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Charles, A.

Date and place of birth:
Date and place of death:
(fl) c 1785 – 1800
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on paper
Known materials:
Turned pearwood, hammered brass & verre églomisé surrounds


One of the most well-known silhouettists and a favourite of both critics and collectors, Charles also has the dubious distinction of being one of the most frequently miss-attributed artists. Indeed, Diana Joll has written a paper suggesting that any unsigned work attributed to Charles should be discounted. He was a ceaseless self-promoter and claimed to be the inventor of silhouettes painted on glass.

Little is known of Charles’s life. His self-publicity included claims which are questionable but which are a testament to his ambition and popular success. These include: his claim of having made over 18,000 silhouettes, his advertised credentials of having studied under master-sculptor Carlini, and his alleged membership of the Royal Academy. While it is known that Charles did do a likeness of George III he also took the liberty thereafter of styling himself ‘by royal appointment’.

While Charles’s claim to be the first to invent the style of silhouettes painted on glass might have been made in genuine ignorance of two forerunners, it is unarguable that his glass work was very fine. He used a fine needle for detail and magnification reveals very fine cross-hatching. His bust-line terminations are standard (a smooth, curved line). It has been noted that he took more care with fine detail for his wealthy sitters than with those of the middling sort.

Additional research about A. Charles:

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

Charles, A. (McKechnie Section 2)
Charles, A. (McKechnie Section 3)
Charles, A. (McKechnie Section 5)
Charles, A. (McKechnie Section 6)

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

Charles, A. (SCC Newsletter November 1998)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of Silhouette, in frame, with woman looking left and wearing a hatFront of silhouette, in frame, with man looking left.