Richard Dighton

(1795 London - 13 April 1880)

English artist, best known as a clever social satirist and an unfortunate art thief. Richard Dighton published his first etching in 1815. By 1828 he had created over one hundred works of art in this medium. At that date he ceased etching and moved to the provinces, settling in both Cheltenham and Worcester. Over the next twenty years Dighton worked mainly as a watercolor portraitist. After 1835 he again produced original prints, this time in the medium of lithography. An accomplished portrait painter and etcher, Dighton exhibited at the Free Society of Artists from 1769 until 1773. In addition, he periodically exhibited at the Royal Academy. Dighton used his subtle style to produce a great number of humorous portraits of the leading figures in English society. In awkward poses and with ruddy faces, Dighton satirized lawyers, military officers, actor, and actresses who were seen about town. He also did a series of amusing portraits of Oxford professors and country gentlemen, which display the same subtle sense of humor typical of his caricatures.

In 1806 the British Museum discovered that Dighton had been stealing prints from their print room and selling them on the open market. An art dealer by the name of Samuel Woodburn had purchased a copy of Rembrandt's "Coach Landscape" from Dighton for twelve guineas. Supposing it may be a copy, Woodburn took the print to the British Museum to compare it with their impression; upon which he discovered that their copy was missing. Upon investigation Dighton confessed that he befriended the museum officials by drawing portraits of them when he visited the museum. This relationship allowed him the freedom to steal prints from the print room and remove them from the museum in his portfolio. He then proceeded to supplement his artists' income by selling the pilfered items to the art trade. Although he had somewhat questionable morals, Dighton remains an important English caricaturist who brought the profession a refreshing subtlety and quiet wit. Ironically, many of Dighton's caricatures and some of his original drawings can now be found in the print room of the British Museum.


Richard Dighton (1795 London - 13 April 1880 London), was an English artist in the Regency period, best known for his many satirical profile portraits of contemporary London celebrities and characters.

He was the son and apprentice of another noted caricaturist, Robert Dighton (1752–1814), and brother of the battle-scene painter Denis Dighton and of Robert Dighton junior. The works of Robert and Richard Dighton are regarded as predecessors of the Vanity Fair style of the late nineteenth century.

His series of City and West End portraits was started in 1817, and he published more than one hundred etchings during the next decade. From 1828 on he produced no further etchings and settled and worked in Cheltenham and Worcester where he spent the next twenty years, thereafter returning to London. He concentrated firstly on watercolour portraits and after 1835 on lithographic portraits.

Richard Dighton died of an 'enlarged prostate and Bright's disease' at 3 Elm Grove, Hammersmith on 13 April 1880 aged 84. His sons Richard junior and Joshua were also portraitists.

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Superb link to extensive history of the Dighton artists.

Note: Please forgive any discrepancy in information; the Dighton artists were numerous and data is confusing relating to each.