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Richard Samuel

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Title: Richard Samuel  
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Richard Samuel

For the French civil servant, see Richard Samuel (prefect).

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Richard Samuel (fl. 1770 -1786) was an English portrait painter who appears as a winner of prestigious medals in the 1770s in London. He is known for a small number of paintings including what came to be known as the Nine Living Muses of Great Britain.[2] Samuel painted the nine leading Blue Stockings as the Nine Muses in 1778.[1]


The parents, childhood and artistic training of Richard Samuel are not known.[3] Samuel came to notice when he twice won the prestigious award from the Society of Artists for the best historical drawing. He had entered the Royal Academy's schools in 1770.[1] Later he was given money for creating an improvement in the techniques for applying mezzotint grounds, although strangely there are no surviving examples of Samuel's art that use this technique.[4] His work consisted of conversation pieces, whole length paintings and portraits.[3] Several of these were chosen and exhibited at the exhibitions at the Royal Academy between 1772 and 1779. In 1779 Samuel took a job as an assistant secretary at the Royal Academy (which he kept until his death).[1]

Two works are particularly admired. Samuel did a larger than usual portrait of Robert Pollard, the engraver. This work was in the style of Thomas Gainsborough and shows Pollard who was an idiosyncratic printseller who made a substantial living from his work.[5] A more unusual painting was a construction he made using the portraits of well known independent British women of his time. He is not known to have identified them, but a later engraving revealed them to be chosen for their achievements and intellectual ability.[6]

Samuel had chosen leading women from different areas of achievement in line with idea of the Nine Muses of mythology. His choice of poet was Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Elizabeth Carter was the scholar. Angelica Kauffman was the only founding female member of the Royal Academy; Elizabeth Griffith was a playwright; Charlotte Lennox was a writer whilst Catherine Macaulay was a historian. The last three were Elizabeth Montagu, a leader of society, Hannah More, a religious writer and playwright, and the singer Elizabeth Sheridan.[2]

In 1786, the year that he died, Samuel published a short work that was titled "On the Utility of Drawing and Painting".[1] It has been supposed that as his work does not appear to have ever fully developed (or that he retired), he died at a young age.[4]


Samuel has only a limited number of works, but they are well placed. A few are at the National Portrait Gallery in London whilst others are at the Tate Gallery. His painting of the nine muses is used as emblematic of the emergence of bluestockings in the eighteenth century. The painting was also made into an engraving where the title of the Nine Living Muses of Great Britain was used.

Samuels painting of the nine muses has been notably recreated by Derry Moore's 1996 photograph which is also in London's National Portrait Gallery. Moore's photograph includes a contemporary selection of notable British women including Darcy Bussell and Vivienne Westwood.[7]


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