Johnson, Robert (1770-1796) (DNB00)

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JOHNSON, ROBERT (1770–1796), engraver and water-colour painter, born in 1770 at Shotley, near Ovingham, Northumberland, was son of a joiner and carpenter, who shortly afterwards removed to Gateshead. Through the influence of his mother, who was acquainted with Thomas Bewick [q. v.], Johnson was in 1788 apprenticed to Beilby and Bewick in Newcastle, to learn copperplate-engraving. Johnson executed some unimportant engravings during his apprenticeship, but chiefly occupied himself in sketching from nature in water-colours. He made most of the drawings for Bewick's ‘Fables,’ which for minute excellency have hardly been excelled. His drawings for Bulmer's edition of Goldsmith's and Parnell's ‘Poems’ were cut by Thomas and John Bewick, and published in 1795. A fine drawing by Johnson of St. Nicholas's Church at Newcastle was engraved in wood by Charlton Nesbitt [q. v.]; Johnson made a small copperplate engraving from the same drawing for the publisher, Joseph Whitfield of Newcastle. Having a quarrel with Whitfield he engraved three caricatures of him. On the expiration of his apprenticeship, Johnson abandoned copperplate-engraving, and determined to take to painting. He was employed by Messrs. Morison of Perth to copy the portraits by Jamesone at Taymouth Castle, the seat of the Earl of Breadalbane, for reproduction in Pinkerton's ‘Iconographia Scotica.’ Johnson, however, caught there a chill, from the results of which he died at Kenmore, Perthshire, on 26 Oct. 1796, in his twenty-sixth year. He was buried in Ovingham churchyard, where a monument was erected to his memory by his friends. Two drawings by him were engraved by C. Warren, as illustrations to Gay's ‘Fables’ and Ossian's ‘Poems.’

Johnson, John(d. 1797), wood-engraver, cousin of the above, was born at Stanhope in Weardale, and was also apprenticed to Beilby and Bewick at Newcastle. He assisted in cutting some of the tail-pieces to Bewick's ‘British Birds’ and drew the illustration of the ‘Hermit’ for Bulmer's edition of Parnell's ‘Poems.’ He died at Newcastle about 1797, very soon after he had terminated his apprenticeship.

[Robinson's Life and Times of Thomas Bewick; Chatto and Jackson's History of Wood-engraving; Linton's Masters of Wood-engraving.]

L. C.