Thomas Foster, Portrait and Subject Painter

(b. 1798, d. 1826)

Portrait and Subject Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Thomas Foster. Water-colour drawing, in fancy dress; in British Museum.

Was born in 1798, and became a pupil in the Dublin Society's School in 1811. In 1815 he sent two portraits and a subject picture to the exhibition of the Hibernian Society of Artists, and "The Adoration of the Shepherds" to the Hawkins Street exhibition, and was awarded a premium of £34 2s. 6d. by the Irish Institution. He also exhibited in the two following years, contributing "Hercules throwing Lychas into the Sea," in 1816, and a "Portrait" and "Christ taken down from the Cross" in 1817. In 1818 he went to London, entered himself as a student in the Royal Academy, and sent a large picture, "The Cup found in Benjamin's Sack," to the British Institution. In 1819 he exhibited "Mercury sealing up the Eyes of Argus," and made his first appearance as an exhibitor in the Royal Academy with "A Study," and a "Portrait Group of Miss and Master Croker and a favourite Dog." He continued as a regular exhibitor at the Academy until 1825, and also sent works to the British Institution in 1823, 1824 and 1826. His portrait of "Thomas Elrington, Provost of Trinity College," was in the Royal Academy in 1820, and in the following year was exhibited in Dublin.

Foster was a friend of Nollekens, the sculptor, in whose studio he used to model from the antique. He was befriended by John Wilson Croker and painted his portrait and those of several members of his family, and also made for him many copies of portraits after Sir Thomas Lawrence. He was advancing rapidly in his profession, but his love of society, in which his agreeable manners and conversation made him popular, interfered with his art. According to Northcote he was good-looking, good-natured, and a wit.

His end was melancholy. He had been commissioned by Croker to paint a large picture of "Louis XVIII receiving the Garter at Carlton House," and made many studies for it, but he became despondent over his work—or as was said, on account of a hopeless attachment to a lady whose portrait he was painting—and committed suicide by shooting himself in a hotel in Piccadilly, in March, 1826, in his twenty-ninth year. He left a note saying that his friends had forsaken him, that he knew no reason, and that he was tired of life. At the time of his death an unfinished portrait of his friend John Banim, the novelist, upon which he had been working, was on his easel. Foster was an original Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy, but died just before its first exhibition, where however four of his works were shown: a large picture of "Mazeppa," "Domestic Quarrels," a "Portrait of Robert Lucius West," and one of "J. G. Davis."

His pictures include the following:

John Banim; left unfinished. [Miss Banim.]

Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. R.A., 1821; S. Kensington, 1868. Engraved by S. W. Reynolds, 1822.

Rev. E. Cannon. R.A., 1824.

Miss and Master Croker and a favourite Dog. R.A., 1819.

Miss Croker in a Chinese hat. R.A., 1824.

John Wilson Croker. R.A., 1824.

Mrs. Croker. R.A., 1820.

J. G. Davis. R.H.A., 1826.

General Dumourier. R.A., 1820.

Rev. Thomas Elrington, Provost, T.C.D., afterwards Bishop of Limerick. [Provost's House, T.C.D.] R.A., 1820. Engraved in mezzotint by W. Ward.

Captain Moring, Elder Brother of the Trinity House. R.A., 1824.

William Parker. R.A., 1825.

Colonel Phillips. R.A., 1821.

Miss M. Tree as the Fair Geraldine. R.A., 1823; Ex. Grafton Gallery, 1897, by E. Leggatt.

Rev. Thomas Rennell. Engraved by S. W. Reynolds and W. Brett, and published by the painter in London, 1824.

Robert Lucius West, artist. R.H.A., 1826.

The Piping Faun. R.I. Inst., 1815.

Mazeppa. [Herbert Mally, 18 Nassau Street, Dublin.] R.A., 1822; B.I., 1823; R.H.A., 1826. A large picture, 9 ft. 5 in. by 7 ft. 4 in., which attracted much attention at the time it was exhibited.

Domestic Quarrels. 6 ft. by 5 ft. B.I., 1824; R.H.A., 1826.

Paul and Virginia. 5 ft. by 4 ft. R.A., 1825; B.I., 1826.

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