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Jane Austen fans are more familiar with Adam Buck’s small watercolor portraits on pin up print cards than the artist’s name. This format was popular during the Regency era.
Sophia Western, an 1800 engraving after an Adam Buck drawing, depicts a Tom Jones heroine with a jumping rope. She wears a Regency gown, rather than a costume from 1749, when Fielding’s book was published.
Born in 1759 in Ireland, Buck left his native land in 1795 to establish a studio in London, where his small portraits in pencil, oil, crayons, or watercolour were quite popular. His linear, lightly colored neoclassical drawings and paintings showed scenes of domesticity and motherhood in classic attitudes that resembled those on Greek vases. The artist is said to be largely self-taught.
Two … Irish artists brothers of the name of Buck deserve attention. Their pencil groups, slightly coloured, were very popular ,and especially those in which the sitters were grouped in classic attitudes resembling those on Greek vases. The reason for the existence of these portraits was the love that Adam Buck especially had for Greek art. He issued a book on the paintings on Greek vases ,and he modelled many of his best miniatures, as well as his pencil groups, on the classic scenes so dear to him. His work, as a rule, can be distinguished by the exquisite drawing of the profile. His brother, Frederick, who commenced in his profession by painting portraits in crayon, also painted miniatures following on the lines of Adam Buck. Neither of the men were very good col ourists but both were accurate draughtsmen.” – How to Identify Portrait Miniatures, George Charles Williamson, Alyn Williams
Buck produced a book in 1812, “Paintings on Greek Vases”, that contained 100 plates designed and engraved by himself. He exhibited his work at the Royal Academy between 1795 and 1833.
Buck’s distinctive linear designs were also used on China ware and in fashion plates. See the Adam Buck inspired bat-printed porcelain images on Candice Hern’s site.
More on the topic:
- Paul Mellon’s legacy: a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale … By John Baskett
- Adam Buck and His Sideline Art, Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide
- V&A Prints: Adam Buck