Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gilpin, Sawrey
GILPIN, SAWREY (1733–1807), animal painter, born at Carlisle 30 Oct. 1733, was seventh child of Captain John Bernard Gilpin and Matilda Langstaffe, his wife, and younger brother of the Rev. William Gilpin [q. v.] He learnt drawing as a child from his father, and as he showed an early predilection for the profession of an artist his father sent him to London at the age of fourteen, and placed him with Samuel Scott [q. v.], the marine painter, who then resided in Covent Garden. Gilpin, however, found greater diversion in sketching the market carts and horses than in his master's line of art, and it soon became evident that animals, and especially horses, were the most appropriate subject for his abilities. He left Scott in 1758, and devoted himself to animal painting from that time. Some of Gilpin's sketches were shown to the Duke of Cumberland, who was very much struck with them, and employed Gilpin to draw from his stud at Newmarket and at Windsor, where the duke was ranger of the Great Park. He afforded Gilpin considerable material assistance in his profession. Subsequently Gilpin resided at Knightsbridge for some years. He became one of the best painters of horses that the country has produced, and was nearly as successful in other delineations of animal life. He sometimes attempted historical pictures on a larger scale in which horses were prominent, but with rather less success. He was an animal painter only, and required the assistance of others to paint the landscapes and figures in his pictures; for the former he had frequently the assistance of George Barret the elder, R.A. [q. v.], to whom he gave similar service in return, and for the latter he had recourse sometimes to John Zoffany, R.A. [q. v.], and Philip Reinagle [q. v.] Gilpin first appears as an exhibitor with the Incorporated Society of Artists in 1762, and exhibited there, chiefly pictures of horses, up to 1783. In 1768, 1770, 1771, he exhibited a series of pictures illustrating ‘Gulliver's visit to the Houyhnhnms,’ one of which was engraved in mezzotint by V. Green; in 1770 a drawing of ‘Darius gaining the Persian Empire by the neighing of his horse;’ in 1771 ‘The Duke of Cumberland visiting his stud (with a view of Windsor Castle from the Great Park, by W. Marlow).’ In 1773 he became a director of the society, and in 1774 president. In 1786 he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and continued an exhibitor till his death. In November 1789 he missed being elected an associate by the casting vote of the president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, in favour of J. Bonomi. He was, however, elected an associate in 1795, and royal academician in 1797. Many of his pictures of horses, dogs, and sporting scenes have been engraved, notably ‘The Death of the Fox’ (Royal Academy, 1788), finely engraved by John Scott, and ‘Heron-Hawking’ (Soc. of Artists, 1780), engraved by T. Morris. After losing his wife Gilpin resided for some time with his friend Samuel Whitbread in Bedfordshire. He subsequently returned to London, and spent his declining years with his daughters at Brompton, where he died 8 March 1807, in his seventy-fourth year. Gilpin also executed some etchings of horses and cattle, and contributed numerous drawings for the illustration of his brother's (the Rev. W. Gilpin) published and unpublished works. His portrait is in the series of drawings by G. Dance, engraved by W. Daniell. His son, William Sawrey Gilpin, is separately noticed.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. R. E. Graves; Redgraves' Century of Painters, i. 350; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy, i. 310; Seguier's Dict. of Painters; Gilpin's Memoirs of Dr. R. Gilpin; Catalogues of the Royal Academy and Society of Artists.]