Artist biography

English painter. His father was British, and Newton grew up in Massachusetts, where he began his art training with his uncle, Gilbert Stuart. In 1817 he travelled to Italy, then visited Paris, where he met C. R. Leslie. The artists became close friends and travelled to Brussels and Antwerp before settling in London and attending the Royal Academy Schools. Newton exhibited at the RA from 1818. His earliest works were mainly portraits, and sitters included the author Washington Irving (1820; Tarrytown, NY, Sunnyside) and the first American Consul in Liverpool James Maury (c. 1825; Liverpool, Walker A.G.). In 1824 he painted Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford (versions, London, V&A, and Edinburgh, N.P.G.). Newton's most successful works were anecdotal scenes of literary subjects, which became widely known through engravings. These include Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield Reconciling his Wife to Olivia (exh. RA 1828; London, V&A), Lawrence Sterne's Yorick and Grisette (exh. RA 1830; London, Tate) and Shakespeare's Portia and Bassanio (1831; London, V&A), charming examples of a genre popular in the 1820s and 1830s, which were invariably praised for their colouring. A sociable member of London's artistic community, Newton was elected an ARA in 1828 and Academician in 1832. Also in 1832 he visited the USA, where he showed signs of the mental illness that was to cloud his last years. He was confined to a private asylum in Chelsea, where he made a number of pencil sketches of Shakespearian subjects.


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