Sharples, James (1825-1893) (DNB00)

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SHARPLES, JAMES (1825–1893), blacksmith and artist, born at Wakefield in Yorkshire in 1825, was one of the thirteen children of a working ironfounder, and began work at Bury in his father's calling from an early age. He got but scanty education, but obtained practice in drawing from drawing designs of boilers on the floor of the workshop in which he was employed. He was encouraged at home to practise drawing, and became expert in copying lithographs and engravings. When aged 16 he entered the Bury Mechanics' Institution in order to attend a drawing class held there. With the help of Burnet's ‘Practical Treatise on Painting’ he made further progress during his leisure hours, and even tried painting in oils. Undeterred by failures, he continued to try and teach himself, making his own easel, palette, &c., and buying brushes and canvas with money which he earned by working overtime. Then, by studying Flaxman's ‘Anatomical Principles,’ given him by his brother, and Brook Taylor's ‘Principles of Perspective,’ he acquired sufficient skill to complete a picture of ‘The Forge,’ besides painting portraits. He soon found himself able to give up his work at the foundry, but returned to it on finding how uncertain the profession of an artist was. It being suggested that ‘The Forge’ should be engraved, Sharples set to work and engraved it himself by a process of his own, without ever having seen a plate engraved by anybody else. Another picture by Sharples, ‘The Smithy,’ has also been reproduced. He died in 1893 after a life of great industry.

[Smiles's Self-Help; Times, 15 June 1893.]

L. C.