Artist biography

English painter, printmaker and writer. In 1777 he moved to London, where he worked as a scene-painter and picture restorer. He married about three years later. From 1785 he exhibited landscapes, genre scenes and portraits at the Royal Academy. In 1787–8 Ibbetson was personal draughtsman to Col. Charles Cathcart on the first British Mission to Beijing, a voyage that included visits to Madeira, the Cape of Good Hope and Java. Thereafter he lived by painting landscape oils and watercolours, the subjects culled from his frequent tours. He painted occasional portraits throughout his career. He was also an accomplished figure draughtsman and social observer: he showed four humorous paintings of sailors at the Royal Academy in 1800, a topical theme at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.

In straitened circumstances, Ibbetson moved in 1798 to Liverpool. From that year until his death he lived in the north, at Edinburgh, Rosslyn and the Lake District, finally settling at Masham, N. Yorks, in 1805. He married his second wife in 1799 and was unsuccessful as an ARA candidate the following year. Ibbetson's large Lake District oils show a sinuous handling of line that has more in common with 17th-century Dutch paintings than the sparer compositions of Romantic art. Ibbetson's finest achievement is in his highly individual watercolours: blue-toned and delicate, they are characterised by astutely balanced elements of landscape, atmosphere and human incident. His eldest son, Julius Caesar Ibbetson the younger (1783–1825), was a drawing-master and innkeeper at Richmond, N. Yorks.

Waterhouse: 18th C.
B. L. K. Henderson: Morland and Ibbetson (London, 1923)
——: Julius Caesar Ibbetson (London, 1948)
——: ‘Ibbetson in the East Indies', Country Life, cx (14 Dec 1951), p. 203
Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1759–1817 (exh. cat., London, Kenwood House, 1957)


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