Scharf, George (1788-1860) (DNB00)

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SCHARF, GEORGE (1788–1860), draughtsman and lithographer, was born at Mainburg, Bavaria, in 1788. His father, a tradesman in that town, had been in good circumstances, but shared in the general ruin of the inhabitants caused by the frequent incursions of the French and Austrian armies during the wars which followed the outbreak of the French revolution; and young Scharf, after receiving very little education, was thrown upon his own resources. With the help of friends he went in 1804 to Munich, where he studied for a time under Professor Hauber, and copied pictures in the Pinakothek; there he was noticed by King Maximilian, who purchased his copy of a portrait of Prince Eugène Beauharnais. After working for a few years as a miniature-painter and drawing-master and acquiring the art of lithography, which had been recently invented by his fellow-countryman Senefelder, Scharf left his native land in 1810, and for five years led a wandering and adventurous life, travelling through France and the Low Countries, and witnessing many of the military events of the period. He supported himself chiefly by painting miniatures of the officers in the contending armies, and occasionally worked with cannon-balls and shells falling about him and his sitters. He escaped from Antwerp during the siege of 1814, and, joining the English army, was appointed ‘lieutenant of baggage’ in the engineer department. In this capacity he was present at the battle of Waterloo, and accompanied the allied armies to Paris, where he made some interesting views of the camp in the Bois de Boulogne. Being advised to try his fortune in England, Scharf left Paris on New Year's day (1816) and came to London, where the remainder of his life was passed. Here he became well known as a lithographic artist, and was largely employed upon the illustrations to scientific works, for which his painstaking accuracy and industry well qualified him. Many examples of his skill are contained in the ‘Transactions of the Geological Society’ and the works of Dr. Buckland, Sir Richard Owen, and Professor Sedgwick. He also painted many excellent diagrams of scientific and antiquarian subjects. In 1817 he sent four portraits to the Royal Academy, and from 1826 was a frequent exhibitor, chiefly of topographical views, both at the academy and with the New Water-colour Society, of which he was an original member. Scharf took a great interest in the topography of London, and made a vast number of drawings of the old buildings, street scenes, and domestic life of the metropolis; a valuable collection of these was deposited in the British Museum by his widow and son in 1862. In 1817 he painted a group of the Spa Fields rioters—Watson, Thistlewood, Preston, and Hooper—when on their trial, which was engraved. In 1818 he published an etching of the scene at the hustings in Covent Garden during the election of that year, and in 1821 a lithograph of the coronation procession of George IV. In 1830 he made for the corporation of London two large watercolour drawings of the approaches to the new London Bridge, then in course of construction, with the old lines of thoroughfare about to be removed; these, which he afterwards executed in lithography, are now in the Guildhall library, as is also a drawing of the lord-mayor's banquet on 9 Nov. 1828, of which he issued a lithograph. His other publications include a view of the ruins of St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, after the fire of 1834; the interior of the dividend pay-office in the Bank of England, 1835; and a set of views in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, 1835. Scharf died at 29 Great George Street, Westminster, on 11 Nov. 1860, and was buried in the Brompton cemetery. By his wife, Elizabeth Hicks, who survived until 1869, he had two sons: George (afterwards Sir George Scharf) [q. v.] and Henry. The latter, after being trained as an artist, went on the stage, and for a few years acted with some success in Shakespearean characters; he then settled in the United States, where he taught art and elocution at the Virginia Female Institute, Staunton, and elsewhere. Later he returned to the stage, and died in America about 1890.

[Athenæum, 17 Nov. 1860; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; exhibition catalogues; private information.]

F. M. O'D.