuel Greenwood, merchant, by his second wife, Mary Charnock, and a nephew of Professor Isaac Greenwood of Harvard College. In 1742, just after his father's death, he was apprenticed to Thomas Johnston, an artist in watercolours, heraldic painting, engraving, and japanning. He made rapid progress, and some of his portraits painted at this period are still preserved in Boston. One of the Rev. Thomas Prince was engraved in 1750 by Peter Pelham, stepfather of John S. Copley the elder [q. v.] Greenwood removed late in 1752 to the Dutch colony of Surinam, where he remained over five years, executing in that time 113 portraits, which brought him 8,025 guilders. He visited plantations, made notes about the country, and collected or sketched its fauna, plants, and natural curiosities. Desiring to perfect himself in the art of mezzotinting he left Surinam, and arriving in May 1758 at Amsterdam, soon acquired many friends, and was instrumental in the re-establishment there of the Academy of Art. At Amsterdam he finished a number of portraits, studied under Elgersma, and issued several subjects in mezzotint, some of which were heightened by etching. He entered into partnership with P. Foquet as a dealer in paintings. In August 1763 he visited Paris, stopping some time with M. F. Basan. About the middle of September he reached London, and permanently settled there a year later. He was invited by the London artists to their annual dinner at the Turk's Head on St. Luke's day, 18 Oct. 1763, and at their fifth exhibition in the following spring displayed two paintings, 'A View of Boston, N.E.,' and 'A Portrait of a Gentleman.' Early in 1765 a charter passed the great seal founding the 'Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain,' and Greenwood became a fellow of the society.

In 1768 he exhibited his admirable mezzotint of 'Frans von Mieris and Wife,' after the original in the Hague Gallery; in 1773 'A Gipsey Fortune-teller' in crayon; in 1774 a painting of 'Palemon and Lavinia' from Thomson's 'Seasons,' &c.; and in 1790 a large landscape and figures representing the 'Seven Sisters,' a circular clump of elms at Tottenham, embracing a view of the artist's summer cottage,with himself on horseback and his wife and children. His attention, however, was for some years principally directed to mezzotints, including portraits and general subjects after his own designs, and pictures of the Dutch school. His 'Rembrandt's Father,' 1764, the 'Happy Family,' after Van Harp, and 'Old Age,' after Eckhout, both finished for Boydell in 1770, may be mentioned. His 'Amelia Hone,' a young lady with a teacup, 1771, was probably the best example of his art.

The Royal Academy was founded by dissentient members of the 'Incorporated Society' in December 1768. Greenwood, then a director of the latter society, tried in vain to persuade his friend and countryman, John Singleton Copley [q. v.], to adhere to his society (5 Dec. 1775). But Copley joined the Academy.

At the request of the Earl of Bute Greenwood made a journey, in July 1771, into Holland and France purchasing paintings; he afterwards visited the continent, buying up the collections of Count van Schulembourg and the Baron Steinberg. In 1776 he was occupying Ford's Rooms in the Haymarket as an art auctioneer. In this business he continued to the end of his life, removing in 1783 to Leicester Square, where he built a commodious room adjoining his dwelling-house, and communicating with Whitcomb Street.

He died while on a visit at Margate, 16 Sept. 1792, and was buried there. His wife, who survived him a few years, was buried at Chiswick, close to the tomb of Hogarth.

A small half-length portrait of Greenwood in mezzotint, by W. Pether, bearing an artist's pallet and brushes and an auctioneer's mallet, was afterwards published. A three-quarter length, by Lemuel Abbot, and a miniature by Henry Edridge, are in possession of his grandson, Dr. John D. Greenwood, ex-principal of Nelson College, New Zealand. The portrait of himself as a young man, in coloured crayon, mentioned by Van Eynden and Van der Willigen, is now in the possession of the writer of this article.

Greenwood was not, as has been said, father of Thomas Greenwood, the scene-painter at Drury Lane Theatre, who died 17 Oct. 1797. His eldest son, Charnock-Gladwin, died an officer in the army at Grenada, West Indies; the second, John, succeeded him in business; James returned to Boston; and the youngest, Captain Samuel Adam Greenwood, senior-assistant at the residency of Baroda, died at Cambray in 1810.

[Communicated by Dr. Isaac J. Greenwood from papers in his possession.]