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Woollett, William

(1735 - 1785)

William Woollett (August 15, 1735 - May 23, 1785), English engraver, was born at Maidstone, of a family which came originally from the Netherlands.

He was apprenticed to John Tinney, an engraver in Fleet Street, London, and studied in the St Martin's Lane academy. His first important plate was from the "Niobe" of Richard Wilson, published by Boydell in 1761, which was followed in 1763 by a companion engraving from the "Phaethon" of the same painter. After West he engraved his fine plate of the "Battle of La Hogue" (1781), and the "Death of General Wolfe" (1776), which is usually considered Woollett's masterpiece. In 1775 he was appointed engraver-in-ordinary to George III; and he was a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, of which for several years he acted as secretary.

In his plates, which unite work with the etching-needle, the dry-point and the graver, Woollett shows the greatest richness and variety of execution. In his landscapes the rendering of water is particularly excellent. In his portraits and historical subjects the rendering of flesh is characterized by great softness and delicacy. His works rank among the great productions of the English school of engraving. Louis Fagan, in his Catalogue Raisonné of the Engraved Works of William Woollett (1885), has enumerated 123 plates by this engraver.
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