Thomas Beard, Mezzotint Engraver

(fl. c. 1728)

Mezzotint Engraver

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

He has the distinction of being the first artist to do mezzotint engraving in Ireland; but there is no evidence that he was, as stated by Strutt and by Redgrave, a native of the country. In an advertisement in the "Dublin Intelligencer" of March, 1729, referring to the print of Archbishop King, the artist is mentioned as "Tho. Beard, from London"; and the print by him of the Countess of Clarendon appears to be of an earlier date than any of those done by him in Dublin. The precise date of his arrival in Ireland is not known; it may have been as early as 1724, but most of his Dublin work was done in or about 1728. Some of his prints were published by Wilkinson, in Chequer Lane, by whom Beard seems to have been employed. Among them was the print of William King, Archbishop of Dublin, the production of which was strongly resented by the Archbishop, as appears from a letter written by him to Francis Annesley, a lawyer in London, in March, 1729.

"There is one Wilkinson pretends to print mezzotint pictures; he came to me and desired that I would admit him to make one for me. I desired to see some of his work; he told me he had only done two, one of Macheath, the varlet in the Beggar's Opera, and the other of Polly Peachum. He showed me both of them, and I neither liked the pictures nor the originals, and conceived that if he had my picture he would show it with them. I do not think it convenient that my picture should appear in such company, and therefore positively forbade him to attempt any such thing; notwithstanding which he has stolen a copy and made a picture which he says is for me and shows it about. It is more like an ill-shaped lion's face than mine, and is a most frightful figure. I know no way to remedy this insult but to get my picture done in taille douce or mezzotinto in England; if this could be done from the picture that you have, or my Lord Lieutenant's [Lord Carteret] or Sir Hans Sloane's, it would do me pleasure. If the plate were graved and two or three hundred struck off and sent with the dates to me it would counterplot this ill man" (see Sir Charles King's "A Great Archbishop of Dublin," 1906, p. 299). Wilkinson published the print in March, 1729, two months before the Archbishop's death, and followed it by one of his successor, Archbishop Hoadly.

Beard left Dublin in, or soon after, 1729, and nothing further is known of him. His short stay did not result in establishing the art of mezzotinting in Ireland, and after his departure no mezzotints were produced until Brooks and Miller in 1741 established the school of mezzotinting which flourished for a short time in Dublin and had so great an influence on the art in England.

The following prints were done by Beard in Dublin, except that of the Countess of Clarendon done in London before his arrival in Ireland, and the print after Guido:

Hugh Boulter, Archbp. of Armagh; after Mat. Ashton, dated 1728. The original picture was probably painted in England when Boulter was Bishop of Bristol. The plate, reduced in size, retouched and artists' names erased, was republished by J. Orpin in Crane Lane.

Jane, Countess of Clarendon; after Kneller. Published by Bowles, London; undated, but done probably before Beard came to Ireland.

William Conolly, Speaker; after C. Jervas. Printed and sold by C. Reilly, Frame maker and Guilder in big Ship Street Dublin. An impression of this scarce print is in the Joly collection in the National Library, Dublin.

Richard Felsham, M.D., S.F.T.C.D.; after C. Jervas. Sold by Thos. Wilkinson at the Picture Shop in Chequer Lane. This print is not recorded by Chaloner Smith.

John Hoadly, Archbp. of Dublin. This print has no engraver's name, but is placed amongst Beard's works by Chaloner Smith, probably correctly. Hoadly became Archbishop in 1729.

William King, Archbp. of Dublin; after M. Dahl. "Just published a Print in Metzotinto of the Bishop of Dublin and are to be sold at Mr. Wilkinson's Picture Shop in Chequer Lane, where any Gentleman may be furnished with Prints of all sorts. N.B. If any Gentleman have a fancy for a private plate they may have it done at a very reasonable rate by Thos. Beard, from London" ("Dickson's Old Dublin Intelligencer," March 1 st, 1728-9). This is the print objected to by the Archbishop. A good impression is in the National Gallery of Ireland.

John Sterne, Bishop of Clogher; after Thomas Carlton. This is more frequently met with than any other of Beard's prints.

Thomas Wyndham, Lord Chancellor of Ireland; after M. Mitchell.

Captain Macheath, (Vanderbank, the Actor).

Polly Peachum, (Mrs. Sterling). These are the two portraits mentioned in Archbishop King's letter, quoted above, as produced by Wilkinson. Thomas Benson, at the Shakespeare's Head in Castle Street, advertised on 7th December, 1728, as just published, these two mezzotint portraits, "done by a masterly hand from London" ("Carson's Weekly Journal"). These prints have not been met with.

Liberality and Modesty; after Guido. Published in London by John Bowles.

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