The son of the English architectural draughtsman Thomas Malton the elder, he moved to Ireland with his father. He was employed as a draughtsman in the office of the architect James Gandon for nearly three years during the building of the Custom House, but was eventually dismissed. He is first recorded as an artist in 1790, when he sent two drawings to the Society of Artists in London from an address in Dublin.
Malton is best known for Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin, a series of 25 prints originally published between 1792 and 1799. The plates were executed in etching and aquatint by Malton himself, after his own drawings. Each plate was accompanied by descriptive text with a dedication and a vignette in aquatint. Following the completion of the issue of the work in six parts, Malton republished the whole in a bound volume. The coloured prints from this work, which depict many of the new public buildings erected, capture the architectural metamorphosis Dublin underwent in the 18th century.
Between 1792 and 1803 Malton showed 51 drawings of architectural subjects at the Royal Academy. They included 17 views of Dublin in Indian ink and watercolour, mostly depicting the same subjects as his published prints. They were not, however, the original drawings from which the plates were made, often being larger, and with the scenes populated with different figures.
In 1798 he published An Essay on British Cottage Architecture, described in its subtitle as "an attempt to perpetuate on principle, that peculiar mode of building, which was originally the effect of chance". His later publications include a practical treatise on perspective calledThe Young Painter's Mahlstick (1800), four aquatints after drawings by Francis Keenan, issued as A Select Collection of Views in the County of Devon (1800) and A Collection of Designs for Rural Retreats as Villas Principally in the Gothic and Castle Styles of Architecture (1802).
Malton died in Norton Street, Marylebone, London, on 28 July 1803.
- Strickland, Walter (1913). "James Malton". Dictionary of Irish Artists (Library Ireland online ed.).
- "An essay on British cottage architecture". Library of Congress. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "A select collection of views in the county of Devon". Yale Center for British Art. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "A collection of designs for rural retreats...". Yale Digital Content. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "Malton, Thomas (1726–1801)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
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