John Smart circa 1795–1800
|Field||Painter of Portrait Miniatures|
Smart was born in Norfolk, but not much is known of his early life. It is recorded that in 1755 he was runner up to Richard Cosway in a drawing competition for under-14s held by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. In the same year he began attending the new drawing school of William Shipley in London, along with Cosway and Richard Crosse.
He exhibited at the Society of Artists, in London, from 1762 onwards; and became its president in 1778. He went to India in 1788 and obtained a number of commissions in that country. He settled down in London in 1797, and died there in 1811.
He was a man of simple habits, and a member of the Society of Sandemanians.
His work is entirely different from that of Cosway, quiet and grey in its colouring, with the flesh tints elaborated with much subtlety and modelled in exquisite fashion. He possessed a great knowledge of anatomy, and his portraits are drawn with greater anatomical accuracy and possess more distinction than those of any miniature painter of his time.
Many of his pencil drawings still exist in the possession of the descendants of a great friend of his only sister. Several of his miniatures are in Australia and belong to a cadet branch of the family.
Smart married Edith Vere, and is believed to have had only one son, who died in Madras in 1809.
Examples of Smart's work
Sir Robert Brooke probably c.1788, by John Smart
|Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about Smart, John.|
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- GC Williamson, The History of Portrait Miniatures, vol. ii. (London, 1904).
- Foskett, Daphne (1987). Miniatures: Dictionary and Guide. London: Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1-85149-063-9.