Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Heaphy, Thomas (1813-1873)

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HEAPHY, THOMAS, the younger (1813–1873), portrait and subject painter, eldest son of Thomas Heaphy the elder [q. v.], by his first wife, Mary Stevenson, was born at St. John's Wood, London, 2 April 1813. In 1831, when a lad of seventeen, Heaphy accompanied his father on a visit to Italy, where he acquired a knowledge of the language and cultivated a taste for religious art, for which he always retained a strong predilection. Adopting his father's profession, he commenced life as a portrait-painter, and for many years enjoyed an extensive patronage. He exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1831, and in 1850 sent his first subject picture, ‘The Infant Pan educated by the Wood Nymphs.’ Among his most successful works which followed were ‘Catherine and Bianca’ (1853), a series of peasant girls of various countries (1859–62), ‘Kepler mistaken for an Astrologer’ (1863), ‘Palissy the Potter taken for a Coiner’ (1864), ‘Lord Burleigh showing his Peasant Bride her new Home’ (1865), and ‘Lizzie Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, waiting at the Prison Bars with her Father's Breakfast’ (1872). In 1867 he sent to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists ‘General Fairfax and his Daughter pursued by the Royal Troops,’ and in that year was elected a member of the society. In 1844 he was commissioned to paint an altar-piece for the protestant church at Malta, erected at the expense of Queen Adelaide, and he also executed one for a church at Toronto, Canada. He devoted much time to investigating the origin of the traditional likeness of Christ; in the pursuit of this inquiry he travelled widely. At Rome he made careful drawings of everything illustrating the subject to which he could obtain access in the Catacombs and Vatican Library. He has given an interesting account of his difficulties in procuring the necessary permissions for this purpose. His last journey to Rome was made in 1860, and in the following year he published the result of his labours in a series of eight articles in the ‘Art Journal.’ The papers with the necessary illustrations were not reissued till 1880, seven years after his death, when they were brought out in a folio volume under the editorship of his friend Mr. Wyke Bayliss, F.S.A., with the title ‘The Likeness of Christ; an Enquiry into the verisimilitude of the received Likeness of our Blessed Lord.’ A cheap reprint has since been issued by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The original drawings are now in the print room of the British Museum. Heaphy possessed considerable literary ability, and contributed articles on various subjects to the periodical press; among them ‘A Night in the Catacombs’ (‘St. James's Magazine,’ 1861), ‘The Beggar Saint’ (‘Once a Week,’ 1862), and ‘Mr. H——'s Own Narrative’ (‘All the Year Round,’ 1861); the last tale attracted great attention, and was subsequently republished in a separate form under the title ‘A Wonderful Ghost Story,’ with letters from Charles Dickens to the author on the subject. During the last four years of his life, when ill-health kept him much indoors, he painted a series of types of foreign beauty, and wrote accounts of them in various publications. At an early period Heaphy assumed the additional christian name ‘Frank,’ with the view of thereby distinguishing his works from those of his father, but dropped it before 1850. He died in South Belgravia, 7 Aug. 1873. In 1842 he married Eliza Bradstreet, daughter of Joseph Bradstreet, of the family of Little Wenham, Suffolk, by whom he had many children.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Athenæum, No. 2390, 16 Aug. 1873; Art Journal, 1873, p. 308; information from the family.]

F. M. O'D.