CORBETT, JOHN

(b. 1779 or 1780, d. 1815)

Portrait Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

John Corbett. Picture, painted by Himself at the age of 19; in the possession of Dr. J. C. Corbett, 5 Cavendish Place, London.

Son of the above Daniel Corbett, the engraver, and brother of Daniel Corbett, the dentist, was born in Cork in 1779 or 1780. Showing at an early age a bent for art he was sent to London and there became a pupil of his fellow-townsman James Barry, R.A. Under him he made rapid progress, and returning to Cork he soon acquired a good practice as a portrait painter both in oil and miniature. His ambition was towards historical painting, in which he is said to have shown a talent capable of attaining to the highest success; but the slender support and encouragement he received obliged him to confine himself to the more lucrative branch of portraiture. He was a man of considerable musical accomplishments, and his fine voice and convivial disposition rendered him a favourite in Cork society.

The life he led, however, made him careless in his art and contributed to his early death. He died of brain fever in February, 1815, at the age of 36. He is referred to in the prefatory note to the catalogue of the first Munster exhibition, 1815, as "one of those in whom nature mingled those contrarieties which so frequently characterize genius, bestowing much talent where she denies the industry to improve it." Corbett's picture of "Justice" hung for many years in the Guild Hall in Cork, until it fell into decay from damp and neglect. He painted a picture of the "Death of the Rev. Mr. Tisdall," who was murdered near Bantry, containing portraits of the chief actors in the tragedy. A "Portrait of Christopher Hely-Hutchinson, M.P.," by him was engraved in mezzotint by Charles Turner, and published by Corbett himself at George's Quay, Cork, in 1813, with dedication to the independent electors of the city of Cork. He left unfinished at his death a large picture of Venus. His portrait, painted by himself at the age of 19, belongs to Dr. J. F. Corbett, 5 Cleveland Place, Cavendish Square, London.

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