WILDER, JAMES

(b. 1724, d. ?)

Landscape and Figure Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

James Wilder. Water-colour Drawing, by Sylvester Harding; in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Was born in New Street, Covent Garden, in 1724. He began life as an artist, and practised for some time in London as an heraldic and landscape painter. Seized with stage fever he, at the age of 25, quitted art and appeared at Covent Garden in 1749 as "Colin" in the ballad opera of "The Gentleman Gardener," written by himself. He afterwards, in 1751, performed at Drury Lane under Garrick, and in December, 1756, made his debut in Dublin, appearing as "Captain Macheath" in "The Beggar's Opera" at Smock Alley theatre, then under the management of Sheridan. Thenceforth, for the space of thirty-one years, he continued on the Dublin stage, remaining to the last a favourite with Dublin audiences. His last appearance was at Crow Street on the 16th May, 1789, when he made his final bow to a Dublin audience as "Colonel Oldboy" in "Lionel and Clarissa," and "Major Benbow" in "The Flitch of Bacon." His farewell address was written by Samuel Whyte, and commenced with the lines:

Twice sixteen winters—yes, just twice sixteen—

A faithful servant on your boards I've been.

During his stage career in Dublin he served under four notable managers: Sheridan, Spranger Barry, Mossop and Ryder. While in Dublin he had resumed his brush, and contributed occasionally to the exhibitions of the Society of Artists. From Crow Street in 1765 he sent a "Conversation"; in 1769 a "Landscape" and a "Soldier on the March"; in 1771 "An Emblematical Drawing," and in 1773, from Marlborough Street, "A Group of Boys representing Music." On leaving the stage Wilder settled in London, where he worked as a picture-restorer under Walton, the Keeper of the King's Pictures, and held an official appointment at Somerset House. The date of his death is not known.

A portrait of him in water-colour by Sylvester Harding, is in the National Gallery of Ireland; another, in the character of "Colonel Oldboy," etched by W. Esdall after a drawing by Henry Tresham, appeared in "Exshaw's Magazine" for May, 1774. Sir Martin Archer Shee exhibited a portrait of him at the Royal Academy in 1792, under the title of a "Portrait of Gentleman."

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