Downman, John (DNB00)

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DOWNMAN, JOHN (d. 1824), portrait and subject painter, was born (date unknown) in Devonshire, and studied for a time in London under Benjamin West, P.R.A., and afterwards in the Royal Academy Schools, in 1769. In 1777 he resided at Cambridge, but returned to London, contributing regularly to various exhibitions. In 1795 he was elected an associate; he then lived in Leicester Square. In 1806 Downman visited Plymouth; between 1807 and 1808 he practised at Exeter, and after again working in London for some years, settled at Chester in 1818–1819, and died at Wrexham, Denbighshire, 24 Dec. 1824, leaving many of his paintings and drawings to his only daughter. He also left two sons and was uncle of Sir Thomas Downman [q. v.] He exhibited in the Royal Academy, between 1769 and 1819, 148 works, both portraits and fancy subjects, as ‘Rosalind,’ painted for the Shakespeare Gallery; ‘The Death of Lucretia;’ ‘The Priestess of Bacchus;’ ‘Tobias ;’ ‘Fair Rosamond;’ ‘The Return of Orestes;’ ‘Duke Robert,’ &c. His first work at the Royal Academy (1769) was No. 377, ‘A small portrait in oil,’ and the last (1819), No. 622, ‘A late Princess personifying Peace crowning the glory of England—reflected on Europe, 1815.’ In 1884 the trustees of the British Museum acquired, by purchase, a volume containing numerous coloured drawings by Downman, among which are the following portraits, now separately mounted:—Miss Abbott, 1793; Charlotte Downman, mother of the artist; sketches of Mrs. Larkins's family; the Hon. Captain Hugh Conway, 1781; sketch for Lady Henry Osborne and son; Mrs. Wells; Mrs. Drew of Exeter; Miss Bulteel, 1781; Mrs. Byfield, 1792; Lady C. Maria Waldegrave, 1790; and Mrs. Downman (the last was engraved by H. Landseer in 1805). At Burleigh Court there are three or four volumes of drawings by Downman, executed in red and black chalk, of which Ralph Neville Grenville published a catalogue, privately printed at Taunton in 1865. Portraits in miniature size by Downman may be found not unfrequently in the country houses of Devon; some good specimens are at Sir John Duntze's residence, Exeleigh, Starcross; at the mansion of Mr. Henn Gennys, Plymouth, and at Escot, the seat of Sir John H. Kennaway, bart. In 1780 Bartolozzi engraved after him a portrait of Mrs. Montagu, in profile to the left; and in 1797 one of the Duchess of Devonshire, for the scenery at Richmond House Theatre. His portrait of Miss Kemble (afterwards Mrs. Siddons) was engraved by J. Jones in 1784.

[Redgrave's Dict.; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xii. 297; Pycroft's Art in Devonshire, 1883; G. C. Williamson's John Downman, 1907.]

L. F.