John Boydell

(1720—1804) engraver and printseller

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(b Dorrington, Shropshire, 19 Jan. 1720; d London, 12 Dec. 1804).

English engraver and print publisher. He made a fortune in the 1740s by publishing views of England and Wales, which he engraved from his own drawings. Later he published the work of other engravers and by developing a large foreign trade he spread the fame of English artists and engravers on the Continent. In 1790 he was Lord Mayor of London. His most ambitious undertaking was his celebrated Shakespeare Gallery: from 1786 he commissioned major artists (including Fuseli, Reynolds, and Romney) to produce oil paintings (162 in all) illustrating Shakespeare's plays, and in 1789 he opened a purpose-built gallery in Pall Mall to exhibit them. Some of the engravings after them were published as illustrations to a nine- volume edition of Shakespeare in 1802 and others appeared separately in larger format in 1803. Boydell hoped by this venture to encourage the rise of a ‘great national school of history painting’, and he intended to leave the collection to the nation, but he had heavy losses during the French wars and it was sold by lottery in 1805 shortly after his death. Boydell's nephew, JosiahBoydell (1752–1817), was a painter and engraver, his uncle's partner and successor in his engraving business.

Subjects: Art — Literature.

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