Lemuel Francis Abbott (British, 1803)

Lemuel Francis Abbott (British, 1760–1802) was a portrait painter renowned for his depictions of prominent 18th-century British figures. Born in Leicestershire as the son of a clergyman, Abbott became an apprentice to painter Francis Hyman in London in 1775. After his master’s death in 1776, he returned home and continued to independently develop his craft. Abbott became skilled in the art of portraiture, with a talent for accurately capturing the likeness of his subjects. Some of his most famous commissions included portrayals of naval hero Horatio Nelson, poet William Cowper, and diplomat and colonial governor George Macartney. Abbott moved back to London in 1780, and a number of his works were displayed at the Royal Academy between 1788 and 1800. In 1798, perhaps due to professional pressures and domestic unhappiness, Abbott began to suffer from mental illness. Though he was treated by Dr. Thomas Muro, Abbott died in London in 1802. His portraits now hang in the some of the most prestigious museums in England, including the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Gallery.

Timeline

Lemuel Francis Abbott was probably born in Leicestershire in 1761, the son of the Reverend Lemuel Abbott. In 1775 he went to London to study under Francis Hayman (1708-1776) shortly before the latter’s death. It may be that he completed his studies with Joseph Wright of Derby

By 1780 he had a thriving portrait practice in London, and is famous for his portrait of Horatio Nelson, 1st Vicount Nelson (currently hanging in the Terracotta Room in 10 Downing Street) and for those of other naval officers and literary figures of the 18th century. Abbott exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1788, 1789, 1798 and 1800. Interestingly, only male portraits by Abbott are known

In 1798, the year in which he was an unsuccessful candidate for Associateship of the Royal Academy, Abbott began to suffer from mental instability, allegedly as a result of his failure to keep up with his work and because of domestic disquiet. He was attended in his illness by the physician to King George III, Dr Thomas Munroe (1759 – 1833), the chief physician to Bethlem Hospital. Abbott died in London in 1802

Exhibitions

1788–1800
Royal Academy of Arts