World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Richard Cosway

Richard Cosway
Self-portrait in miniature, circa 1770
Born (1742-11-05)5 November 1742
Tiverton, England
Died 4 July 1821(1821-07-04) (aged 78)
London, England
Nationality English
Known for Painter of Portrait Miniatures

Richard Cosway Richard Crosse. His wife was the Italian-born painter Maria Cosway, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson.


  • Early years 1
  • Career in art 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Examples of Cosway's work 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early years

Richard Cosway was born in Tiverton, Devon, the son of a schoolmaster. He was initially educated at Blundell's School but at the age of twelve he was allowed to travel to London to take lessons in painting. He won a prize from the Society of Artists in 1754 and by 1760 had established his own business. He exhibited his first works at the age of 20 in 1762 and was soon in demand.

He was one of the first group of associate members of the Royal Academy, elected in August 1770, and was elected a full member the following March, on the casting vote of the academy's president, Sir Joshua Reynolds.[1] He is included in Johan Zoffany's group portrait of the members of the academy (begun in 1771); a late addition to the composition, he was painted on an extra strip of canvas, attached to the right-hand side of the painting.[2]

Career in art

He painted the future King Prince of Wales[3] in 1785—the only time this title was ever awarded. His subjects included the Prince's first wife, Maria Anne Fitzherbert, and various English and French aristocrats, including Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV of France.

Cosway's pupils included Andrew Plimer (1763–1837).

From 1995 to 1996, the National Portrait Gallery in London held an exhibition entitled Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion, with 250 works on display.[4]

Personal life

On 18 January 1781, Cosway married the Anglo-Italian artist Maria Hadfield. Maria was a composer, musician and authority on girls' education and was much admired by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote letters to her decrying her marriage to another man and kept an engraving made from one of Cosway's paintings of Maria at Monticello.[5]

The Cosways' marriage is thought to be an arranged marriage and later a marriage of convenience due to his being 20 years her senior.[4][5] Richard was "well known as a libertine and commonly described as resembling a monkey."[6] The film Jefferson in Paris depicts Maria Cosway's romance with Thomas Jefferson and also depicts Richard Cosway as effeminate, something which is not certain historically.

Richard realized his wife's talent and helped her to develop it.[7]

In 1784, the Cosways moved into Schomberg House, Pall Mall, which became a fashionable salon for London society.[3] In 1791 they moved to a larger house in Stratford Place. However, the marriage did not last, eventually being annulled.

In later life, Cosway also suffered from mental disorders and spent some time in various institutions. He died in London in 1821 and was buried at Marylebone New Church. Sir John Soane bought more than 30 objects put up for sale at auction after Cosway's death.[3]

Examples of Cosway's work


  1. ^ J.E. Hodgson and Frederick A. Eaton, The Royal Academy and its Members 1768-1830. London: John Murray, 1905; pg. 113.
  2. ^ "Johan Zoffany: Finding the founders". RA Magazine. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "How England first saw Bonaparte: a painting by Francesco Cossia commissioned by Maria Cosway in 1797 was the first true portrait of Napoleon to be seen in England. It was acquired by Sir John Soane, who, as Xavier F. Salomon and Christopher Woodward explain, juxtaposed it with a miniature by Isabey in a graphic comparison of the youthful hero with the tyrannical dicatator". Apollo. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  4. ^ a b "An artistic alliance - Richard and Maria Cosway - English artists". Magazine Antiques. December 1995. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  5. ^ a b DeMauri, Stephen (December 2003). "Thomas Jefferson's Engraving of Maria Cosway". Monticello Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  6. ^ "JEFFERSON’S PARIS". American Heritage. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  7. ^ A Cyclopaedia of Female Biography by Henry Gardiner, p.214

Further reading

  • Gerald Barnett, Richard and Maria Cosway: A Biography. Tiverton, Devon, UK: Westcountry Books, 1995.
  • Philippe Bordes, "Richard and Maria Cosway, Edinburgh," Burlington Magazine, vol. 137, no. 1111 (Oct. 1995), pp. 700–702. In JSTOR.
  • Daphne Foskett, Miniatures: Dictionary and Guide. London: Antique Collectors' Club, 1987.
  • Duncan MacMillan, "The Cosways," RSA Journal, vol. 143, no. 5464 (Nov. 1995), pp. 65–66. In JSTOR.
  • "Richard Cosway, 'The Macaroni Miniature Painter,'" The Art Amateur, vol. 8, no. 2 (Jan. 1883), pg. 38. In JSTOR.
  •  Fagan, Louis Alexander (1887). "Cosway, Richard". In  
  • Lloyd, Stephen. "Cosway, Richard (bap. 1742, d. 1821)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  

External links

  • Victoria and Albert Museum miniatures gallery
  • Frits Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins & d'estampes, 1921 and its Supplement 1956, L.628 and L.629, online edition
  • A catalogue of the very curious, extensive, and valuable library of Richard Cosway, Esq. R.A, digital facsimile from Houghton Library, Harvard University.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.