Uwins, Thomas (DNB00)

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UWINS, THOMAS (1782–1857), painter, was born at Hermes Hill, Pentonville, on 24 Feb. 1782, the youngest of the four children of Thomas Uwins, a clerk in the bank of England. David Uwins [q. v.] was his elder brother. Thomas early showed artistic tendencies, and had some instruction from the drawing-master at his sister's school. He was a day scholar at Mr. Crole's school in Queen's Head Lane, Islington, for six years, and in 1797 was apprenticed to the engraver Benjamin Smith [q. v.] While with Smith he engraved part of a plate for Boydell's ‘Shakespeare,’ but had an attack of jaundice said to have been caused by overwork and dislike of the drudgery of engraving, and he left Smith without completing his time. He now entered the schools of the Royal Academy, and joined Sir Charles Bell's anatomical class, supporting himself mainly by miniature portraits. He exhibited a portrait of Mr. G. Meyers at the academy in 1799. He also now or later gave lessons in drawing, and about 1808 began to design frontispieces and vignettes to ‘Sandford and Merton,’ ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ &c., for J. Walker of Paternoster Row. He also designed for Thomas Tegg [q. v.], drew ‘engravers' outlines’ for Charles Warren [q. v.], the engraver, and was much employed by Rudolph Ackermann [q. v.] designing fashions for his ‘Repository,’ for which he also wrote articles signed ‘Arbiter Elegantiarum.’ One of his drawings exhibited at the academy in 1808 was a portrait of Charles Warren's daughter (Mrs. Luke Clennell) as Belphœbe in Spenser's ‘Faerie Queene.’ In 1809 he joined the ‘Old Watercolour’ Society as associate exhibitor, and in 1813 became a full member. From 1809 to 1818 he was a constant contributor to the society's exhibitions, sending illustrations of Fielding, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Sterne, and other authors, besides numerous pastoral scenes and figures. In 1811 he was at Farnham, Surrey, studying the hopfields, and in 1815 visited the Lake country, where he met Wordsworth. In 1817 he went to France to paint vintage scenes. He made a short stay at Paris, and, well provided with letters of introduction, passed through the Burgundy country to Bordeaux, where he was well received by M. Cabareuss, and visited the châteaux of all the principal growers. The result was seen in two drawings only, sent to the ‘Old Watercolour’ Society's exhibition of 1818. In the same year he filled the office of secretary for the third time, and then withdrew altogether from the society in order to devote the whole of his time to meeting an obligation incurred in respect of a security given to the Society of Arts. Uwins took the whole burden on his shoulders, as his co-surety was a married man with a family. Continual work on miniatures seriously injured his eyesight, and in 1820 he went to Scotland to make topographical drawings to illustrate Scott, with whom he became well acquainted. He spent two years in Edinburgh painting and drawing portraits with much success, and on the occasion of the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822 be executed two transparencies, one of which was twelve feet high. In 1824 he went to Italy, and during his absence of seven years he kept up a correspondence with his two brothers Zechariah and David, which was published with his memoir. In 1830 he exhibited 'Neapolitans dancing the Tarantula,' and in 1832 (the year after his return) 'The Saint-manufactory' (the interior of a shop in Naples). These and other works of the kind soon made him a reputation. He was elected an associate in 1833, a full academician in 1838. In 1839 he exhibited one of his best pictures, 'Le Chapeau de Brigand,' now in the National Gallery. The little girl depicted was a daughter of a friend named Joseph, with whom he lived for some time. In 1843 he painted a fresco of the lady in ' Comus ' for the Queen's Pavilion in Buckingham Palace Gardens. In 1844 he was made librarian of the Royal Academy, in 1845 surveyor of pictures to the queen, and in 1847 keeper of the National Gallery. In 1851, being then sixty-nine years of age, he married for the first time, and the union proved a very happy one. In 1854 he had a serious illness, and in 1855 he gave up his various offices and retired to Staines, a confirmed invalid. He went on painting, however, until his death on 26 Aug. 1857. There are several of his works in both oil and watercolour in the South Kensington Museum.

[Memoir of Thomas Uwins, R.A., by Mrs. Uwins; Roget's 'Old Watercolour ' Society.]

C. M.