William Owen, portrait painter, from Ludlow, Shropshire, was the son of a hairdresser and book seller. He moved to London in his 20s and was apprenticed to a coach-painter, before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1791. He married the daughter of a shoemaker, thought to be wealthy, but declared insolvent at death. This left Owen bankrupt and imprisoned at Dover for his debts. He nonetheless became a member of the Academy in 1806 and Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1810, although the Prince never sat for him. He was later disabled by an infection of the spine and unable to paint after 1820. Aged 55, he died of poisoning when a chemist’s assistant mistakenly gave him opium. Many of his paintings were finished by Edward Daniel Leahy.
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