Field, John

Date and place of birth:
born 24.01.1772, London
Date and place of death:
dec. 18.12.1848, London
(fl) ca. 1794-1848
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on plaster, ivory & card
Known materials:
Plaster, Ivory, Card
Papier mâché, oval turned fruitwood & gold lockets


Considered by McKechnie "one of the finest and most famous silhouette artists" , Field's career, spent exclusively in London, spanned 5 decades. Consequently his output was huge and his works consistently appear on the market today. Probably best known for his meticulous, peerless bronze-highlighted likenesses, most collections contain at least one of his works.

Born in London, John Field married Mary Harris (1774-1869) at St.Margarets, Westminster in May 1795, Mary gave birth to 4 children between 1796-1810. Their last child and only surviving son, Henry William (1810-82), became a silhouettist like his father and, though his work is often finely painted, it can suffer in comparison to his father's very high degree of precision.

John Field spent nearly 40 years at Miers' studio, though for reasons unknown in 1809 he worked independently from 25 Strand, and a printed trade label from that address states he was "Late 14 years sole profile painter for Mr.Miers of 111 Strand". As Field's 1809 Royal Academy exhibit is addressed from 25 Strand and former and subsequent entries were from Miers' Strand address, it appears that Field's initial independent venture lasted barely a year, and more importantly that he was Miers' sole profile painter from 1796.

When Miers died in June 1821, his will allowed an option for his 111 Strand business to become a partnership between son William Miers (1793-1863) a picture frame maker and seal engraver, and John Field. It appears the relationship was strained. A joint (William) MIERS & FIELD trade label only appeared, perhaps grudgingly on William Miers' part, in 1823 and by the end of 1829 the partnership was dissolved.

In 1830 Field and son Henry William (1810-1882) were working from 11 Strand. The trade label from this address offered miniature frames, jewellery and seal engraving crafted by Henry William and profiles painted by both men. By 1833, they'd moved on again to 2 Strand, adjacent to Northumberland House. Two printed trade labels are recorded from this address. By coincidence, 2 Strand (formerly 2 Charing Cross) was the family home of Henry George Vigne (1765-1788), a talented but rare profilist and miniature painter who died aged 23.

According to McKechnie, John Field painted profiles into the 1840s, and the quality of these compositions remained remarkably high. Field died at 2 Strand in December 1848. Son Henry William continued to work from the same address as a frame maker and seal engraver until the building was demolished in 1875.

Revised 28 October 2022 (Brian Wellings)

Additional research about John Field:

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

Field, John (McKechnie Section 2)
Field, John (McKechnie Section 4)
Field, John (McKechnie Section 5)
Field, John (McKechnie Section 6)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of Silhouette, in frame, with man looking rightFront of silhouette, in frame, with a woman looking right.Front of Silhouette, in frame, with man looking rightFront of silhouette, in frame, with woman looking left.Front of silhouette, in frame, with boy looking left, wearing a high necked collar.