Rooker, Michael (DNB00)

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ROOKER, MICHAEL, commonly called Michael Angelo Rooker (1743–1801), engraver and painter in watercolours, son of Edward Rooker [q. v.], was born in 1743. He was taught engraving by his father and drawing by Paul Sandby [q. v.] at the St. Martin's Lane school and at the Royal Academy. It was Sandby who called him Michael Angelo Rooker in jest, but the name stuck to him. In 1765 he exhibited some ‘stained’ drawings at the exhibition in Spring Gardens, and in 1768 a print by him of the ‘Villa Adriana,’ after Wilson, was published. In 1770 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. In 1772 he exhibited a painting of Temple Bar, and he contributed some illustrations to an edition of Sterne, published that year. Most of the landscapes in Kearsley's ‘Copperplate Magazine’ (1775–1777) were engraved by him, as well as a few plates in its successor, ‘The Virtuosi's Museum,’ and he both drew and engraved the headings of the ‘Oxford Almanack’ for several years, for each of which he received 50l. For a long time he was chief scene-painter at the Haymarket Theatre, and appeared in the playbills as Signor Rookerini; but a few years before his death he was discharged, in consequence, it is said, of his refusal to aid in paying the debts of Colman, the manager. In 1788 he began to make autumnal tours in the country, to which we owe most of those drawings which entitle him to an honourable place among the founders of the watercolour school. They are chiefly of architectural remains (in Norfolk, Suffolk, Somerset, Warwickshire, and other counties), which he drew well, and treated with taste and refinement. His figures and animals were artistically introduced. He became depressed after his discharge from the theatre, and died suddenly in his chair in Dean Street, Soho, on 3 March 1801. His drawings were sold at Squib's in Savile Row in the following May, and realised 1,240l. He exhibited one drawing at the Society of Artists, and ninety-eight at the Royal Academy.

[Roget's ‘Old’ Watercolour Society; Edwards's Anecdotes; Somerset House Gazette; Pilkington's Dict.; Redgrave's Dict.; Graves's Dict.; Gent. Mag. 1801, i. 480.]

C. M.