(1772–1819). English painter. Bird's only formal training was as an apprentice painter in the japanning industry of his home town, Wolverhampton. In 1794, determined to be an artist, he left the Midlands for Bristol where he established a Drawing Academy in 1797. Bird flourished in the artistic circle surrounding the gentleman-amateur George Cumberland (1754–1848) and in 1810 his painting of The Country Choristers (London, Royal Coll.) was purchased from the RA by the Prince Regent. For the next three years he rivalled David Wilkie as the principal exponent of genre painting. In 1813, following the acclamation of his Day after the Battle of Chevy Chase (1812; lost), he was appointed historical painter (see history painting) to Princess Charlotte and success seemed assured. However, the Prince Regent's refusal to purchase his paintings of the Embarkation (1816; Bristol, AG) and Landing of Louis XVIII (1817; Wolverhampton, AG) seems to have obsessed him and subsequently he devoted his considerable talents to religious subjects which became increasingly unsaleable. He died in poverty in 1819, self-sacrificed on the altar of High Art.
From The Oxford Companion to Western Art in Oxford Reference.