(b. 1766, London, d. 1839, London)


English painter and illustrator. His father died when he was young, and he was brought up by his uncle, the miniature painter William Singleton (d 1793). In 1782 he entered the Royal Academy Schools in London and in 1784 won a silver medal for a drawing from life, exhibiting at the Royal Academy for the first time the same year. He showed considerable promise and in 1788 won a gold medal for a painting inspired by John Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast that was especially praised by Reynolds. In 1793 Singleton was commissioned by the Royal Academy to paint the group portrait the Royal Academicians Assembled in their Council Chamber (London, Royal Academy). He soon became noted for his paintings inspired by the Bible and from literary sources, among them Manto and Tiresias (London, Tate Gallery) from John Dryden's Oedipus, and for his depictions of contemporary historical events, of which the watercolour Design Commemorative of the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1807; London, British Museum) is an example.

Many of his works were engraved in mezzotint and achieved a widespread popularity. He also painted portraits, the writer James Boswell (c. 1795; Edinburgh, National Gallery) being one of his sitters. Many of Singleton's later works are inclined to be sentimental and were carelessly executed; they were often intended solely for engraving. Throughout his life he had a great love of Shakespeare, and many of his works illustrate scenes from the plays, among them Ariel on a Bat's Back (1819; London, Tate Gallery) taken from The Tempest; at the time of his death he had completed a series of over 90 such pictures. He also provided illustrations for books, including the Poems of Ossian (London, 1805), and for such periodicals as The Spectator, The Tatler and The Guardian. He exhibited at the Royal Academy until the year of his death.

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