Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shelley, Samuel

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SHELLEY, SAMUEL (1750–1808), miniature-painter, was born in Whitechapel in 1750, and mainly self-educated. He first exhibited with the Incorporated Society in 1773, sending some fancy heads, and in 1774 contributed miniatures to the Royal Academy. Shelley became one of the most charming and fashionable miniaturists of his time, ranking with Cosway, Smart, and Collins; he also painted in watercolours fancy figures and compositions from Shakespeare, Tasso, and other poets, which are gracefully designed and harmoniously coloured. His works of this class, as well as his miniatures, were largely engraved by Bartolozzi, W. Nutter, Caroline Watson, and others. All the plates in C. Taylor's ‘Cabinet of Genius,’ 1787, were designed by him. Shelley resided in Covent Garden from 1780 to 1794, when he established himself at 6 George Street, Hanover Square. He continued to exhibit at the academy until 1804, when he joined with W. F. Wells, R. Hills, and W. H. Pyne, who, like himself, were dissatisfied with the treatment there accorded to watercolour art, in founding the Watercolour Society (afterwards known as the ‘Old’ society), of which he held the treasurership until 1807. Shelley died at his house in George Street on 22 Dec. 1808. The British and South Kensington Museums possess good examples of his work.

[Roget's Hist. of the Old Watercolour Society; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers (ed. Armstrong); exhibition catalogues.]

F. M. O'D.