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Pelham, James II (McKechnie Section 3)

Painter, miniaturist and profilist, Pelham was the son of the miniaturist James Pelham. He is recorded by Jackson as T. Pelham (Dictionary), also by Foskett (from whom I have derived the biographical information given below). As a profilist, he is known from a few silhouettes of which only one, in poor condition, is available for illustration. It bears a trade label and the date 1820 on the reverse.

Pelham was born in London on 16 September 1800. His father, a Liverpool artist, is recorded in H. C. Marillier, The Liverpool School of Painters (London, 1904). James Pelham II began his career in London as a portrait painter, and worked also in Edinburgh, Norwich, Lincoln, Newcastle, York, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Bath and Bristol. He sent in exhibits to the Royal Academy 1832-37, and exhibits at other institutions were recorded up to 1868. Known addresses include 15 King's Mead Terrace, Bath (1832), 8 Buckingham Place, Fitzroy Square, London (1836) and 21 Elizabeth Terrace, Islington, London (1837). He married in 1838, and moved to Liverpool soon afterwards. In 1848 he became an Associate of the Liverpool Academy, was soon elected a member, and was Secretary of the Academy for a period from 1854. He played a prominent part in directing the Liverpool Academy Schools. He died in Liverpool on 17 April 1874.

Pelham painted not only miniatures but portraits in oil and water-colour and, towards the end of his life, subject pictures. As the illustrated example of his work is dated 1820, and represents the Rector of Great Yarmouth, we can assume that he certainly painted silhouettes early in his career, and in East Anglia. The trade label on the reverse of this example states that Pelham was miniature painter to Princess Augusta. An attractive double portrait miniature, in rectangular format, by Pelham of two sisters, Elenora and Mary Clifford, signed and dated 1840, was sold by Sotheby and Company, London, on 6 July 1970, and a pair of silhouettes of an unknown man and an unknown woman (sold on 20 January 1975 at the same auction house) have a trade label of Pelham.

Pelham had nine children, of whom eight survived. Two of these became artists: James Pelham III (1840-1906), and a daughter, Emily. James succeeded his father as Secretary of the Liverpool Academy in 1867.

The illustrated silhouette by Pelham suggests that his manner was closely similar to that of Parkin (q.v.). When held up to the light, the piece can be seen to be heavily fingerprinted all over, further details having been added by expert hatching. The silhouette (on convex glass) was backed with a thin layer of wax, badly broken and subsequently restored at the cost of losing some detail of the profile. The fingerprinting is very dark and thick, and only visible against a strong light. There is no bust-line termination.

One trade label (on this profile) is certainly known; it is uncertain whether it is the same as the label, recorded by Jackson, which also mentions Pelham's appointment as miniature painter to Princess Augusta and reads as follows:





In a New and Elegant Style, producing the Effect of Aqua-tinta engraving with the Beauty and Softness of Enamel. — The time of Sitting one minute. Ladies and Gentlemen waited upon at their own houses if required.

C. Lloyd, Printer, Thetford

Ills. 1133, 1134

The Reverend Richard Turner, Rector of Great Yarmouth
Silhouette painted on convex glass, backed with wax
3¼ x 2¾in./83 x 70mm.
Trade Label
Frame: papier mâché


This silhouette shows dark fingerprinting when held up to the light.


Author’s collection


Trade Label of James Pelham II, from the silhouette shown in 1133.


Author’s collection