Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pine, Robert Edge

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PINE, ROBERT EDGE (1730–1788), painter, born in London in 1730, was son of John Pine [q. v.], the engraver, who probably gave him his first lessons in art. Robert soon devoted himself to history and portrait-painting, and obtained much success, especially in the latter branch of art. He painted portraits of numerous members of the theatrical profession, one of his earliest works being ‘Thomas Lowe and Mrs. Chambers as Captain Macheath and Polly,’ engraved in mezzotint by J. McArdell in 1752. He was a contributor to the first exhibition of the Society of Artists in 1760, sending ‘A Madwoman’ (a favourite subject of his), a full-length portrait of Mrs. Pritchard as Hermione, and a large painting of ‘The Surrender of Calais to Edward III.’ For the last picture he obtained the premium of one hundred guineas awarded for the first time by the Society of Arts (see Gent. Mag. 1760, p. 198), a success which he repeated in 1763 (ib. 1763) with ‘Canute rebuking his Courtiers on the Seashore.’ This he exhibited with the Society of Artists at the king of Denmark's exhibition in 1768. Both these pictures were engraved by F. Aliamet, and the former was purchased by the corporation of Newbury in Berkshire. He continued to exhibit with the Society of Artists, sending, among other portraits, one of Samuel Reddish as Posthumus (engraved in mezzotint by V. Green), and Mrs. Yates (whole length) as Medea (engraved in mezzotint by W. Dickinson), until 1771, when, in consequence of an insult by the president, he erased his name from the list of members, and in 1772 exhibited at the Royal Academy. He had hitherto resided in St. Martin's Lane, in a house opposite New Street, Covent Garden, and among his pupils was John Hamilton Mortimer [q. v.]; but on his brother Simon's death in 1772 at Bath, he went thither, and resided there for some years. He exhibited again at the Royal Academy in 1780, sending a portrait of Garrick, perhaps the one painted at Bath for Sir Richard Sullivan, and now in the National Portrait Gallery (engraved in mezzotint by W. Dickinson), and for the last time in 1784, when he sent portraits of Lord Amherst and the Duke of Norfolk, and a large painting of ‘Admiral Rodney in Action on board the Formidable,’ which, after various wanderings, has found a home in the town-hall at Kingston, Jamaica (see the Daily Gleaner, 2 Aug. 1893, and the Columbian Magazine, Kingston, for November 1797). Pine displayed a considerable amount of sympathy with Wilkes and the so-called patriots. He painted more than one portrait of Wilkes, which remain the most satisfactory likenesses of that demagogue, were engraved in mezzotint by W. Dickinson and J. Watson, and have been frequently copied. When Brass Crosby [q. v.], the lord mayor, and Aldermen Wilkes and Oliver were committed to the Tower in 1771, Pine visited them, and painted their portraits while in captivity, those of Crosby and Oliver being also engraved by W. Dickinson. Pine is said to have painted four portraits of Garrick, and a large allegorical composition of ‘Garrick reciting an Ode to Shakespeare,’ by Pine, was engraved in stipple by Caroline Watson. Pine painted a series of pictures to illustrate Shakespeare, and in 1782 held an exhibition of them in the Great Room at Spring Gardens, which was, however, by no means successful; some of these Shakespearean pictures were engraved by Caroline Watson and others. Among the numerous portraits painted by Pine before this date were a full-length of George II, painted from memory in 1759 (now at Audley End), and a full-length of the Duke of Northumberland for the Middlesex Hospital.

In 1783, after the declaration of independence by the States of America, Pine, not meeting with sufficient support in London, determined to go to America, in the hope of painting the portraits of the principal heroes of the American revolution, as well as commemorative historical pictures. He settled with his wife and children in Philadelphia, where she kept a drawing-school. Pine was furnished with an introduction to Francis Hopkinson, whose portrait was the first which he painted in America, and who gave him a letter of recommendation to George Washington. Pine painted Washington's portrait in 1785, and also others of the family at Mount Vernon, where he resided for three weeks. His portrait of Washington was engraved as a frontispiece to Washington Irving's ‘Life of Washington,’ and passed eventually into the possession of Mr. Henry Brevoort of Brooklyn, U.S. Pine obtained considerable employment as a portrait-painter in America, and painted several family groups. Robert Morris, George Read, and Thomas Stone were among his sitters, and a fine portrait of Mrs. John Jay belongs to her grandson, John Jay, of New York, U.S.A. Among the paraphernalia of his art which he took from England was a plaster cast of the Venus de' Medici, which he was obliged to keep enclosed in a box, it being the first specimen of a nude statue which had been seen in America. Pine died suddenly of apoplexy at Philadelphia on 18 Nov. 1788. He is described as a very small man, morbidly irritable. After his death his widow obtained leave from the legislature of Pennsylvania to dispose of his pictures by lottery. A large selection of his historical works were preserved in the Columbian Museum at Boston, U.S., where they were seen and studied by the painter, Washington Allston, when young, who said that he was much influenced by Pine's colouring. They all, however, perished when that institution was burned.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Edwards's Anecd. of Painting; Dunlap's Hist. of the Arts of Design in the United States; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biogr.; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Baker's Engraved Portraits of Washington; Catalogues of the Soc. of Artists and Royal Academy.]

L. C.