Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gascar, Henri

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GASCAR, HENRI (1635–1701), portrait-painter, born at Paris in 1635, came to England about 1674 in the train or at the invitation of Louise de Keroualle, duchess of Portsmouth. Gascar (or Gascard, as he seems to have spelt his name at first) was already known as a skilful portrait-painter; among the portraits already painted by him was that of N. de Lafond, known as ‘le gazetier Hollandais,’ painted in 1667, and engraved by P. Lombart. The patronage of the Duchess of Portsmouth insured Gascar a rapid success in England. He exceeded Lely in the simpering affectation shown by his portraits of the ladies of Charles II's court, and in the lavishness with which he concealed his artistic deficiencies by sumptuous draperies and tawdry adornments. For a short time he became the fashion, and he is said to have amassed a fortune of over 10,000l. Some time before 1680 he was shrewd enough to see that his success was merely due to a fashionable craze, and he retired to Paris before this had entirely ceased. Among the portraits painted by him during this time in England were Charles II (engraved by Vanderbank), Louise, duchess of Portsmouth (twice; once engraved by Baudet), Barbara, duchess of Cleveland, and her daughter, Barbara Fitzroy, Charles Lennox, duke of Richmond, Frances Stuart, duchess of Richmond, George Fitzroy, duke of Northumberland, Nell Gwyn, Sophia Bulkeley (engraved by Dunkarton), Edmund Verney, and Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke. It is stated that the last-named portrait was done by stealth for Louise, duchess of Portsmouth. A portrait by Gascar of James II as duke of York was in that king's collection (see Bathoe's catalogue). At Strawberry Hill there was a picture by Gascar apparently emblematic of the Restoration (see sale catalogue, twenty-second day, No. 95). On his return to Paris Gascar was elected a member of the academy there on 26 Oct. 1680. He subsequently went to Rome, where he enjoyed a high reputation, and died there 1 Jan. 1701, aged 66. About 1698 he painted a portrait of Joseph Ferdinand, the young son of Maximilian II, which was engraved at Munich by Zimmermann. A number of mezzotint engravings done from portraits by Gascar, but bearing no engraver's name, have been attributed to Gascar himself. There is no evidence that he really engraved them, but the inscriptions indicate the work of a foreigner. They are interesting as being among the earliest specimens of mezzotint engraving done in England.

[Dussieux's Artistes Français à l'Etranger; Mariette's Abecedario; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; De Piles' Lives of the Painters; Strutt's Dictionary of Engravers.]

L. C.