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John Downman ARA (1750-1824)


John Downman, ARA (1750-1824)

John Downman was one of the finest and most popular portraitists of the late eighteenth century, who received the patronage of both members of the royal family and icons of fashion. Working mainly in watercolour and pastel, he specialised in small format images that often depicted the half-length of the sitter in profile or semi-profile.

John Downman was born at Ruabon, near Wrexham, in North Wales, the youngest of the five sons of the attorney, Francis Downman, and his wife, Charlotte (née Goodsend), the daughter of the private secretary to George I. During his education at local schools, he began to show an aptitude for art, producing portraits and caricatures of his teachers and fellow pupils. He then probably received early drawing lessons in Chester and Liverpool. In 1767, he moved to London, in order to study under Benjamin West and, in the same year, exhibited for the first time with the Free Society of Artists.

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