John Landseer

(1761 - 20 February 1852 )

The trade of the goldsmith and jeweler is intimately connected with the higher branches of art, and many are the famous painters who have taken their first lessons in design under the direction of its skillful craftsmen. Especially is this connection apparent in the department of engraving, which, during its earlier stages, was practiced by the goldsmiths as a part of their business. Familiarity with the properties and capabilities of the metals is equally requisite in each profession, and he who can design and work silver and copper into jewelry finds it not difficult to operate upon plates of those metals with the needle and graver.

It was by this natural development from one profession to another and cognate one that the Landseer family attained to its eminent position in the world of art. The grandfather of our artist was a well-to-do jeweler in London, about the middle of the last century, and recognized the high value of the more exalted departments of design. He was on intimate terms with his fellow-craftsman Peter Romilly, a wealthy descendant of a Huguenot family which fled from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

The jeweler's son, John Landseer, was born at London, in 1761, or else (as another good authority reports) at Lincoln, in 1769. His taste for art was developed at an early age, and claimed such consideration that his father placed him under the instruction of William Byrne, a famous landscape-engraver, who had produced the "Views of the Lakes of Cumberland," "Italian Scenery," Wilson's "Niagara," and many engravings after Claude, Vernet, Turner, and other artists. Afterwards, Aliamet was induced to give lessons to the youth; and through him the art-lineage of Edwin Landseer as an engraver extends back almost to the Reformation.

The sons of the two friendly jewelers, Samuel Romilly and John Landseer, continued the intimacy in which their fathers had lived. The former seems to have taken a great interest in art, for he attended the lectures of Dr. Hunter and James Barry at the Royal Academy, and doubtless those also of his friend John, even after he had become one of the most famous lawyers in the United Kingdom, and won the distinction of knighthood.

John Landseer engraved the pictures for Moore's Twenty Views in the South of Scotland; a set of plates of the drawings of animals by the Dutch masters, Rembrandt, Rubens, and others; and several from the pictures of Turner and the English artists. After his highly successful lectures before the Royal Institution, he was elected to fill one of the six Associate-Engraverships in the Royal Academy, and accepted, with the declaration that he should devote himself to rectifying the anomalous and subordinate position in which engravers were kept by the Academicians. But he was unsuccessful in these efforts, and met with several rebuffs from the officers of the institution.

The chief work of John Landseer was published in 1807, and bore the title of "Lectures on the Art of Engraving," embodying a series of discourses delivered at the Royal Institution, and still highly respected for its valuable exposition of the principles and practice of that branch of art. The members of the profession which John Landseer had thus benefited were not ungrateful, and by their works aided his son to the greater part of his fame and fortune. No British artist, perhaps none of any nation, owes so much of his popularity to engravings as Landseer does.

When the famous Alderman Boydell was engaged in publishing his great edition of Shakepeare, with costly illustrations by Reynolds and other eminent artists, he met with a hot rivalry from Macklin, who endeavored to outdo the new Shakespeare by an even more sumptuous illustrated Bible. Among the engravers in his service was the young John Landseer, and through his intimacy with the spirited publisher, John was introduced to his future wife. Macklin had induced Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint several pictures for his new work, and among these was an Arcadian family scene, called 'The Cottagers,' or 'The Gleaners,' wherein Macklin and his wife and daughter are portrayed, enjoying the happiness of domestic life before a cosy rustic cottage, while near them stands the beautiful Miss Pott, one of their dearest friends, bearing a sheaf of corn on her head. Not long afterwards John Landseer met this charming gleaner at Macklin's house, and paid his court to her to such purpose that they were soon married. From this artistic union came fourteen children: three daughters and three sons, (seven survived to reach adolescence)

As late as the year 1850, John Landseer showed William Howitt an ancient stile on the Finchley Road, near the corner of West End Lane, and a little below Frognal parish church, and said that many a time he had lifted his boy Edwin over it, so that he could sketch the cattle in the two fields beyond. Three or four years after Edwin's birth, the family had moved to Foley Street; and nearly all the way between Marylebone and Hampstead was then open fields. The neighborhood above alluded to was a picturesque region of oak-trees, forming a favorite walking-ground for the Landseer children. Says the father: "One day when I had accompanied them, Edwin stopped by this stile to admire some sheep and cows which were quietly grazing. At his request I lifted him over, and finding a scrap of paper and a pencil in my pocket I made him sketch a cow. He was very young indeed then, -- not more than six or seven years old. After this we came on several occasions, and as he grew older this was one of his favorite spots for sketching. He would start off alone, or with Charles, and remain till I fetched him in the afternoon. I would then criticise his work, and make him correct defects before we left the spot. Sometimes he would sketch in one field, sometimes in the other, but generally in the one beyond the old oak we see there, as it was more pleasant and sunny."

The Landseers were then dwelling in Foley Street, not far from Haydon's studio, and in the same quarter of London in which lived West, Mulready, Stothard, Banks, Chalon, Collins, Northcote, Constable, Flaxman, Shee, our own Allston and Leslie, and many other notable sculptors and painters. In this vicinity was Burlington House, where the Elgin Marbles were kept at that time, and the Landseer boys derived great and continuing benefit from the close study which they gave to those glorious specimens of Athenian art. Their contemplation was powerfully instrumental in forming Edwin's style correctly on the best classic models, and the fruits of these early impressions may be perceived in some of the most famous of his later works.

Artist - Biographies. - Landseer. - (Moses Foster Sweetser), 1879; Catalogue of the Works of the late Sir Edwin Landseer, R. A., Mr. Algernon Graves; Memoirs of Sir Edwin Landseer, Mr. F. G. Stephens; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32, Mr. William Cosmo Monkhouse.

Landseer, John, A. R. A. Celebrated engraver. Father of Edwin, Charles, and Thomas Landseer. Born in Lincoln (1761-1852). Engraved vignettes for Macklin's Bible published in 1793, for Bowyer's History of England, views in the "Isle of Wight" after Turner, "South of Scotland" after James Moore, and a series of engravings of animals after Gilpin, Rubens, Rembrandt, Snyder, etc. In 1807, he was elected an Associate Engraver of the Royal Academy, and exhibited there as late as 1851, several sketches of "Druidical temples on the Channel Isles". In 1806, he delivered a course of lectures on "Engraving" before the Royal Institution, and in 1823, a course on "Engraved Hieroglyphics." He was the author of a book entitled Sabœan Researches, published in 1823, and of a valuable Catalogue of the Earliest Pictures in the National Gallery, published in 1834. St John the Baptist, Line engraving, Engraved by John Landseer, A.R.A., After Benjamin West, P.R.A. Published by Thomas Macklin, 28 May 1796. St John the Baptist Royal Academy of Arts Collections. (

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Works, Biographical Sketches, Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.

John Landseer (1761-1852), born in Lincoln, England; now best known as the father of Sir Edwin Landseer, whose paintings he was first to engrave and make widely known. At 24 he had executed some admirable plates. In 1806, he opened a school of engraving, became an associate of the royal academy the year after, and devoted much time to archaeology. Among his engravings are the plates in Bower's History of England; in Sir Thomas Moore's Views in Scotland; "Portrait of Nelson;" "Saint John" after Benjamin West; "The Rat on Watch;" "The Dogs of Mt. St. Bernard," after a painting by Edwin and plates for the Stafford gallery, an elaborate quarto in 4 vols., 1818. He is author of Description of Fifty of the Earliest Pictures in the National Gallery (1834; only the first volume was published), a descriptive catalogue which abounds in lively narratives and humor; Observations on the Engraved Gems brought from Babylon to England by Abraham Lockett Esq, considered with reference to Scripture History (1817).[in vol. xviii-th of the Archaohgica; and of Sabœan Researches. He contributed articles on schools of engraving to Rees's Cyclopaedia namely the French school (Volume 15, 1810); the German (Volume 16, 1810), the Low Countries (Volume 21, 1812) and the Italian (Volume 19, 1811). He also engraved a series of plates, with monograms etc. of French, German, Low Countries and Italian engravers. All his articles are of monograph length and may have re-cycled his Royal Institution material.

The International Cyclopedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, Volume 8, Richard Gleason Greene, Dodd, Mead, 1890.


Landseer, John, A.R.A. Lectures On The Art Of Engraving, Delivered At The Royal Institution Of Great Britain, By John Landseer, Engraver To The King, And F.S.A. - London: 1807.

A Series Of Views Of The Most Picturesque Scenes In Richmondshire. From Drawings By J. M. W. Turner, Esq. R. A. And John Buckler, Esq. F.S.A. - In Thirty-Two Plates, Executed In The Best Style Of Art By The Most Eminent Engravers. - With Descriptions By The Rev. Thomas Dunham Whitaker, LL. D. Extracted From His "History Of Richmondshire." - London: 1843.

Engravings Of The Most Noble The Marquis Of Stafford's Collection Of Pictures, In London, Arranged According To Schools, And In Chronological Order, With Remarks On Each Picture. By William Young Ottley, Esq. F.S.A. The Executive Part Under The Management Of Peltro William Tomkins, Esq. Historical Engraver To Her Majesty. - Vol. I. (- IV.) - London: 1818.

A Series Of Engravings, Illustrating Those Important Events Recorded In The Sacred Scriptures, Which Have Been Selected, As Subjects For Their Pencils, By Raffaelle, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vandyke, Poussin, And Other Of The Old Masters; Together With A Critical Notice Of Each Picture, By John Landseer, Esq. F.A.S. And A.R.A. - London: 1825.

Views in Lancashire & Yorkshire, From Original Drawings By J. M. W. Turner, R. A. - London: 1872.

Subjects by Edwin Landseer. Etched by John Landseer, Thomas Landseer, and Edwin Landseer - [London:] Nov. 8th. 1852. Publishers to her Majesty.

The Arabian Antiquities Of Spain, By James Cavanah Murphy. - London. June 1st. 1815.

Watson and Pritchett Plans, Elevations, Sections, And Description Of The Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Lately Erected at Wakefield, For The West-Riding Of Yorkshire; To which is added, a New and Enlarged Edition of Mr. Samuel Tuke's Practical Hints On the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums. By Watson And Pritchett. - York: 1819.

Smith, John 'Warwick, Select Views In Italy, With Topographical And Historical Descriprions In English And French. Vol. I. (II.) - London: [1792-1796]

Views of the Lakes, etc. In Cumberland And Westmorland. Engraved From Drawings Made By Joseph Farington, R.A. - London [1789]

Seward, William, Anecdotes Of Some Distinguished Persons, Chiefly Of The Present And Two Preceding Centuries. Adorned With Sculptures. Vol. I. (-III.) - London: 1795.

The Antiquities Of Athens Measured And Delineated By James Stuart, F.R.S. And F.S.A. And Nicholas Revett Painters And Architects, Volume The First (-Third.) - London [1762 (1787) (1794)]

Antiquities Of Great Britain Illustrated In Views Of Monasteries, Castles, and Churches, Now Existing. Engraved from Drawings made by Thomas Hearne. - London: [1786 (-1807)]

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