NORTHCOTE, JAMES (1746-1831), English painter, was born at Plymouth on the 22nd of October 1746. He was apprenticed to his father, a poor watchmaker of the town, and during his spare hours was diligent with brush and pencil. In 1769 he left his father and started as a portrait-painter. Four years later he went to London and was admitted as a pupil into the studio and house of Reynolds. At the same time he attended the Academy schools. In 1775 he left Reynolds, and about two years later, having acquired the requisite funds by portrait-painting in Devonshire, he went to study in Italy. On his return to England, three years later, he revisited his native county, and then settled in London, where Opie and Fuseli were his rivals. He was elected associate of the Academy in 1786, and full academician in the following spring. The " Young Princes murdered in the Tower," his first important historical work, dates from 1786, and it was followed by the " Burial of the Princes in the Tower," both paintings, along with seven others, being executed for Boydell's Shakespeare gallery, The " Death of Wat Tyler," now in the Guildhall, was exhibited in 1787; and shortly afterwards Northcote began a set of ten subjects, entitled " The Modest Girl and the Wanton," which were completed and engraved in 1796. Among the productions of Northcote's later years are the " Entombment " and the " Agony in the Garden," besides many portraits, and several animal subjects, like the " Leopards," the " Dog and Heron," and the " Lion "; these latter were more successful than the artist's efforts in the higher departments of art, as was indicated by Fuseli's caustic remark on examining the " Angel opposing Balaam "- " Northcote, you are an angel at an ass, but an ass at an angel." The works of the artist number about two thousand, and he made a fortune of 40,000. He died on the 13th of July 1831.
Northcote was emulous of fame as an author, and his first essays in literature were contributions to the Artist, edited by Prince Hoare. In 1813 he embodied his recollections of his old master in a Life of Reynolds. His Fables the first series published in 1828, the second posthumously in 1833 were illustrated with woodcuts by Harvey from Northcote's own designs. I n the production of his Life of Titian, his last work, which appeared in 1830, he was assisted by William Hazlitt, who previously, in 1826, had given to the public in the New Monthly Magazine his recollections of Northcote's pungent and cynical " conversations," the bitter personalities of which caused much trouble to the painter and his friends.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)