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Smith, John Raphael

(1752 - 1812)

John Raphael Smith (1752 - March 2, 1812), English painter and mezzotint engraver, a son of Thomas Smith of Derby, the landscape painter, was born in 1752.

He was apprenticed to a linen-draper in Derby, and afterwards pursued the same business in London, adding, however, to his income by the production of miniatures. He then turned to engraving and executed his plate of the "Public Ledger," which had great popularity, and was followed by his mezzotints of "Edwin the Minstrel" (a portrait of Thomas Haden), after Wright of Derby, and "Mercury Inventing the Lyre," after Barry.

He reproduced some forty of the works of Reynolds, some of these plates ranking among the masterpieces of the art of mezzotint, and he was appointed engraver to the prince of Wales. Adding to his artistic pursuits an extensive connexion as a print-dealer and publisher, he would soon have acquired wealth had it not been for his dissipated habits. He was a boon companion of George Morland, whose figure-pieces he excellently mezzotinted.

He painted subject-pictures such as the "Unsuspecting Maid," "Inattention" and the "Moralist," exhibiting in the Royal Academy from 1779 to 1790. Upon the decline of his business as a printseller he made a tour through the north and midland counties of England, producing much hasty and indifferent work, and settled in Doncaster, where he died on the 2nd of March 1812.

As a mezzotint engraver Smith occupies the very highest rank. His prints are delicate, excellent in drawing and finely expressive of colour. His small full-lengths in crayons and his portraits of Fox, Horne Tooke, Sir Francis Burdett and the group of the duke of Devonshire and family support his claims as a successful draughtsman and painter. He had a very thorough knowledge of the principles and history of art, and was a brilliant conversationalist.
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