Raimbach, Abraham (DNB00)

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RAIMBACH, ABRAHAM (1776–1843), line engraver, was born in Cecil Court, St. Martin's Lane, London, 16 Feb. 1776. His father, Peter Raimbach, was a native of Switzerland, who came when a child to England, and married Martha Butler, a daughter of a Warwickshire farmer. The son was educated at Archbishop Tenison's school, and in 1789 was articled to John Hall, the engraver; in the following year he executed his first independent work, the key to Bartolozzi's plate of the ‘Death of Chatham’ after Copley. On the expiration of his articles, Raimbach entered the schools of the Royal Academy, and in 1799 gained a silver medal for a drawing from the life. He continued his studies at the academy for nine years, maintaining himself during that time by engraving small plates for Cooke's editions of the poets and novelists, from drawings by Corbould, Thurston, and others; he also for a time practised miniature-painting, and exhibited portraits at the academy from 1797 to 1805. In 1801 Raimbach executed three plates, from designs by Smirke, for the Rev. E. Forster's edition of the ‘Arabian Nights.’ With the money thus earned he in the following year visited Paris, and stayed two months, studying the collection of masterpieces of art gathered there by Napoleon. After his return he engraved the illustrations designed by Smirke, for an edition of Johnson's ‘Rasselas,’ 1805, and did much similar work for Sharpe, Longman, and other publishers; for Forster's ‘British Gallery’ he executed several plates, including Reynolds's ‘Ugolino and his Sons.’ In 1805 he married, and went to reside in Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, where he remained until 1831; he then removed to Greenwich.

In 1812 Sir David Wilkie, who had quarrelled with his first engraver, John Burnet [q. v.], proposed to Raimbach that they should together undertake the production and publication of a series of large plates to be engraved by the latter from pictures by Wilkie, and the scheme was arranged on terms very favourable to Raimbach. The first result of this ‘joint-stock adventure’ was ‘The Village Politicians,’ published in 1814, a proof of which was exhibited at the Paris Salon and awarded a gold medal; this was followed by ‘The Rent Day,’ 1817; ‘The Cut Finger,’ 1819; ‘Blind Man's Buff,’ 1822; ‘The Errand Boy,’ 1825, and ‘Distraining for Rent,’ 1828. These Wilkie prints, upon which Raimbach's reputation mainly rests, are excellent translations of the original pictures, the mode of execution, if somewhat coarse and deficient in freedom, being well suited to the subjects; they are entirely by his own hand, no assistants having been employed on them. The first two were the most popular; the last, owing to the painful nature of the subject, proved a comparative failure. Raimbach subsequently engraved two other plates after Wilkie, ‘The Parish Beadle,’ 1834, and ‘The Spanish Mother,’ 1836. In 1824 and 1825 he paid further visits to Paris, where he was well received by the leading French engravers; in 1835 he was elected a corresponding member of the Institute of France. After Wilkie's death in 1841 the six plates which were the joint property of himself and Raimbach were sold with the stock of prints at Christie's.

Raimbach died at his house at Greenwich, of water on the chest, on 17 Jan. 1843, and was buried beside his parents at Hendon, Middlesex, where there is a mural tablet to his memory in the church. His ‘Memoirs and Recollections,’ written in 1836, were privately printed in 1843 by his son, Michael Thomson Scott Raimbach, who at his death in 1887 bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery an excellent portrait of his father, painted by Wilkie. Another son, David Wilkie, a godson of the painter, exhibited portraits at the academy from 1843 to 1855; he was for twenty years headmaster of the Birmingham school of art, and, until within a few weeks of his death, an examiner for the science and art department. He died 20 Feb. 1895, aged 74. A daughter exhibited miniatures at the academy between 1835 and 1855.

[Raimbach's Memoirs and Recollections, 1843; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1893; information from Rev. N. Mant; Times, 22 Feb. 1895.]

F. M. O'D.