Sharples, James (1750?-1811) (DNB00)

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SHARPLES or SHARPLESS, JAMES (1750?–1811), portrait-painter, born about 1750 in England, of a Roman catholic family, was educated in France for the priesthood, but became a painter. From 1779 to 1785 he was an occasional exhibitor of portraits at the Royal Academy, residing in Cambridge. After marriage and the birth of a family he decided to remove to America. On the voyage his ship was taken by the French, and Sharples and his family were detained as prisoners for some months. About 1796 he landed in New York, where he seems to have been known as Sharpless. Sharples usually painted small portraits in profile, mostly executed in pastels. He drew at Philadelphia in 1796 a small profile portrait of George Washington from the life. This he and his wife often copied. A copy by his wife is in the National Portrait Gallery with a similar portrait of Dr. Priestley. Sharples used to travel about the country with his wife and family in a caravan of his own construction and design. He died at New York 6 Feb. 1811, aged about sixty, and was buried in the Roman catholic cemetery there. He left a widow, two sons, and a daughter. His elder son, Felix Sharples, remained in America, where he practised as an artist, and died in North Carolina. His widow, Mrs. Ellen Sharples (d. 1849), after her husband's death, returned with her younger son, James Sharples (d. 1839), and her daughter, Rolinda Sharples (see below), to England. They resided for some little time in London, and all three occasionally exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy. Eventually they settled at Bristol Hot-Wells, where they continued to practise their art. Mrs. Sharples, who survived her whole family, in 1845 gave 2,000l. towards the foundation of an academy for the promotion of the fine arts at Bristol, which, after her death in March 1849, was supplemented by a bequest of 3,465l. From these sums was erected the present Bristol Academy, which contains samples of paintings by various members of the Sharples family.

Rolinda Sharples (d. 1838), who was an honorary member of the Society of British Artists, painted some works on a larger scale, such as ‘The Trial of the Bristol Rioters’ (1832) and ‘Clifton Racecourse’ (1836), each picture containing a number of small portraits. She died at Bristol on 10 Feb. 1838.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Dunlap's Hist. of the Arts of Design in the United States; Baker's Engraved Portraits of Washington; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1893; information from Robert Hall Warren, esq.]

L. C.