Ewbank, John W. (DNB00)

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EWBANK, JOHN W. (1799?–1847), painter, born at Gateshead, Durham, in or about 1799, was adopted when a child by a wealthy uncle who lived at Wycliffe, on the banks of the Tees, Yorkshire. Being designed for the Roman catholic priesthood, he was sent to Ushaw College, from which he absconded, and in 1813 bound himself apprentice to T. Coulson, an ornamental painter in Newcastle. So strong had become his love for art that on removing with his master to Edinburgh, he was allowed to study under Alexander Nasmyth. His talents soon procured him practice both as a painter and a teacher. The freedom and truth of his sketches from nature were especially admired; and a series of drawings of Edinburgh by him, fifty-one in number, were engraved by W. H. Lizars for Dr. James Browne's ‘Picturesque Views of Edinburgh,’ fol. 1825. His reputation, however, will be found to rest mainly upon his cabinet pictures of banks of rivers, coast scenes, and marine subjects. About 1829 he essayed works of a more ambitious character, and was nominated in 1830 one of the foundation members of the Royal Scottish Academy. He painted ‘The Visit of George IV to Edinburgh,’ ‘The Entry of Alexander the Great into Babylon,’ and ‘Hannibal crossing the Alps,’ all works of much ability, yet by no means equal to his landscapes. A ‘View of Edinburgh from Inchkeith,’ which belongs to this period, exhibits higher qualities of excellence. Ewbank was now at the height of his reputation; in one year his labours, it is said, brought him the handsome sum of 2,500l. But he suddenly gave way to habitual intoxication, his wife and children were reduced to want, and he himself became the tenant of a miserable cellar. During the last twelve years of his life his pictures were frequently painted in the taproom of an alehouse, or in his own wretched abode, ‘where,’ writes one who knew him well, ‘a solitary chair and a pile or two of bricks formed the only articles in the shape of furniture to be seen—the window-sill serving for his easel. They were generally painted on tin, within an hour or two, and sold on the instant, wet and unvarnished, for sixpence or a shilling, which was immediately spent in ministering to his sensual gratifications.’ He died of typhus fever in the infirmary at Edinburgh, 28 Nov. 1847. Few of his pictures have been exhibited in London.

[The Art Union (1848), x. 51; Gent. Mag. new ser. xxix. 668; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists (1878), p. 146.]

G. G.