John Downman (Biographical details)

John Downman (painter/draughtsman; British; Male; 1750 - 1824)

Also known as

Downman, John


Portrait draughtsman, painter and watercolourist; probably b. near Ruabon 1750; d. Wrexham 1824; pupil of Benjamin West 1768; entered RA Schools 1769; exhibited FS 1768, RA 1770-1819, and BI 1806-10; became ARA 1795; in Rome with Wright of Derby 1773-74; 1776 began his annotated 'albums' of portrait drawings, which he later copied; in Cambridge 1777-78, began his series of portrait drawings; settled in London 1779-1804; in Exeter 1806-8; returned to London and then settled in Chester 1817.
According to the Jane Munro (DNB): During his retirement Downman systematically assembled into albums a number of preliminary studies for portraits of "Distinguished Persons" which he bequeathed to his only daughter, Isabella Chloë Benjamin. These were arranged in four series, roughly chronological in sequence, each series containing between four and eight volumes, with twenty-five to thirty-five drawings in each. The first series was dispersed after it was sold by Mrs Benjamin in 1825; three of the eight albums, some individually mounted, are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The remaining three series were acquired from Downman's daughter by the Hon. George Neville, later dean of Windsor. These became known as the Butleigh Court sketchbooks, after Neville's seat near Glastonbury. They are now divided between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the British Museum.


G. C. Williamson, 'John Downman, ARA, HIs Life and Works', Connoisseur extra number, 1907
J. Munro, 'John Downman, 1750-1824', exh. cat. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1996
N. Jeffares, British Pastels, 2006, 157-160
S. Lloyd and K. Sloan, 'Intimate Portrait', 2008, pp. 26, 34, 156, 168, 174, 188-9, 229
Photographs of drawings (240.b.9 and 10)