Robinson, John Henry (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, JOHN HENRY (1796–1871), line engraver, was born at Bolton, Lancashire, in 1796, and passed his boyhood in Staffordshire. At the age of eighteen he became a pupil of James Heath, A.R.A., with whom he remained a little more than two years. He was still a young man when, in 1823, he was commissioned to engrave for the Artists' Fund ‘The Wolf and the Lamb,’ the copyright of which had been given to that institution by the painter, William Mulready, R.A., who was one of its founders. The plate, for which the engraver received eight hundred guineas, proved a success; one thousand impressions were sold, and the fund was benefited to the extent of rather more than 900l. In 1824 Robinson sent to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists six engravings—‘The Abbey Gate, Chester,’ a ‘Gipsy,’ and four portraits, including that of Georgiana, duchess of Bedford, after Sir George Hayter, but he never exhibited again at that gallery. In the next few years he engraved many private portraits and illustrations for books, including ‘A Spanish Lady,’ after Gilbert Stuart Newton, R.A., for the ‘Literary Souvenir’ of 1827; ‘The Minstrel of Chamonix,’ after Henry W. Pickersgill, R.A., for the ‘Amulet’ of 1830; ‘The Flower Girl,’ after P. A. Gaugain, for the ‘Forget me not’ of 1830; and three plates, after Stothard, for Rogers's ‘Italy,’ 1830. He was one of the nine eminent engravers who, in 1836, petitioned the House of Commons for an investigation into the state of the art of engraving in this country, and who, with many other artists, in 1837, addressed a petition to the king praying for the admission of engravers to the highest rank in the Royal Academy—an act of justice which was not conceded until some years later. In 1856, however, Robinson was elected an ‘associate engraver of the new class,’ and in the following year lost his election as a full member only by the casting vote of the president, Sir Charles Eastlake, which was given in favour of George Thomas Doo; on the retirement of the latter in 1867 he was elected a royal academician. Among his more important works were ‘The Emperor Theodosius refused admission into the Church by St. Ambrose’ and a portrait of the Countess of Bedford, both after the pictures by Vandyck in the National Gallery; ‘James Stanley, Earl of Derby, and his Family,’ also after Vandyck; ‘The Spanish Flower Girl,’ after Murillo; ‘Napoleon and Pope Pius VII,’ after Sir David Wilkie; ‘Sir Walter Scott,’ after Sir Thomas Lawrence; ‘The Mother and Child,’ after Charles Robert Leslie, R.A.; ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (Lady Rachel Russell), ‘The Mantilla’ (Hon. Mrs. Lister, afterwards Lady Theresa Lewis), ‘Twelfth Night’ (Marchioness of Abercorn), and ‘Getting a Shot,’ all after Sir Edwin Landseer; ‘Queen Victoria,’ after John Partridge; ‘The Sisters,’ after F. P. Stephanoff; ‘Bon Jour, Messieurs,’ after Frank Stone, A.R.A.; and, lastly, his fine plate of Anne, countess of Bedford, after the celebrated picture by Vandyck at Petworth, upon which he worked from time to time whenever he felt disposed to use his graver. This chef d'œuvre of refined and delicate execution he sent to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1861, and again in 1864.

Besides the portraits already mentioned, he engraved those of George Bidder, the calculating boy, after Miss Hayter; Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia, after George Dawe, R.A.; Napoleon Bonaparte, when first consul, after Isabey; the Duke of Sussex, after Thomas Phillips, R.A.; Baron Bunsen, after George Richmond, R.A.; Lablache, after Thomas Carrick, and many others. He received a first-class gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition of 1855.

Robinson died at New Grove, Petworth, Sussex, where he had long resided, on 21 Oct. 1871, aged 75. Somewhat late in life he married a lady of property, which rendered him independent of his art, and enabled him to devote to his plates all the time and labour which he thought necessary to make them masterpieces of engraving. He was a justice of the peace for the county of Sussex and an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of the Fine Arts at St. Petersburg.

[Art Journal, 1871, p. 293; Athenæum, 1871, ii. 566; Illustrated London News, 3 Aug. 1867, with portrait; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886–9 ii. 392; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Pye's Patronage of British Art, 1845.]

R. E. G.