Painter and etcher John Hamilton Mortimer was born in Eastbourne, Sussex; the son of a mill owner and customs officer. In 1756/7 he entered the studio of Thomas Hudson and later worked under Robert Edge Pine. Mortimer sketched at the Duke of Richmond’s sculpture gallery, St Martin’s Lane Academy and Shipley’s drawing academy. His success in winning premiums for history painting (1763, 1764) launched his career. He exhibited at the Society of Artists (1762–77), becoming Director (1768), Vice-President (1770) and President (1774–75). In the 1770s he painted scenes of witchcraft, monsters and bandits. He also painted literary subjects and illustrated books. Mortimer became an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1778. He died aged just 38.
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