Roberts, Thomas (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Roberts, Thomas

by Thomas Seccombe
Contains subarticle Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1760?–1826).

ROBERTS, THOMAS (1749?–1794?), artist, eldest son of John Roberts (1712–1796), architect of the town-hall and other public buildings in Waterford, by his wife, Mary Susannah (1716–1800), daughter of Major Francis Sautelle, of a family of Huguenot refugees, was born in Waterford about 1749. Major Sautelle served in William III's footguards at the Boyne, and settled in Waterford about 1690 (cf. Agnew, Protestant Exiles, 1874, ii. 208; Ulster Journal, vol. iv.). Having studied landscape under George Mullins [q. v.] and John Butts [q. v.], Roberts exhibited from 1773 with the Society of Artists in the Strand, his London address being 64 Margaret Street. Chiefly devoting himself to parklike landscape, and imitating the Dutch foliage pencilling with great skill, he was employed by the Duke of Leinster, Lord Powerscourt, and others of the Irish nobility to depict their country seats. His silvery tints were finely reproduced by Thomas Milton [q. v.], who engraved Roberts's ‘Lucan’ and ‘Beau Park’ for his ‘Views of Seats in Ireland’ (1783). Many of his pieces are at Carton, the Duke of Leinster's seat, and at Powerscourt. Having contracted phthisis, owing, it is said, to irregular habits, Roberts sailed for Lisbon to try the effects of a warmer climate, but died there soon after his arrival, about 1794.

His younger brother, Thomas Sautelle Roberts (1760?–1826), born at Waterford about 1760, was originally articled to Thomas Ivory (d. 1786), architect of the Bluecoat Hospital, and for some years master of the architectural school of the Royal Dublin Society; but on the completion of his articles he was drawn to landscape-painting, and followed his brother to London, where he exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy regularly from 1789 to 1811. He exhibited once more in 1818, after which his name does not ap- pear in the academy catalogues, though he sent a few landscapes to the British Institution. He was latterly engaged upon views of the cities of Ireland, some of which have been engraved. In 1820 he was elected, in conjunction with William Ashford and William Cuming, by the general body of Irish painters to nominate the first constituent members of the Royal Hibernian Academy, which obtained its charter in 1823. Shortly afterwards he met with a stage-coach accident, which induced nervous debility, and he died by his own hand in Dublin in 1826. Six of his pictures hang in the council-room of the Royal Hibernian Academy (Catalogues). One of Roberts's landscapes, with a river and cattle, was purchased for the National Gallery of Ireland in 1877 (Cat. 1890, No. 116). A watercolour drawing of St. John's, Kilkenny, is preserved in the South Kensington Museum.

Another brother, John Roberts (d. 1815), rector of Kill St. Nicholas, Waterford, was father of Sir Abraham Roberts [q. v.]

[Burke's Peerage, s.v. ‘Roberts of Kandahar;’ Redgrave's Dict. of Artists, p. 361; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; Anthony Pasquin's Artists of Ireland, pp. 7–8; Waterford Archæological Soc. Journal, April and July 1896; notes kindly supplied by Walter Armstrong, esq.]

T. S.