Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smart, John

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SMART, JOHN (1741–1811), miniature-painter, was born near Norwich on 1 May 1741, and obtained a premium from the Society of Arts for a chalk drawing in 1755. He became a pupil of Daniel Dodd [q. v.], and also studied at Shipley's academy in St. Martin's Lane. One of his best friends was Richard Cosway [q. v.], whose studio Smart seems at one time to have frequented. Cosway alludes to him often in his letters as ‘little John,’ ‘faithful John,’ or ‘good little John,’ and he is one of the few painters whom Cosway commends, though he found him ‘slow and a bit washy.’ Smart was an early member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, to the exhibitions of which he contributed from 1762 to 1783; in 1773, and again in 1783, he was a director of the society, and in 1778 was elected vice-president. Smart exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1784, and soon after went to India, where he practised for some years with great success in Madras and other cities. He returned to England before 1797, in which year he reappeared at the academy, sending a portrait of the nabob of Arcot; he continued to exhibit regularly until his death, which took place at his residence in Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, London, on 1 May 1811. Smart's miniatures are of extremely fine quality, unsurpassed for beauty of colour and delicacy of finish; he usually signed them with his initials, J. S., adding the letter I to those executed in India. His portraits of the Prince of Wales, Lord Amherst, Sir Henry Clinton, Sir Henry Boyd, Sir John Taylor, bart., and others, were engraved. Smart had a son John, who also practised as a miniaturist, and was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy up to 1808; in that year he went to India, and he died at Madras on 1 May 1809.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Cat. of Miniature Exhibition at Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1889; Gent. Mag. 1810, i. 593; Williamson's Eighteenth Century Miniaturists, p. 49 (and note kindly supplied by the author); Exhibition Catalogues.]

F. M. O'D.