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Sir Robert Strange

Born: 14-Jul-1721
Birthplace: Orkney Island
Died: 5-Jul-1792
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Engraver

Nationality: Scotland
Executive summary: Scottish line engraver

Scottish line engraver, descended from the Scottish family of Strange, or Strang, of Balcasky, Fife, was born in the mainland of Orkney, on the 14th of July 1721. In his youth he spent some time in an attorney's office; but, having manifested a taste for drawing, he was apprenticed in 1735 to Richard Cooper, an engraver in Edinburgh. After leaving Cooper in 1741 he started on his own account as an engraver, and had attained a fair position when, in 1745, he joined the Jacobite army as a member of the corps of life-guards. He engraved a half-length of the Young Pretender, and also etched plates for a banknote designed for the payment of the troops. He was present at the battle of Culloden, and after the defeat remained in hiding in the Highlands, but ultimately returned to Edinburgh, where, in 1747, he married Isabella, only daughter of William Lumisden, son of a bishop of Edinburgh. In the following year he proceeded to Rouen, and there studied drawing under J. B. Descamps, carrying off the first prize in the Academy of Design. In 1749 he removed to Paris, and placed himself under the celebrated Le Bas. It was from this master that he learned the use of the dry point, an instrument which he greatly improved and employed with excellent effect in his own engravings. In 1750 Strange returned to England. Presently he settled in London along with his wife and daughter, and superintended the illustrations of Dr. William Hunter's great work on the Gravid Uterus, published in 1774. The plates were engraved from red chalk drawings by Van Rymsdyk, now preserved in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, and two of them were executed with great skill by Strange's own hand. By his plates of the "Magdalen" and "Cleopatra", engraved after Guido in 1753, he at once established his professional reputation. He was invited in 1759 to engrave the portraits of the Prince of Wales and Lord Bute, by Allen Ramsay, but declined, on the ground of the insufficient remuneration offered and of the pressure of more congenial work after the productions of the Italian masters. His refusal was attributed to his Jacobite proclivities, and it led to an acrimonious correspondence with Ramsay, and to the loss, for the time, of royal patronage. In 1760 Strange started on a long-meditated tour in Italy. He studied in Florence, Naples, Parma, Bologna, and Rome, executing innumerable drawings, of which many -- the "Day" of Correggio, the "Danae" and the "Venus and Adonis" of Titian, the "St. Cecilia" of Raphael, and the Barberini "Magdalen" of Guido, etc. were afterwards reproduced by his burin. On the Continent he was received with great distinction, and he was elected a member of the academies of Rome, Florence, Parma and Paris. He left Italy in 1764, and, having engraved in the French capital the "Justice" and the "Meekness" of Raphael, from the Vatican, he carried them with him to London in the following year. The rest of his life was spent mainly in these two cities, in the diligent prosecution of his art. In 1766 he was elected a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, and in 1775, piqued by the exclusion of engravers from the Royal Academy, he published an attack on that body, entitled An Enquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Royal Academy of Arts at London, and prefaced by a long letter to Lord Bute. In 1787 he engraved Benjamin West's "Apotheosis of the Princes Octavius and Alfred", and was rewarded with the honor of knighthood. He died in London on the 5th of July 1792. After his death a splendid edition of reserved proofs of his engravings was issued; and a catalogue of his works, by Charles Blanc, was published in 1848 by Rudolph Weigel of Leipzig, forming part of Le Graveur en taille douce.

    Knighthood 1787



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