William Henry Pyne

Birth: 1769


William Henry Pyne (1769 in London – 29 May 1843 in London) known also as Ephraim Hardcastle (1769–1843), painter and author, born in 1769, was son of a leather-seller in Holborn. He showed an early love of drawing, and was placed for instruction in the drawing-school of Henry Pars [q. v.], but refused to enter into apprenticeship with the latter. He obtained, however, a great facility in drawing, practicing almost entirely in watercolors in the early tinted style. His work was principally landscape, into which he introduced figures of a humorous character. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790, sending 'Travelling Comedians,' and subsequently such works as 'Bartholomew Fair,' 'A Puppet Show,' 'Corn Harvest,' 'Gipsies in a Wood,' 'Anglers,' &c. In 1801 he executed two works in conjunction with Robert Hills [q. v.], the animal-painter. He was one of the original members of the 'Old Water-colour' Society at the time of its foundation in 1804, but, after contributing to its early exhibitions, he resigned his membership on 11 Jan. 1809.

In 1803 Pyne designed the vignettes and title-page for Nattes's 'Practical Geometry,' published in 1805. He had for some time been engaged in the compilation of an important and useful work, entitled 'Microcosm, or a Picturesque Delineation of the Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures of Great Britain; in a Series of above a Thousand Groups of Small Figures for the embellishment of Landscape … the whole accurately drawn from Nature and etched by W. H. Pyne and aquatinted by J. Hill, to which are added Explanations of the Plates by C. Gray.' This work consists of groups of small figures, cleverly drawn, and colored by hand, and was published in parts commencing in 1803; a second and complete edition appeared in 1806. Some of Pyne's original drawings for this work are in the print-room of the British Museum. The book was very successful, and found many imitators in England and France.

Pyne's next publication was 'The Costume of Great Britain, designed, engraved, and written by W. H. Pyne,' published in 1808. This was followed by 'Rudiments of Landscape Drawing in a Series of easy Examples,' 1812; 'Etchings of Rustic Figures for the Embellishment of Landscape,' 1815; and 'On Rustic Figures in Imitation of Chalk,' 1817. Pyne had exhibited at the Royal Academy for the last time in 1811, and he now devoted himself more and more exclusively to book production. He became connected with Ackermann the publisher, and suggested or contributed to several of his publications, including 'Picturesque Sketches of Rustic Scenery,' and 'Views of Cottages and Farm Houses in England and Wales,' in 1815.

Pyne next embarked on a large and expensive work, entitled 'The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St. James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House, and Frogmore,' illustrated by one hundred colored engravings, and published by Ackermann in 1829. Pyne only contributed the literary matter, the drawings being supplied by Mackenzie, Nash, Pugin, Stephanoff, and others. Though the work had some success, it involved Pyne in serious financial difficulties, and he was on more than one occasion confined for debt in the King's Bench prison. In 1831 he contributed some drawings and letterpress to 'Lancashire Illustrated,' published by R. Wallis the engraver, and drew a few caricatures.

But Pyne had not sufficient application to succeed as an artist, and in later life he abandoned art for literature. He turned to advantage his love of gossip and gifts of narrative in a long and valuable series of anecdotes of art and artists, which he sup plied to W. Jerdan's 'Literary Gazette' under the pseudonym of 'Ephraim Hardcastle.' In 1823 he republished these in two volumes, entitled 'Wine and Walnuts, or After-dinner Chit-chat.' Under the same pseudonym he edited, in 1824, 'The Somerset House Gazette and Literary Museum: a Weekly Miscellany of Fine Arts, Antiquities, and Literary Chit-chat;' fifty-two parts were published weekly at sixpence, when it was announced that it would be continued monthly, but no further part appeared.

Pyne also contributed to 'Arnold's Magazine of Fine Arts,' the 'Library of the Fine Arts,' and an article on the 'Greater and Lesser Stars of Pall Mall' to 'Fraser's Magazine.' In 1825 he published a work of fiction, 'The Twenty-ninth of May, or Rare Doings at the Restoration.' Though long popular in literary and artistic circles, Pyne fell, in old age, into obscurity and neglect, and died on 29 May 1843, aged 74, in Pickering Place, Paddington, after a painful illness. One of his sons, George Pyne, married Esther, daughter of John Varley [q. v.], and also practiced as an artist.


[Roget's Hist. of the 'Old Watercolour' Society; Gent. Mag. 1843, pt. ii. p. 99; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Pyne's own works.]

Cust, Lionel Henry (1896). "Pyne, William Henry" . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 47. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 86–87.

Pyne, William H. (1989) Pyne's British Costumes. Poole: Westminster Editions ISBN 1-872128-04-1 (a facsimile of the 1805 edition)

Redgrave, Samuel (1878). "Pyne, William Henry". A dictionary of artists of the English school. London: George Bell and Sons. pp. 344–345.

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