English genre painter , 1794-1859
was an American artist best known for his cartoons and caricatures of actors and other celebrities. Though his work was heavily in demand through the 1920s and is often considered to epitomize the era, his personal life was troubled by mental illness, and he was nearly forgotten soon after his suicide, shortly before his fortieth birthday. English genre painter, was born in London on 19 October 1794. His parents were American, and when he was five years of age he returned with them to their native country. They settled in Philadelphia, where their son was educated and afterwards apprenticed to a bookseller. He was, however, mainly interested in painting and the drama, and when George Frederick Cooke visited the city he executed a portrait of the actor from recollection of him on the stage, which was considered a work of such promise that a fund was raised to enable the young artist to study in Europe. He left for London in 1811, bearing introductions which procured for him the friendship of West, Beechey, Allston, Coleridge and Washington Irving, and was admitted as a student of the Royal Academy, where he carried off two silver medals. At first, influenced by West and Fuseli, he essayed high art, and his earliest important subject depicted Saul and the Witch of Endor; but he soon discovered his true aptitude and became a painter of cabinet-pictures, dealing, not like those of David Wilkie, with the contemporary life that surrounded him, but with scenes from the great masters of fiction, from Shakespeare and Cervantes, Addison and Moliere, Swift, Sterne, Fielding and Smollett. Of individual paintings we may specify Sir Roger de Coverley going to Church (1819); May-day in the Time of Queen Elizabeth (1821); Sancho Panza and the Duchess (1824); Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman (1831); La Malade Imaginaire, act iii. sc. 6 (1843); and the Dukes Chaplain Enraged leaving the Table, from Don Quixote (1849).