Artist biography

English painter. Throughout his career Marlow made oils and watercolours of London views. Between 1765 and 1766 Marlow travelled in France and Italy, making numerous drawings of ruins, which provided the subjects for many paintings finished on his return to London. An Oxcart in the Grotto of Posillipo (c. 1770; New Haven, CT, Yale Cent. Brit. A.) exemplifies his bold, blue-toned watercolour style, with washes applied in loose blotches to emphasize the picturesque roughness of masonry and terrain. He visited many parts of Britain and Ireland in search of subjects, such as Powys Castle, Montgomeryshire (U. Manchester, Whitworth A.G.). He exhibited at the Incorporated Society of Artists from 1767, was made a Fellow in 1771 and Vice-President in 1778. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, from 1788 to 1807 but never sought membership.

By the late 1780s he was in semi-retirement, preferring to make scientific instruments. However, a financial downturn may have prompted his production of six etched Views in Italy (1795; set of proof impressions in London, BM). He is also thought to have designed the seals for the original 13 United States of America. His achievement as a topographical painter lies in his technical versatility, which allowed him to encompass both the tranquil compositions and cool lighting of British scenes and the picturesque roughness and more intense light of Italian views.

William Marlow (exh. cat., ed. J. L. Howgego; London, Guildhall A.G., 1956)
M. Hardie: Water-colour Painting in Britain, i (London, 1966), pp. 170–71
M. J. H. Liversidge: ‘Six Etchings by William Marlow', Burl. Mag., cxxii (1980), pp. 549–53
British Watercolors: Drawings of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries from the Yale Center for British Art (exh. cat., ed. S. Wilcox; New Haven, CT, Yale Cent. Brit. A., 1985)


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