Newton, Francis Milner (DNB00)

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NEWTON, FRANCIS MILNER (1720–1794), portrait-painter and royal academician, born in London in 1720, was son of Edward Newton by the elder daughter of Smart Goodenough of Barton Grange, Corfe, near Taunton, Somerset. Newton was a pupil of Marcus Tuscher, a German artist residing in England, and was also a student at the drawing academy in St. Martin's Lane. He was prominent among the artists who desired to establish a national academy of art, and who drew up in October 1753 an abortive prospectus of such a scheme. In 1755 a committee of artists was formed for a similar purpose, and Newton was appointed secretary, with no better success. A more successful meeting of artists was held at the Turk's Head tavern on 12 Nov. 1759, when Newton again acted as secretary. This resulted in the first exhibition held by the artists of Great Britain in the gallery of the Society of Arts, to which Newton contributed a portrait. In 1761 a schism took place among the artists exhibiting, and Newton joined the seceding body, who exhibited at Spring Gardens, and afterwards obtained a charter as ‘The Incorporated Society of Artists,’ in 1765, when Newton was again appointed secretary. In 1768 a further schism took place, which resulted in the ejectment of some of the directors and the secretary, Newton, from the Incorporated Society. The excluded artists formed themselves into a new society, and by obtaining the patronage of the king, George III, brought about the foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, under the presidency of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Newton was elected the first secretary. He contributed portraits to the exhibitions of the Society of Artists and to the Royal Academy, but his works have little merit. When the Royal Academy was established in Somerset House, Newton was allotted rooms there, which he held until 1788, when he resigned the post of secretary, and was succeeded by Francis Inigo Richards [q. v.] A silver cup was presented by the council to Newton on his retirement, and his portrait is among those drawn by G. Dance (engraved by W. Daniell) and preserved in the library of the Royal Academy. Newton had a house at Hammersmith for some years. He was appointed by his cousin, Goodenough Earle, who had inherited the Barton Grange property, guardian to Earle's only daughter, with the reversion of the property. On the latter's death Newton inherited the property and retired to Barton Grange, where he resided for the rest of his life. He died there on 14 Aug. 1794, and was buried at Corfe. He left an only child, Josepha Sophia, who married first, Colonel Clifton Wheat (d. 1807) secondly, Sir Frederick Grey Cooper, bart. (d. 1840), and on her death, without issue, in 1848, bequeathed the Barton Grange property to a cousin, Francis Wheat Newton, esq.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy; Pye's Patronage of Art; Catalogues of the Royal Academy and the Society of Artists; information kindly supplied by Francis Wheat Newton, esq.]

L. C.