Say, William (1768-1834) (DNB00)

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SAY, WILLIAM (1768–1834), engraver, son of William Say, a Norfolk land-steward, was born at Lakenham, near Norwich, in 1768, and, being left an orphan when five years old, was brought up by his maternal aunt. At about the age of twenty he came to London, and obtained instruction from James Ward (1769–1859) [q. v.], who was then practising mezzotint engraving. Say became an able and extremely industrious engraver, working entirely in mezzotint, and between 1801 and 1834 executed no fewer than 335 plates, a large proportion of which are portraits of contemporary celebrities, from pictures by Beechey, Hoppner, Lawrence, Northcote, Reynolds, and others. His subject-plates include Correggio's ‘Holy Family with St. Catherine,’ Murillo's ‘Spanish peasant boys,’ Raphael's ‘Madonna di San Sisto,’ Hilton's ‘Raising of Lazarus,’ one of Reynolds's two groups of members of the Dilettanti Society, and various fancy and historical compositions by H. Thomson, H. Fradelle, A. E. Chalon, and others. Say was one of the engravers employed by Turner upon his ‘Liber Studiorum,’ for which he executed eleven of the published and two of the unpublished plates. He also engraved two of the plates in Turner's ‘River Scenery of England.’ These, with a fine view of Lincoln Cathedral after Mackenzie, constitute his chief work in landscape. In 1807 he was appointed engraver to the Duke of Gloucester. In 1820 Say scraped a small portrait of Queen Caroline after Devis, which was the first attempt made in mezzotint on steel; twelve hundred impressions were taken from the plate. Say died at his residence in Weymouth Street, London, on 24 Aug. 1834, and his stock of plates and prints was sold in the following July. By his wife, whose maiden name was Francis, he had one son, mentioned below, and three daughters. Of these the eldest, Mary Anne, became the wife of John Buonarotti Papworth [q. v.], and the youngest, Leonora, married William Adams Nicholson [q. v.] An almost complete set of Say's works, in various states, was presented to the British Museum by his son in 1852.

Frederick Richard Say (fl. 1826–1858), only son of William Say, became a portrait-painter, and for some years enjoyed a fashionable practice. George IV, Earl Grey, the Marquis of Normanby, Sir W. Follett, E. Bulwer-Lytton, and other distinguished persons sat to him, and many of his portraits were well engraved by S. Cousins, G. R. Ward, J. Thomson, and W. Walker. He exhibited largely at the Royal Academy from 1826 to 1854, his address after 1837 being at 18 Harley Street. There he was still residing in 1858.

[Gent. Mag. 1835, ii. 660; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Rawlinson's Turner's Liber Studiorum; Royal Academy Catalogues.]

F. M. O'D.