Sir William Beechey (British, Burford, Oxfordshire 1753–1839 Hampstead)
Oil on canvas
11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.2 x 25.1 cm)
Gift of Heathcote Art Foundation, 1986
Not on view
Miles, a miniature painter born in Yarmouth, Norfolk, in 1752, was Beechey’s contemporary. Both entered the Royal Academy schools in 1772, Miles first showing there in 1775 and Beechey the following year (see Long 1929). Miles became miniature painter to Queen Charlotte in 1794, and in 1797 moved to St. Petersburg, serving Czars Paul I and Alexander I in the same capacity. In 1807 he settled in Philadelphia, where he died in 1828.
When Beechey painted this portrait in 1785, the two artists were living near each other in Norwich. The picture seems to have been sent to the Royal Academy for exhibition in 1786, but 1787 is also a possibility (see Wilson 2004). This sympathetic, small-scale, highly finished work is a good example of Beechey’s early style and is in very good state.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (lower right, on portfolio) 1785 / W Beechey / pinx; (lower left, on sketchbook) Edw.d Miles / Æt 32.
Josephine Mercy Heathcote Haskell, New York (until d. 1982); Heathcote Art Foundation (1982–86)
London. Royal Academy. 1786, no. 67 (as "Portrait of an artist," by Beechey, possibly this picture).
W[illiam]. Roberts. Sir William Beechey, R.A. London, 1907, p. 263, lists as number 67 of the 1786 Royal Academy exhibition "Portrait of an artist" by Beechey, then resident in Norwich [possibly this picture].
Basil S. Long. British Miniaturists. London, 1929, p. 297, notes that Beechey painted Miles's portrait.
Daphne Foskett. A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 406, follows Long in noting that Beechey painted Miles.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 56–57, ill. (color), points out that the careers of Beechey and Miles followed a parallel course and that both lived for several years from 1782 at Market Place, Norwich, where the picture must have been painted; this sympathetic portrait suggests that the two were friends.
John Wilson inOxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Vol. 4, Oxford, 2004, p. 805, identifies it as one of fifteen small portraits by Beechey framed together in two frames, which were rejected by the Royal Academy in 1787 because Academy rules stated that all paintings had to be framed separately; adds that the pictures were subsequently exhibited in the gallery of the artist-dealer Benjamin Vandergucht.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 152–53, no. 72, ill. (color).