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Cheney, John

Date and place of birth:
2 January 1773
Date and place of death:
28 December 1850
(fl) c1790-unknown
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on glass
Known materials:
Hammered brass, alabaster & gilt


John Cheney’s main line of work was sign-writer and proof reader for the family printing business. However, he is well-known today as an accomplished silhouette artist with a fine, precise touch.

It was really only as a sideline to the family printing business that John Cheney worked as a silhouette artist. He was the eldest surviving son in the family and appears to have worked all his life in Banbury. The following advertisement dated 1790-1800 announced his work: ‘J.CHENEY, Junior, respectfully informs Ladies and Gentlemen that he takes the most perfect Likenesses in Miniature Profile, painted on Glass in a superior style of elegance, which will endure for Ages; at Five Shillings each; in neat gilt frame, com-plete.’ No signed or labelled silhouette on glass has been recorded. A recorded trade label on one of his paper silhouettes measures 1 ½ in. square and states: PROFILES, IN MINATURE, J. CHENEY Banbury.

John Cheney painted in full light-and-shade, which accentuated all the finer details of the clothing of the sitter. The technique he used to achieve this was varying depths of water-colour wash, detailed with precise lines. Cheney also strongly emphasized the bust line finish; for a woman it was on the waist, while on the silhouette of his father he indicated it with a strong line. He painted hair in uniform strokes and it has been noted that overall his silhouettes bear some stylistic resemblance to those by Mrs Lane Kelfe. Jackson has reported that Cheney also ‘cut and bronzed’ silhouettes. This was indeed a technique developed soon after 1800. However, no examples of Cheney’s bronzing work have so far come to light.

Additional research about John Cheney:

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

Cheney, John (McKechnie Section 1)
Cheney, John (McKechnie Section 2)
Cheney, John (McKechnie Section 3)