Bruce, George

Date and place of birth:
Presumed early to mid 1770s
Date and place of death:
Presumed 1848-1849
(fl) 1798-1845
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on plaster
Known materials:
Oval brass & papier-mache


George Bruce was very confident in his abilities as a profilist, and boasted that he would never charge if the end product was not an exact resemblance of the sitter. Well-regarded today, one silhouette hanging in the Victoria and Albert Museum currently attributed to John Miers has recently been put forward as the work of Bruce.

George Bruce was taught by a Samuel Houghton, who he worked with for around three years until Houghton’s death in 1796. Bruce proceeded to marry his widow a year later and continued in the silhouette trade. Over his career Bruce mastered other artistic professions including frame-making and jeweler. The frames in which his paintings were housed were oval hammered brass with slightly convex glass. This changed post-1800 when he used paper-mache frames, a popular transition for many silhouette artists of the time. There are four known trade labels, all of which are handwritten in a similar style.

Bruce’s style changed considerably with time; his use of transparency was incredibly good at the start but deteriorated after 1820. Due to the near-50 year period that Bruce worked his style and the fashions he painted inevitably changed. This helps greatly with dating his profiles; small buttons on dresses and coats indicate portraits taken in the 1790s for example. On almost all of Bruce’s earlier work the area beneath the bust-line is plunging. However, his technique changes after 1810 when he starts to use many lines in conjunction with the sweeping line. Very few silhouettes are painted after 1820, though those that exist are less elegant than his earlier work. Some of his work on ivory is so small that it could be used in ring or locket settings.

Additional research about George Bruce:

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

Bruce, George (McKechnie Section 4)
Bruce, George (McKechnie Section 5)
Bruce, George (McKechnie Section 6)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of Silhouette, in frame, with man looking right and wearing naval uniformFront of silhouette, in frame, with woman looking left.