Allport, William

Date and place of birth:
bapt. 11.09.1779, Aston, Birmingham
Date and place of death:
dec. 24.06.1831, Church Alley, Liverpool
fl. ca. 1806 - 1830
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on card and paper. Used 'Physiognotrace Machine'
Known materials:
Paper, card
Papier-mâché, turned pearwood & pressed brass


Christened William Twigg Allport, son of a Birmingham gunsmith, he was the only one of seven sons not to become an arms maker. A competent, consistently neat profilist, Allport’s distinctive style is easily attributable. He worked solely in Liverpool. 
As a profilist, his name was lost to history until an auction lot was discovered in 1969 bearing his handwritten trade label, and the signature motif of a double shadow below the sitter’s bust line, as seen on profiles bearing the printed trade label of commercial museum proprietor William Bullock. Till then, commentators assumed the works were by Bullock himself. However, with the above discovery, it was accepted the profiles bearing Bullock’s labels were painted by Allport in house, at Bullock’s Museum, between September 1806 and spring 1809.
McKechnie suggests the museum engaged other artists though, as far as known, Bullock’s labelled works are all by Allport’s hand. Allport's employment there ceased in spring 1809 when, deciding to maximise the museum's profitability, Bullock relocated it to London's Piccadilly, where it opened in June 1809 to enormous success. As profile taking was not offered at the London venue, its 'Physiognotrace’ machine used to trace a sitter's outline, was acquired by Allport, as he mentions employing one on his own handwritten trade label. 
Though evidence is inconclusive, it's possible Allport's mother Ann Cox (1750-1823) and Joseph Cox (1744-1831), father of eminent Birmingham-born watercolourist David Cox (1783-1859) were related. Both were of an age to have been siblings, both lived in Aston, a parish sparsely populated until the 1770s, and both Joseph Cox and Allport's father supplied weaponry to the Board of Ordnance.
Bolstering the supposition, mention is made in "MEMOIRS OF DAVID COX..." (1873) of a "cousin Allport" who obtained David Cox his first employment " grind colours and wait on scenery painters" at Birmingham's New Street Theatre, where Cox quickly graduated into a scenery painter, working in Birmingham and Liverpool, moving to London in 1804.
If William Allport was "cousin Allport", it can be inferred his connection to the New Street Theatre possibly as a scenery painter himself, was strong enough to secure David Cox's employment there. Furthermore, the first record of Allport in Liverpool is when he lists his occupation as an "Artist" at his marriage there in 1802. It's plausible an occupation as a scenery painter may account for Allport's anonymity as an "Artist" before being taken up by Bullock's Museum at the somewhat advanced age of 27 in September 1806.
Intriguingly in 1800, the home of William Bullock's "Celebrated Cabinet of Curiosiities" was Portugal House, which stood adjacent to Birmingham's New Street Theatre. With such close proximity, it's also possible when Bullock relocated to Liverpool the following year, Allport followed in his wake.
Between 1802-31, Directories/Church Registers variously record Allport as an Artist and from 1810 a Furniture Broker or Artist. His abodes, 1801-1829, were in Stanley Street, Liverpool’s centre for Furniture Brokers. Both occupations were probably pursued in tandem; though, with the city’s expansion, demand for furniture likely proved more remunerative than irregular commissions for profile portraiture.
Revised 7 January 2023 (Brian Wellings)

Additional research about William Allport:

Source: McKechnie (Author of, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860)

Allport, William (McKechnie Section 2)

Source: Joll (Hon. Secretary of the Silhouette Collectors Club and Editor of the Club's newsletter)

Allport, William (SCC Newsletter April 2011)

Source: Wellings (Silhouette collector and Contributing Editor)

Allport, William (Recent research, April 2022)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of silhouette, in frame, with man looking right, wearing a stock.Front of Silhouette, in frame, with woman looking leftFront of silhouette, in frame, with man looking left, wearing a stock.