Miers, John

Date and place of birth:
22 October 1758, Leeds
Date and place of death:
2 June 1801, London
(fl) 1781-1801
Known places of work:
Known techniques:
Painted on card
Known materials:
Plaster & pressed brass
Not Recorded


John Miers is regarded by many as the finest British silhouette artist of the eighteenth century, if not of all time, and is certainly one of the most well known. Indeed, the Manchester Mercury's advertisement for Miers on 26 October 1784 stated that, 'the Method he employs is superior to any with which the Public has hitherto been amused'.

Miers' father was a painter of heraldic coach signs, and the young Miers assisted his father in his work. He began to paint silhouettes, and by 1781 had set up his own business in Leeds. Miers travelled to various northern towns and cities for work between 1883 and 1788. In 1788, Miers moved his business to London, on the Strand. His business was successful, as he left £20,000 upon his death, a fortune at the time. Miers painted few silhouettes after 1800 and is reported to have spent most of his time until his death sorting and filing his large collection of duplicate profiles. It is suspected that some silhouettes ascribed to Miers are actually the work of his famous assistant John Field. Miers married in 1781, and had eleven children many of whom went on to be artists in their own right.

Miers initially painted on card in thinned black paint, but later favoured painting on plaster. Due to the fact that the quality of Miers' work improved over time, and because he experimented with his work, he used a considerable number of trade labels. It seems that he used ten labels overall for his work, while two more labels bearing his name were actually used by John Field. He mostly used a plaster frame with some gilding, although a lot of these chipped over time and were reframed. His later work used a more expensive pressed brass frame. He mostly used flat glass although, again, was willing to experiment with convex glass.

Miers' work developed in skill over time. While his early work was relatively plain, by the peak of his career his silhouettes were of a fine and elaborate quality, showing costume details, the texture of hair, eyelashes, and eventually jewellery. Miers was willing to experiment with his techniques over his career. His 'smudging' or 'shadow' technique is his most distinctive and skilled and accentuated hair texture, and frills on clothes. He developed this striking technique shortly before moving to London and continued to use it throughout his career. Miers remains popular to this day, and commands high prices at sales indicative of the quality of his work.

Additional research about John Miers:

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

Miers, John (McKechnie Section 4)
Miers, John (McKechnie Section 5)

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

Miers, John (SCC Newsletter December 2001)
Miers, John (SCC Newsletter January 2009)
Miers, John (SCC Newsletter July 2001)

Gallery Silhouettes

Front of silhouette, in frame, with woman looking right, wearing a hat with ribbons.Front of Silhouette, in frame, with woman looking left, with an hatFront of silhouette, in frame, with man looking right.Front of Silhouette, in frame, with woman looking leftFront of Silhouette, in frame, with woman looking right and wearing a hatFront of silhouette, in frame, with woman looking right, with a hat with ribbon.