English Painter, 1782-1857
English painter and illustrator. He was apprenticed to the line-engraver Benjamin Smith (d 1833) in 1797, but his greater interest in portrait painting led him to take life classes at the Royal Academy, London; he exhibited portraits there from 1799. Versatile and industrious, he painted miniature likenesses, taught drawing, designed and engraved illustrations for books in French, Portuguese and English, and wrote for and illustrated Rudolph Ackermann's Repository. His half-a-crown watercolours, known as 'pretty faces', were particularly popular, and he found employment as an assiduous copyist. In 1809 he was elected to the Society of Painters in Water-Colours and for the next nine years exhibited careful and colourful images of the countryside that provided views of the year's harvest. In 1817 Uwins travelled to France to record the Burgundian grape harvest, identifying the labour force more obviously as peasants than their English counterparts. In debt, he moved in 1820 to Edinburgh, where he illustrated books by Walter Scott and painted portraits. In 1824, his debt paid, he left for Italy, where he spent seven years; he sent highly valued copies of Italian works back to England (to Thomas Lawrence among others) and made studies of life in and around Rome and Naples, from which his later successes at the Royal Academy derived. An immodest Protestant, Uwins deplored but revelled in the 'polluted streams' of Catholic Italy, and provided London with oils renowned for their clarity and colour. A Neapolitan Saint Manufactory (exh. RA 1832; Leicester, Mus. & A.G.) shows monks haggling, women gazing and children playing amid carved and painted icons.