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Bermingham, Nathanial

Date and place of birth:
Presumed Dublin
Date and place of death:
(fl) 1760s-1770s
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Cut paper
Known materials:
Tortoiseshell and ebony


Bermingham’s work is quite unique in the genre of silhouettes. He was a heraldic painter by trade, and the influence of this can definitely be seen in his work. In particular, his cut silhouettes have exceptional detail for the period.

Almost nothing is known about Bermingham’s life. He appears to have worked towards the end of the eighteenth century out of at least three different addresses in London, and to have exhibited at The Society of Artists. His recorded pieces tend to take the form of set pieces comprising various artistic techniques. Tortoiseshell and ebony have been used to frame his work, but no trade labels have been discovered.

An important feature of Birmingham’s work is that his subjects were all well-known public figures rather than the more homely family or individual portraits which had helped popularise the art of silhouettes. He appears to have done work which could be used for prints; their elaborate construction included painted symbolic figures, decorative flourishes and symbols as well as cut-work. His work on vellum is known to have been effected with the point of a knife instead of scissors and he was capable of fine detail and embellishments using this technique. It is supposed that he used this technique also on his white paper work on which his white slashing was almost as fine as stippling. Hair curls were represented by minute scrolls of cut paper.

Additional research about Nathanial Bermingham:

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

Bermingham, Nathanial (McKechnie Section 1)