John Prescott Knight painted this portrait at about the time Hill was created a Viscount in 1842, which was also the year of his death. Hill studied at a military academy in Strasbourg. He distinguished himself during the Napoleonic wars in Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby and under Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War and at the Battle of Waterloo. In 1828 Hill replaced Wellington (then Prime Minister) as commander-in-chief of the army. Hill resigned in August 1842, four months before his death.
This portrait is an oil sketch for Knight’s 1842 work ‘The Waterloo Heroes Assembled at Apsley House’ (private collection). ‘The Waterloo Heroes’ depicts a gathering of the survivors of the Battle of Waterloo, fought on 18 June 1815. Wellington held an annual banquet to reunite himself with the principal officers who fought under his command. The Duke began the tradition in 1817 or 1818 and continued to hold annual Waterloo banquets at Apsley House, his London home, until his death in 1852. The artist has added a horse in the background of this sketch as a decorative device to complete the composition, enabling the sketch to be considered a complete work in its own right.
John Prescott Knight, portrait painter, was born in Stafford, son of the comedian Edward Knight. He initially worked as junior clerk for a West India merchant in London before studying drawing with Henry Sass and colouring with George Clint. In 1823, he entered the Royal Academy Schools. He painted several important figures of the Victorian age as well as large group portraits. Many of his works were engraved. In 1831, he married genre painter Clarissa Isabella Hague. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1844 and later Professor of Perspective at the Academy Schools and Secretary of the Academy. In 1878, he was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. Knight died in London aged 78 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.
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