Newton, Gilbert Stuart (DNB00)

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NEWTON, GILBERT STUART (1794–1835), painter and royal academician, born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 20 Sept. 1794, was twelfth child and youngest son of Henry Newton, collector of his majesty's customs at that place, and Ann, his wife, daughter of Gilbert Stuart, snuff manufacturer at Boston (U. S.), of Scottish descent, and sister to Gilbert Stuart [q. v.] the portrait painter. Newton's parents had quitted Boston after the evacuation by the British troops in 1776, but on the death of his father in 1803 his mother returned with her family to Charleston, near Boston. Newton was intended for a commercial career, but, having a taste for painting, was instructed and brought up as a pupil by his uncle, Gilbert Stuart. On reaching manhood Newton, who did not agree well with his uncle, came to Europe with an elder brother, and studied painting at Florence. In 1817 he visited Paris on his way to England and there met Charles Robert Leslie [q. v.] the painter, with whom he formed a friendship which lasted through life. After visiting the Netherlands Newton came with Leslie to London, and entered as a student at the Royal Academy. He first exhibited there in 1818, sending portraits in that and the five following years, including one of Washington Irving, with whom he had become acquainted through Leslie. In 1823 he exhibited at the royal academy 'Don Quixote in his Study,' the first of the elegant and humorous subject-pictures drawn from poetry or romance with which his name was subsequently identified. It was followed by 'M. de Pourceaugnac, or the Patient in Spite of Himself (1824), 'The Dull Lecture ' (1825), and ' Captain Macheath upbraided by Polly and Lucy' (1826); this last picture was purchased by the Marquis of Lansdowne, who also has at Bowood 'The Vicar of Wakefield reconciling his Wife to Olivia' (1828) and 'Polly Peachum.' Two pictures, 'The Forsaken' and 'The Lover's Quarrel,' were engraved in 'The Literary Souvenir' for 1826, with verses by Miss L. E. Landon; the latter was in the Dover House collection, and, with 'The Adieu' and another picture by Newton, was sold at Christie's on 6 May 1893. 'The Prince of Spain's Visit to Catalina' (1827) was purchased by the Duke of Bedford and engraved in 'The Literary Souvenir' for 1831. Two pictures by Newton, 'Yorick and the Grisette ' (1830) and 'The Window or the Dutch Girl' (1829), were purchased by Mr. Vernon and passed with his collection to the National Gallery; a third, 'Portia and Bassanio' (1831), forms part of the Sheepshanks collection in the South Kensington Museum.

Newton painted numerous other pictures, which found immediate purchasers, and were nearly all engraved. Among them may be noted 'Lear, Cordelia, and the Physician' (Lord Ashburton), 'Abbot Boniface' (Earl of Essex), 'The Duenna ' (royal collection), and 'The Importunate Author.' He painted several portraits, including those of Thomas Moore, Sir Walter Scott, and Lady Theresa Lister. Of tall stature and good presence, with engaging if somewhat affected manners, he was popular in society, and his conversation was often notable for its wit. He revisited America for a short time and there married, returning to England with his wife. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1829 and an academician in 1832. Soon after his election to the Academy his mind showed signs of failing, and he had to be placed in an asylum at Chelsea. He continued to paint there, but never recovered the use of his mental faculties, although they returned to a certain extent before his death, which was hastened by consumption, at Chelsea on 5 Aug. 1835. He was buried in Wimbledon churchyard. His wife had returned to America with her child a few months before, and subsequently remarried. Newton's pictures, though they are not free from the affectations of the period, have considerable refinement and individuality. They are more remarkable for colour than correctness of drawing, and have suffered from a too frequent use of asphaltum. In 1842 a collection of engravings from his pictures was published with notices by Henry Murray, F.S.A., entitled 'The Gems of Stuart Newton, R.A.'

[Dunlap's Hist, of the Arts of Design in the United States; Art Journal, 1864, p. 13; Gent. Mag. 1835, pt. ii. p. 438 ; Taylor's Life of C. R. Leslie, B.A.]

L. C.