Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Newton, William John

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NEWTON, Sir WILLIAM JOHN (1785–1869), miniature-painter, born in London in 1785, was son of James Newton the engraver, and was nephew of William Newton (1735–1790) [q. v.] The father, born on 2 Nov. 1748, engraved many plates for his brother William's translation of ‘Vitruvius,’ and the portrait of the translator is by him. As an engraver he worked both in line and stipple, and engraved some mythological subjects after Claude Lorraine, M. Ricci, and Zuccarelli, besides a few portraits. He resided in Thornhaugh Street, Bedford Square, London. He died about 1804.

The son, William John, commenced his career as an engraver, and executed a few plates, including a portrait of Joseph Richardson, M.P., after Shee, but turning early to miniature-painting he became one of the most fashionable artists of his day. He was a constant contributor to the Academy exhibitions from 1808 to 1863, and for many years his only rival was Sir William Ross. In 1831 he was appointed miniature-painter in ordinary to William IV and Queen Adelaide, and from 1837 to 1858 held the same office under Queen Victoria. He was knighted in 1837. Newton devised a plan for joining several pieces of ivory to form a large surface, and was thereby enabled to paint some historical groups of unusual size. Three of these, ‘The Coronation of the Queen, 1838;’ ‘The Marriage of the Queen, 1840;’ and ‘The Christening of the Prince of Wales, 1842’— were lent to the Victorian Exhibition at the New Gallery in 1892. Many of his portraits have been engraved, including those of Dr. Lushington, Joanna Baillie, Sir Herbert Taylor, Joseph Hume, Lady Byron, Miss Paton the actress, and Lady Sophia Gresley. Though popular, Newton's art was of rather poor quality, weak in drawing and deficient in character, and he never obtained Academy honours. He long resided in Argyll Street, but after his retirement removed to 6 Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park, where he died 22 Jan. 1869. He married in 1822 Anne, daughter of Robert Faulder; she died in 1856. Some drawings by Newton, among them a portrait of himself, are in the print room of the British Museum. A collection of his works was sold at Christie's, 23 June 1890.

Newton's son, Harry Robert Newton, an architect, studied under Sydney Smirke, R.A.; he died in November 1889. His collection of drawings and manuscripts now belongs to the Institute of British Architects.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Art Journal, 1869, p. 84; Debrett's Peerage.]

F. M. O'D.