[Sir] Martin Archer Shee

1769-1850; b. Dublin, 20 Sept. [var. 23 Dec.]of Catholic family; RDS scholar under West; became portrait painter in crayon, and went to London, June 1788; introduced to Sir Joshua Reynolds by William Burke (br. of Edmund); entered RA schools on advice of Reynolds; exhibited Head of an Old Man and Portrait of a Gentleman at RA, 1789; accepted for exhibition, 1791, 1792; elected associate member of Royal Academy [ARA], 1798, and became a full member [MRA], 1800;
settled in former house of George Romney, Cavendish Sq., and established himself as society protraitist; he was elected President in 25 Jan. 1830, at the death of Sir Thomas Lawrence; knighted in 1830; persuaded to continue as RA President after failure of health; his writings include Rhymes on Art (London 1809); Elements of Life, a poem in six cantos (London 1809); Commemoration of Sir Joshua Reynolds &c., and Other Poems (London 1814);
also Alasco (London 1824; NY 1825), a verse-tragedy set in Poland which was condemned by Lord Chamberlain as carrying treasonable allusions; Shee conducted an unsuccessful pamphlet campaign in its defence; he also published novels, Old Court (1819) and Harry Calverley (1835); among his society portraits is a full-length canvas of Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV, made in 1836;
successfully defended the functions of the Royal Academy before a parliamentary committee, 1836; d. Brighton, 19 Aug. a [var. 13 Aug.]; his pictures are sometimes faulted for excessive redness in the portrayal of flesh; the ‘Winslow Boy’ was a descendant. PI CAB DIB ODNB OCIL

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Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988), notes the he was assiduous in defence of profession (‘ready to break a lance with the vandalism of the day’); secured charter of RHA and made Hon. member; issued poems, two novels, and a tragedy; voted 300 and asked to remain when his health caused him to offer his resignation to RA; d. Brighton, 19 Aug. [Entry clearly derived from CAB; note var. dates in Wikipedia.]

Wikipedia gives Shee's dates as 23 Dec. 1769-13 Aug. 1850 and styles him a British portrait painter and President of the Royal Academy; born in Dublin of an old Catholic family ... &c. [See online; accessed 24.07.2011.]

Ann Cruikshank & The Knight of Glin [Desmond Fitzgerald], Irish Portraits 1600-1860 [Catalogue] (1969), calls him ‘one of the last painters in the grand manner and his work, until recently, has been much underrated.’ (p.21.)

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Arnott & Robinson, English Theatrical Literature 1559-1900: A Bibliography (London: Society for Theatre Research 1970), lists Alasco, a tragedy in 5 acts, excluded from the stage [by the Licenser, George Colman, and then the Lord Chamberlain]; also Rejected Passages (reported but not seen). Shee ‘rashly’ withdrew his play rather than modify it.

British Library holds Old Court (1829); Harry Calverley (3 vols, 1835); Alasco (1824, 1825); Commemoration of Reynolds (1814).

Public Libraries (N. Ireland): Belfast Public Library holds Rhymes on Art (1806). See also cuttings in Belfast Linenhall Library (34a. 116).

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Samuel Lover: Lover inscribed to his Legends and Tales of Ireland (1821), as follows: ded. To Sir Martin Archer Shee, P.R.A., ‘A painter - A Poet - and An Irishman, This Volume is Very respectfully inscribed by The Author.

Queen consort: Sir Martin Shee made an oil portrait of Adelaide, queen consort to William IV, in 1836 - in ermine and red velvet, set in a classical arch giving on to a balcony and Italianate landscape; a better-known portrait was made by Sir William Beechey in 1831.

Kith & Kin: George Archer Shee, a descendant, was the celebrated ‘Winslow Boy’ in a case of injustice perpetrated in Osborne Naval College, supposedly for stealing a postal order, giving rise the case in which Edward Carson acted successfully as barrister for the boy against the Admiralty, dramatised by Terence Rattigan in 1946. The trial was stopped by the Attorney General after four days and compensation was paid to the family. Shee, who came from Woodchester, was educated at Stonyhurst before entering the naval college, and died in WWI.

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