Skelton, William (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52
Skelton, William

by Freeman Marius O'Donoghue
Contains subarticle Joseph Skelton (fl. 1820–1850).

SKELTON, WILLIAM (1763–1848), engraver, was born in London on 14 June 1763. He studied in the schools of the Royal Academy, and was a pupil first of James Basire [see under Basire, Isaac, (1704–1768)], and later of William Sharp [q. v.] He became an engraver in the line manner, and was employed upon the illustrations of many of the fine publications of the day, notably Boydell's ‘Shakespeare,’ Macklin's Bible, Bowyer's edition of Hume's ‘History of England,’ Sharpe's ‘British Classics,’ ‘Lord Macartney's Embassy to China,’ 1797, the ‘Museum Worsleyanum,’ ‘Ancient Marbles in the British Museum,’ and ‘Specimens of Ancient Sculpture’ published by the Dilettanti Society, 1810. Skelton is best known by his many fine portraits of contemporary notabilities, chiefly from pictures by Beechey, the majority of which he published himself between 1790 and 1820; these include a series of George III and his sons, which became extremely popular; Robert Markham, D.D., 1790; Thomas Denman, M.D., 1792; Jean F. Lamarche, bishop of Leon, 1797; Henry, lord Mulgrave, 1808; Spencer Perceval, 1813; and Warren Hastings, 1817. One of his latest plates was a portrait of the queen of Würtemberg after P. Fischer, which he issued in 1828. Skelton executed in lithography portraits of himself and Sir W. Beechey. He resided for many years at Stafford Place, Pimlico, London, and afterwards in Upper Ebury Street, where he died on 13 Aug. 1848, having long previously retired from the profession. He was a man of great benevolence, and for fifty years served on the committee of the Female Orphan Asylum.

Joseph Skelton (fl. 1820–1850), brother of the above, was born in 1781 or 1782, and became an engraver exclusively of topographical and antiquarian subjects. Before 1819 he went to reside at Oxford, where he published ‘Oxonia Antiqua Illustrata,’ 1823; ‘Antiquities of Oxfordshire,’ from drawings by F. Mackenzie, 1823; ‘Pietas Oxoniensis, or Records of Oxford Founders,’ 1828; and ‘Engraved Illustrations of Antient Arms and Armour from the Collection at Goodrich Court from the Drawings, and with the Descriptions of Dr. Meyrick,’ 2 vols. 1830. He also engraved the heading to the Oxford almanacks for the years 1815 to 1831, from drawings by F. Mackenzie and C. Wild; and executed a set of fifty-six etchings of the antiquities of Bristol after H. O'Neill. Later Skelton settled in France, where he engraved many of the plates to Gavard's ‘Galeries Historiques de Versailles,’ 1836; Vatout's ‘Le Château d'Eu,’ 1844; and Girault's ‘Les Beautés de la France,’ 1850. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1825, but his name disappeared from the lists in 1844.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Stanley; Dodd's manuscript Hist. of Engravers in Brit. Mus. (Addit. MS. 33404); Gent. Mag. 1849, i. 324; Universal Cat. of Books on Art.]

F. M. O'D.