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Buncombe, Charles

Date and place of birth:
Date and place of death:
(fl) c1795-1830
Known places of work:
Isle of Wight
Known techniques:
Painted on card
Known materials:
Papier-mache, pearwood & gilt


Charles Buncombe was both a poor schoolmaster and highly skilled silhouette artist. His work is of exceptional quality, though he made little money from his sideline, and is now much admired and very desirable. There appears to be some confusion between Charles and his son John; it seems likely that both worked as profile artists in the 1820s.

Although it is often assumed that John Buncombe is the silhouette artist recorded only as Buncombe on portraits, a contemporary document of 1830 (cited in McKechnie, Section 7) records John Buncombe as being apprenticed until the age of 21. He could not therefore have been painting before the 1820s and it should be assumed that most of the known work was done by his father Charles.

Buncombe painted on card, in black in the late 18th century and with coloured costumes thereafter. The black silhouettes mostly appear to have been commissioned by local families to be hung in the home, in a variety of frames. They are rendered in exquisite detail, with an individual, precise quality. The transparency of the thin dresses worn by young women at that time is clearly shown. Hair is painted with thinned pigment and a very fine brush, with great precision and neatness. From the beginning the 19th century he worked almost solely on military profiles, painted on card, unframed, presumably in order to be posted to wives and families. He became more prolific, due to demand and there were slight changes to style. Uniforms were painted in colour, in dull vermilion, ochre for gold lace and shaded white for sashes. Sitters can often be identified by their uniforms. Only one painting on glass is known, dated 1800, of outstanding quality. Like most of his portraits, there is no bust-line termination, and the bust-line has no termination. Because of the quality and desirability of his work, it has been copied by others, some of whom sign their work. Work by Buncombe is held in collections on the Isle of Wight and the National Army Museum.

Additional research about Charles Buncombe:

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

Buncombe, Charles (McKechnie Section 2)
Buncombe, Charles (McKechnie Section 6)
Buncombe, Charles (McKechnie Section 7)