Kirkall, Elisha (DNB00)

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KIRKALL, ELISHA (1682?–1742), engraver, born at Sheffield in Yorkshire about 1682, was son of a locksmith, from whom he learnt to work and engrave on metal. Walpole, Redgrave, and others erroneously give him the christian name of Edward. About 1702 he came to London, where he was employed ‘to grave arms, ornaments, etch and cut stamps in hard mettal for printing in books for several years’ (see Vertue in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 23076). He also studied drawing in the new academy in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. He married early in life, as appears from his trade card, preserved in the print room of the British Museum (reproduction in Linton's ‘Masters of Wood-engraving’), which bears the names of Mr. Elisha and Mrs. Elizabeth Kirkall, and the date 31 Aug. 1707. This card was cut in relief on metal, and not on wood, as sometimes stated. Kirkall has been classed (see Chatto and Jackson's Treatise on Wood-engraving) as a wood-engraver, and credited with the revival of the art in the eighteenth century. He is also claimed as the first exponent in England of the white-line intaglio manner of wood-engraving, afterwards brought to such perfection by Thomas Bewick [q. v.] It is very doubtful, however, whether he engraved on wood at all. He engraved the copperplate frontispiece to W. Howell's ‘Medulla Historiæ Anglicanæ’ (1712), the plates for Maittaire's edition of the works of Terence (1713), for the translation of Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses’ (Tonson & Watts, 1717), and for Rowe's translation of Lucan's ‘Pharsalia’ (1718). Certain cuts in Maittaire's edition of ‘Sallust’ (1713) and Dryden's ‘Plays’ (Tonson & Watts, 1717), usually described as on wood and assigned to Kirkall, appear to be on metal. The attribution to him of the woodcuts in Croxall's edition of ‘Æsop's Fables’ (1722) rests on surmise only (see Linton, loc. cit.) Some of the copperplates engraved by Kirkall show both artistic merit and technical skill. He is better known for his mezzotint engravings, frequently printed in green ink, and occasionally in a variety of colours. In this manner he published by subscription sixteen views of shipping by William Van de Velde the younger, the seven cartoons of Raphael, three hunting scenes by J. E. Ridinger, &c. In 1722 he introduced a new method of chiaroscuro engraving, produced by adding fresh tints to the coloured mezzotint engravings by the superimposition of wood blocks in the manner of the early Italian chiaroscuro engravers. In this method he produced a copy of Ugo da Carpi's chiaroscuro engraving of ‘Æneas and Anchises,’ after Raphael, and a number of reproductions of drawings by Italian masters. A collection of these is in the print room at the British Museum. He also engraved in a similar manner a portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, by John Closterman [q. v.], in an architectural frame designed by Henry Cook [q. v.], and a portrait of Dr. William Stukeley the antiquary, for whose antiquarian works he likewise engraved some ordinary copperplates. He continued to engrave plates for the booksellers, among others for Oldsworth and others' translation of Homer's ‘Iliad’ (B. Lintot, 1734), Pope's translation of the same work (B. Lintot, 1736), and the plates to an edition of Inigo Jones's ‘Stonehenge’ (1725). A portrait by Kirkall of Eliza Haywood [q. v.], prefixed to her ‘Works’ in 1724, earned for him a couplet in Pope's ‘Dunciad.’ Early in 1732 William Hogarth published his famous set of engravings, ‘The Harlot's Progress.’ As there was no legal protection at the time, they were quickly pirated, Kirkall being first in the field with a set of free copies in mezzotint, printed in green, and published at his house in Dockwell's Court, Whitefriars, in November 1732. Among other engravings by Kirkall may be noted a portrait of Senesino the singer, in mezzotint, after J. Goupy, thirty plates of flowers after Van Huysum, and some plates of shipping after T. Baston. He died in Whitefriars in December 1742, leaving a son, aged about twenty-two.

[Vertue's MSS. (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 23071, 23076, 23079); Dodd's manuscript History of English Engravers (ib. 33402); Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Austin Dobson's William Hogarth, 1891; The Portfolio, xv. 2; authorities mentioned in the text.]

L. C.