Richard Cosway RA (5 November 1742 – 4 July 1821) was a leading
English portrait painter of the Regency era, noted for his miniatures.
He was a contemporary of John Smart, George Engleheart, William Wood,
and Richard Crosse. His wife was the Italian-born painter Maria
Cosway, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson.
1 Early years
2 Career in art
3 Personal life
4 Examples of Cosway's work
6 Further reading
7 External links
Richard Cosway was born in Tiverton, Devon, the son of a schoolmaster.
He was initially educated at
Blundell's School but at the age of
twelve he was allowed to travel to
London to take lessons in painting.
He won a prize from the Society of Artists in 1754 and by 1760 had
established his own business. He exhibited his first works at the age
of 20 in 1762 and was soon in demand.
He was one of the first group of associate members of the Royal
Academy, elected in August 1770, and was elected a full member the
following March, on the casting vote of the academy's president, Sir
Joshua Reynolds. He is included in Johan Zoffany's group portrait
of the members of the academy (begun in 1771); a late addition to the
composition, he was painted on an extra strip of canvas, attached to
the right-hand side of the painting.
Career in art
He painted the future King George IV in 1780 and was appointed Painter
to the Prince of Wales in 1785—the only time this title was ever
awarded. His subjects included the Prince's first wife, Maria Anne
Fitzherbert, and various English and French aristocrats, including
Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV of France.
Cosway's pupils included
Andrew Plimer (1763–1837).
From 1995 to 1996, the National
Portrait Gallery in
London held an
exhibition entitled Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste
and Fashion, with 250 works on display.
A SMUGGLING MACHINE or a Convenient Cos(au)way for a Man in Miniature.
A 1782 etching satirising the relationship between Cosway and his
wife. Published by Hannah Humphrey.
On 18 January 1781, Cosway married the Anglo-Italian artist Maria
Hadfield. Maria was a composer, musician and authority on girls'
education and was much admired by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote letters
to her decrying her marriage to another man and kept an engraving made
from one of Cosway's paintings of Maria at Monticello.
The Cosways' marriage is thought to be an arranged marriage and later
a marriage of convenience due to his being 20 years her senior.
Richard was "well known as a libertine and commonly described as
resembling a monkey." The film
Jefferson in Paris
Jefferson in Paris depicts Maria
Cosway's romance with
Thomas Jefferson and also depicts Richard Cosway
as effeminate, something which is not certain historically.
In 1784, the Cosways moved into Schomberg House, Pall Mall, which
became a fashionable salon for
London society. In 1791 they moved
to a larger house in Stratford Place. However, the marriage did not
last, eventually being annulled.
In later life, Cosway also suffered from mental disorders and spent
some time in various institutions. He died in
London in 1821 and was
Marylebone New Church.
Sir John Soane
Sir John Soane bought more than 30
objects put up for sale at auction after Cosway's death.
Examples of Cosway's work
Richard Cosway - National
Portrait Gallery, London
Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, Dated 1808, by
Richard Cosway, RA, 1742-1821, Watercolour on ivory V&A Museum no.
P.6-1941 Victoria and Albert Museum
Midshipman Isaac Smith, depicted in c.1770 as a crew member aboard HMS
Endeavour, ca. 1800
Portrait of an Armenian
John Braham with Harriet Abrams and her two daughters, Harriett Abrams
and Theodosia Abrams
John Evan Hodgson
John Evan Hodgson and Frederick Alexis Eaton, The Royal Academy and
its Members 1768-1830. London: John Murray, 1905; pg. 113.
^ "Johan Zoffany: Finding the founders". RA Magazine. Archived from
the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
^ a b c "How
England first saw Bonaparte: a painting by Francesco
Cossia commissioned by
Maria Cosway in 1797 was the first true
portrait of Napoleon to be seen in England. It was acquired by Sir
John Soane, who, as Xavier F. Salomon and Christopher Woodward
explain, juxtaposed it with a miniature by Isabey in a graphic
comparison of the youthful hero with the tyrannical dicatator".
Apollo. Retrieved 2007-08-01. [dead link]
^ a b "An artistic alliance - Richard and
Maria Cosway - English
artists". Magazine Antiques. December 1995. Retrieved
2007-08-01. [dead link]
^ a b DeMauri, Stephen (December 2003). "Thomas Jefferson's Engraving
of Maria Cosway".
Monticello Foundation. Archived from the original on
2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
^ "JEFFERSON'S PARIS". American Heritage Archived at Internet Archive.
Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved
Gerald Barnett, Richard and Maria Cosway: A Biography. Tiverton,
Devon, UK: Westcountry Books, 1995.
Philippe Bordes, "Richard and Maria Cosway, Edinburgh," Burlington
Magazine, vol. 137, no. 1111 (Oct. 1995), pp. 700–702. In
Daphne Foskett, Miniatures: Dictionary and Guide. London: Antique
Collectors' Club, 1987.
Duncan MacMillan, "The Cosways," RSA Journal, vol. 143, no. 5464 (Nov.
1995), pp. 65–66. In JSTOR.
"Richard Cosway, 'The Macaroni Miniature Painter,'" The Art Amateur,
vol. 8, no. 2 (Jan. 1883), pg. 38. In JSTOR.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cosway, Richard". Encyclopædia
Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Fagan, Louis Alexander (1887). "Cosway, Richard". In Stephen,
Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 12. London: Smith, Elder
Lloyd, Stephen. "Cosway, Richard (bap. 1742, d. 1821)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University
Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6383. (Subscription or UK public
library membership required.)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard Cosway.
24 Painting(s) by or after
Richard Cosway at the
Art UK site
Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum miniatures gallery
Frits Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins & d'estampes,
1921 and its Supplement 1956, L.628 and L.629, online edition
A catalogue of the very curious, extensive, and valuable library of
Richard Cosway, Esq. R.A, digital facsimile from Houghton Library,
ISNI: 0000 0001 1626 2345
BNF: cb149545537 (data)