Payne, William (fl.1800) (DNB00)

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PAYNE, WILLIAM (fl. 1800), watercolour painter, who is supposed to have been a native of Devonshire, held an appointment in the engineers' department at Plymouth Dockyard, and resided at Plymouth Dock (now Devonport) till 1790, when he came to London, and took up his residence in Thornhaugh Street, Bedford Square. He was already known as a landscape-painter, having exhibited at the Incorporated Society of Artists in 1776, and at the Royal Academy since 1786. Some of his views of slate quarries at Plympton had been praised by his fellow-countryman, Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy, and others, drawn in 1788 and 1789, were engraved for Samuel Middiman's ‘Select Views in Great Britain’ (1784-92). He had hit upon certain methods which considerably increased the resources of water-colour art, especially in the rendering of sunlight and atmosphere. His 'style,' as it was called, was one which was not only new and effective, but could be learnt without much difficulty, and he soon became the most fashionable drawing-master in London. Among the innovations with which he is credited were 'splitting the brush to give forms of foliage, dragging the tints to give texture to his foregrounds, and taking out the forms of lights by wetting the surface and rubbing with bread and rag.' He also abandoned the use of outline with the pen, but the invention by which he is best known is a neutral tint composed of indigo, raw sienna, and lake. A compound pigment called Payne's grey is still sold by artists' colourmen. His methods were regarded as tricky by the old-fashioned practicians of the day, but there is no doubt that he did much to advance the technique of water-colour painting, and was one of the first 'draughtsmen' to abandon mere topography for a more poetical treatment of landscape scenery. In 1809 he was elected an associate of the Water-colour Society, but left it on the disruption of the original society in 1812. During the four years of his connection with the society he sent seventeen drawings to their exhibitions. By this time his art had degenerated into mannerism. He was surpassed by better artists, and forgotten before he died. The date of his death is unknown; it is supposed to have been about 1815, but, according to Algernon Graves's 'Dictionary of Artists,' he was still exhibiting in 1830.

Four books, ‘Landscapes from Drawings by Payne,’ engraved by Black, are advertised at the end of ‘A Treatise on Ackerman's Water-colours,’ &c., 1801. There are examples of Payne's drawings at South Kensington Museum, the British Museum, and the Whitworth Museum at Manchester.

[Redgrave's Dict.; Redgraves' Century of Painters; Redgrave's Descriptive Catalogue of Water-colours at South Kensington Museum; Bryan's Dict. (Graves and Armstrong); Roget's 'Old' Water-colour Society; Art Journal, March 1849; Graves's Dict.; Somerset House Gazette, i. 133, 162; Alston's Hints to Young Practitioners in the Study of Landscape Painting; Monkhouse's Earlier English Water-colour Painters; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. i. 522, ii. 227.]

C. M.