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Butterworth, John

Date and place of birth:
c 1761, place unknown
Date and place of death:
c 1807
(fl) 1790-1800
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on card
Known materials:


A very fine profilist from an artistic family, John Butterworth had a decade of relatively great success at the end of the eighteenth century. Today his work is regarded as excellent examples of turn-of-the-century style.

Known to have had at least five siblings, John Butterworth appears to have been from the second of three generations of a family of Butterworth classed as ‘Ingravers’, living at Kirkgate, Leeds. Another Butterworth, William, who was also a painter and who etched onto glass, was in business with John. The decade of John’s success as a profilist seems to have been followed by a return the family craft of engraving.

The most characteristic sign of a Butterworth profile is usually to be found in the arm area of a sitter. In order to show the termination of an arm he usually puts a nick – or sometimes two – at the base of a silhouette. He also preferred to use dark gray pigment to highlight the detail in clothes and hair. Another feature of Butterworth’s work is the use of a thin needle on dead black pigment for costume detail and, often, for hair styling. So fine is this detail that it can usually only be picked up by use of a magnifying glass. This technique is also used for profiles executed on glass, on which it can be more clearly seen.

Additional research about John Butterworth:

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

Butterworth, John (McKechnie Section 2)
Butterworth, John (McKechnie Section 3)
Butterworth, John (McKechnie Section 5)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of silhouette, in frame, with woman looking left, wearing a hat with ribbon.