This print is from a series of six views of Jamaica, which were commissioned by the sugar planter and historian William Beckford (1744-1799). Beckford was born in Jamaica, the son of Richard Beckford (died 1756), from whom he inherited four Jamaican sugar estates. He was also the nephew of William Beckford, Lord Major of London, and cousin of William Thomas Beckford, known for building Fonthill Abbey, in Wiltshire.
After studying at Balliol College in Oxford, William Beckford travelled through Europe from 1767 to 1768. He later married and moved to Jamaica with his wife in February 1774, remaining there for 13 years. It was during his time in Jamaica that Beckford began to patronise artists he had met in England, inviting them to visit his Jamaican home. Among these artists were the portrait painter Philip Wickstead (died 1786) and landscape painter George Robertson (1742-1788).
Nothing is known about the early life of the landscape engraver James Mason. He is first mentioned by engraver and antiquary George Vertue, working for the publisher Arthur Pond in 1744, when he was probably in his early twenties. Mason later established himself as a popular engraver, co-publishing some of his own works. He produced several engravings after paintings by landscape and scene painter George Lambert, the majority of which are dated between 1745 and 1761. Mason engraved considerably less after 1780. He died in 1805 at his home in Winchester Row, Paddington, and was buried nearby at St Mary’s Church. He referred to himself as engraver and shopkeeper in his will, which suggests that he also ran a print shop.
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