Houston, Richard (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 27
Houston, Richard

by Robert Edmund Graves
Julie is corrected to John Brooks in later editions; and Peane to Pesne.

HOUSTON, RICHARD (1721?–1775), mezzotint engraver, born in Dublin about 1721, became a pupil of Julie Brooks, who was also the master of McArdell and Spooner. Like his fellow-pupils, he possessed much natural talent, and led a dissipated life. He came to London about 1747, and some of his early plates bear the address 'near Drummond's at Charing Cross.' There he produced his series of portraits of statesmen after William Hoare, R.A., which included Earl Temple, George Grenville, William Pitt, Henry Pelham, and Henry Bilson Legge, as well as some of his best plates after Rembrandt. He, however, fell into indolent and dissipated habits, and, according to Redgrave, he carefully kept out of the way of Sayer, the print-seller, who had advanced him money. Sayer, therefore, had him arrested and confined in the Fleet prison, in order that he might, as he said, know where to find him. He was released in 1760, on the accession of George III, and appears to have been able to free himself from Sayer's control, for he afterwards engraved the portraits of John Bunyan, William Romaine, Martin Madan, Andrew Gifford, Samuel Brewer, and others, for the extensive series of contemporary divines published by Carington Bowles.

Houston's chief works are engravings after Sir Joshua Reynolds, which include portraits of Elizabeth, countess of Northumberland, full-length; Caroline, duchess of Marlborough, and child; Mary, duchess of Ancaster; Maria, countess Waldegrave, afterwards duchess of Gloucester, with her daughter; Elisabeth, duchess of Argyll, and her son; Lady Selina Hastings; Charles, duke of Marlborough; Philip, earl of Chesterfield; and Dr. Robinson, archbishop of Armagh. He engraved seven portraits of George III, of which four were after Zoffany; six of Queen Charlotte, after Mary Benwell, Frye, Zoffany, and others; two, after Peane, of Frederick II, king of Prussia, one full-length, the other on horseback; John, marquis of Granby, on horseback, after Penny; and full-lengths of General Wolfe, after Schaak; Pascal Paoli, after Pietro Gherardi; Voltaire, after Sen; Julines Beckford, after Dance; and Catharine Wodhull and master James Sayer, both after Zoffany. A series of portraits by him is in Rolt's 'Lives of the Principal Reformers,' London, 1759, folio. Besides portraits, he executed a number of subject plates, such as 'The Virgin and Child,' after Raphael; 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' after Teniers; 'The Death of General Wolfe,' after Edward Penny, R.A; 'The Senses,' five plates after Francis Hayman, R.A; 'The Sciences,' six plates after Amiconi; 'Avarice' and 'Innocence,' after Philip Mercier; 'The Elements,' four plates, and 'The Times of the Day,' two different sets of four plates, also after Mercier; the 'Miraculous Onyx Stone;' and some plates of running horses, in which he excelled. His works after Rembrandt are spirited and successful. They comprise 'The Burgomaster Six,' 'The Syndics,' 'Haman's Condemnation,' 'An old Woman plucking a Fowl,' 'A Man holding a Knife,'The Pen-maker,' and some others. Houston also etched two small plates of an old man and an old woman, after Rembrandt, and painted a few miniatures.

He died in Hetton Street, London, on 4 Aug. 1775, aged 54.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1884-9, i. 683; John Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878 83, ii. 644-702; Mark Noble's Cat. of Engravers, MS., dated 1806.]

R. E. G.