Humphry, Ozias (DNB00)

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HUMPHRY, OZIAS (1742–1810), portrait-painter, son of John Humphry and Elizabeth Upcott his wife, was born at Honiton 8 Sept. 1742. He was educated at the grammar school there, and at an early age was sent to London, where he studied for two years at the St. Martin's Lane academy and the Duke of Richmond's gallery in Privy Gardens. He returned to Honiton on the death of his father and practised portrait-painting for a short time at Exeter, and in 1762 went to Bath, where he lodged with the Linleys, and was articled to Samuel Collins, the miniature-painter. The latter retired to Dublin in the following year, and Humphry came again to London, where, encouraged and assisted by Reynolds, he settled, and became a member of the Society of Artists. A miniature of John Mealing the model, which he exhibited with the society in 1766, was purchased by the king, who commissioned him to paint the queen and other members of his family. Thenceforth Humphry took a leading place in the profession. The Duke of Dorset was one of his earliest patrons, and gave him much employment throughout his career. In 1768 he took a house in King Street, Covent Garden. After making unsuccessful suit for the hand of Miss Paine, daughter of the architect, who became the wife of Tilly Kettle [q.v.], he left England for Italy with his friend Romney in March 1773. He was absent four years, visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples, where he studied from the antique and made copies of celebrated pictures. On his return to London in 1777 he established himself in Rathbone Place; in August of that year Dr. Wolcot ('Peter Pindar') addressed some eulogistic verses to him (see Notes and Queries, 5th ser. iv. 5); and in October John Opie, then a lad of fifteen, applied in vain for employment in his studio. For the next few years Humphry painted life-sized portraits in oils. He was elected A.R.A. in 1779, and in that and the next year exhibited at the Royal Academy; but, finding himself unable to compete successfully with other artists in that line, by the advice of Sir Robert Strange he went to India in 1785. There he became intimate with Warren Hastings and Sir William Jones, and, resuming miniature-painting, visited the courts of several native princes, where he earned large sums; but ill-health necessitated his return home in 1788, and he took a house in St. James's Street. Some portraits which he exhibited in the following year revived his old reputation, and in 1791 he was elected a Royal Academician. While he was engaged in executing for the Duke of Dorset a series of miniatures from family portraits at Knole to decorate a cabinet, his eyesight gave way, and, compelled to abandon miniature work, he turned to crayon drawing. At Knole there is a portrait of the Duke of Dorset, which is inscribed on the back, 'The first portrait in crayons painted by Ozias Humphry, R. A.; it was begun in May and finished early in June 1791.' Humphry quickly became one of the ablest workers in crayons. In 1792 he was appointed portrait-painter in crayons to the king, but in 1797, while in the full tide of success, his eyesight totally failed, and the portraits of the Prince and Princess of Orange, exhibited in that year, were the last he drew. The remainder of his life was passed in seclusion, and he died in Thornhaugh Street 9 March 1810. He was buried in the ground behind St. James's chapel in the Hampstead Road. A friendly notice of him by John Taylor appeared in the 'Sun' after his death.

Humphry stands in the front rank of English miniaturists, and his works have always been admired for their simplicity and refinement, correct draughtsmanship, and monious colouring; the same qualities appear in his crayon portraits, and his works in oil are clever, with much of Sir Joshua's feeling. Humphry was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and a member of the academies of Venice, Florence, and Parma. He was unmarried, but, by a young woman named Delly Wickens, daughter of a shopkeeper at Oxford, was the father of the celebrated collector William Upcott [q. v.], who was born in 1779; to him he bequeathed many of his finest works, which at Upcott's death in 1845 passed to his friend Mr. Charles Hampden Turner of Rook's Nest, Godstone. These were lent to the 1865 miniature exhibition at South Kensington, and are still in the possession of Mr. Turner's family. The National Portrait Gallery possesses crayon portraits by Humphry of Charles, third earl Stanhope, and Joseph Strutt; of his work in oils the portraits of Lord Mulgrave at Greenwich and John Belchier at the College of Surgeons are examples. His portraits of the Duke of Dorset, Mr. Fulke Greville, Signora Bacelli, Kitty Frederick, and many others have been engraved. In 1783 he made for Edmund Malone a drawing of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, which was engraved by Charles Knight for Malone's edition of Shakespeare, 1790. Humphry was a staunch friend and admirer of Blake, who coloured many of his illustrated books for him, and at his suggestion the Countess of Egremont gave Blake the commission for one of his most elaborate drawings of the Last Judgment. Some of Humphry's sketchbooks of eastern drawings are in the Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 15958-65.

There is a fine portrait of Humphry at Knole, painted by Romney in 1772, which has been engraved in mezzotinto by Valentine Green, and in stipple by Caroline Watson; an enamel copy from this by Henry Bone, R.A., is the property of Miss Abbott of Exmouth. Two other portraits, drawn by P. Falconet and G. Dance, were engraved by D. P. Pariset and W. Daniell. In the print room of the British Museum is a crayon portrait of him by himself, and one in pencil, at the age of sixty-one, by Henry Edridge.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760-1880; Hobbes's Picture Collectors' Manual; Taylor's Records of my Life, ed. 1832 i. 256, &c.; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy; J. T. Smith's Nollekens and his Times; Gent. Mag. 1810, p. 378; Gilchrist's Life of Blake; Prior's Life of E. Malone; Upcott Papers in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 21113; information from Winslow Jones, esq.]

F. M. O'D.