John Ellis, Landscape and Scene-Painter

(fl. 1767-1812)

Landscape and Scene-Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin, and began life as an apprentice to his father, a cabinet maker. He entered the Dublin Society's School in 1766, and determined to become a painter. He exhibited a sea-piece in oil and an Indian-ink drawing with the Society of Artists in William Street in 1767, and in the following year contributed two landscapes in oil and a drawing. He had a taste for scene-painting, which he gratified by painting the scenes of a puppet-show fitted up by himself and some friends. He worked this little theatre with success for several winter seasons. In 1776 the Dublin Society awarded him a silver palette for his "ornamental and perspective paintings useful for the decoration of a theatre, for festivals and shows on occasions of public rejoicings." He was then living in Dominick Street. His drawings were mostly in body-colour, and he is said to have shown in them and in his scene-painting a thorough knowledge of perspective.

Having married a Miss White, the daughter of a grocer in Dublin, contrary to the wishes both of his and her parents, he went to London, and there found employment as a scene-painter. On the death of his wife's father he returned to Dublin, and by 1790 he had opened a shop in Mary Street, on the south side between Jervis Street and Liffey Street, and there attempted to revive the exhibitions by Irish artists which had been abandoned since 1780. But although his project was warmly approved of by the Dublin artists, it was not carried out. In 1792, however, he opened in the rear of his house in Mary Street a "Museum" for the public exhibition of pictures and works of art, and showed there pictures by Robert Hunter, Robert Home, Woodburn and others, and Edward Smyth's Statue of the Marquess of Buckingham. Next year he exhibited Boydell's collection of prints. His "Museum" continued for some years, and in 1801 contained a "collection of the arts and natural and mechanical rarities," the principal attraction being a picture of "Alexandria" painted by himself. This, we are told in a newspaper notice, "equalled anything of the kind ever seen, De Loutherbourg's best productions not excepted." He had also a picture, "Jupiter and Antiope," by Rubens, a "Portrait of Hogarth," and various pictures by Dutch and other artists.

The "Museum" appears to have been closed soon after 1806, and in 1810 a portion of it was bought by the Dublin Society for two hundred pounds. Ellis exhibited some sea-pieces and blacklead drawings in Hawkins Street in 1809 and 1812, and probably died soon after.

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