Seguier, William (DNB00)

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SEGUIER, WILLIAM (1771–1843), artist, first keeper of the National Gallery, and superintendent of the British Institution, born in London in 1771, was eldest son of David Seguier, a well-known copyist and art-dealer, by his wife Elizabeth Thwaites. The family descended from a French Huguenot refugee family, who had settled in London after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and claimed connection with the famous French lawyers and statesmen of the same name. The father, who was at first engaged in trade, took to art late in life. An uncle, Peter Seguier, was a sculptor. Showing a fondness for art, Seguier received lessons from George Morland [q. v.], who was a friend of the family, and attained some skill as a painter. He painted topographical scenes, such as a ‘View of Covent Garden Theatre when on Fire,’ and a ‘View of the Seven Dials,’ and he was a skilful imitator, rather than copyist, of the old masters. He drew also a few portraits. He abandoned painting, however, as a profession, on his marriage with a wealthy lady of French extraction, Miss Ann Magdalene Clowden, and devoted himself to becoming a connoisseur and expert in all matters connected with art, especially with painting. He assisted a number of notable amateurs in forming their collections of pictures, among them being Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Watson-Taylor, and others, and the subsequent repute of their collections was a high tribute to the value of Seguier's assistance. He was employed by George IV in forming the fine collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures at Buckingham Palace, and was appointed by the king to be conservator of the royal picture galleries, a post which he continued to hold under William IV and Queen Victoria. When the purchase of the Angerstein collection was being considered, Seguier was consulted, and on the formation of the National Gallery he was appointed its first keeper. He was also for many years superintendent of the British Institution, and, through his acquaintance with the principal private collections, was able to promote the valuable loan exhibitions held there during the summer, the winter exhibitions being confined to the works of living artists. Seguier did much to make the British Institution of use to young artists and students. He was also a partner with his brother, John Seguier (see below), in a business establishment of experts and restorers of pictures, in Russell Court, Cleveland Row, and several leading artists were employed on important works for the king and others through his agency. One of his chief patrons was the Duke of Wellington, who entrusted to Seguier the whole of the collection of pictures brought back by him from Spain for the purpose of restoration. Seguier was sent by the government to try and negotiate the purchase of Marshal Soult's pictures, but without success. He died at Brighton, where he had been employed at the Pavilion, on 5 Nov. 1843, and was buried in St. Luke's Church, Chelsea; his body was, however, subsequently removed to the Brompton cemetery. Seguier formed for himself a valuable collection of works of art, especially of engravings and etchings, which were sold at Messrs. Christie's in June 1844. He left four daughters.

John Seguier (1785–1856), younger brother of the above, born in London in 1785, studied as an artist in the schools of the Royal Academy, where he gained a silver medal in 1812. He attained some skill as a topographical artist, especially in views of London. He was partner with his brother as picture restorer in Russell Court, Cleveland Row, and on his brother's death succeeded him as superintendent of the British Institution. Among other works he restored the ceiling of the banqueting hall, Whitehall, painted by Rubens. He died in London in 1856. He married Margaret, daughter of Anthony Stewart [q. v.], a well-known miniature-painter, by whom he left a son, Frederick Peter Seguier, author of ‘A Dictionary of Painters’ (London, 1870, 4to).

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Gent. Mag. 1844, ii. 77; Athenæum, 18 Nov. 1843; Smith's Recollections of the British Institution; information from Mr. Frederick P. Seguier.]

L. C.