Hammersmith (now London)
An English painter and etcher, Thomas Worlidge was known for his portraits, often miniatures, and his etchings after Rembrandt. Worlidge was born in 1700 in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in eastern England. His father was a lawyer. Worlidge studied under the Italian painter Alessandro Grimaldi (1659-1732), then in England, and the French printmaker Louis Philippe Boitard (d. 1770), probably in London. Grimaldi’s daughter Arabella became the first of Worlidge’s three wives. After working as a glass painter in Birmingham during the late 1730s, he had moved to London by 1740. Worlidge began spending time in Bath, perhaps as early as 1741, where he painted portraits of fashionable members of English society; his portraits in pencil were especially popular. His early works in London included portraits of theatrical personalities. Worledge’s portrait of the actor David Garrick (ca 1745) is no in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. By 1751 Worlidge began etching in the style of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Some of his prints were copies of Rembrandt’s prints, while others were works done in Rembrandt’s style, such as his Self-portrait in Soft Cap (1754). Worlidge’s copy of Rembrandt’s “Christ Healing the Sick” (the “Hundred Guilder Print”) sold for the high price of 2 guineas. He had achieved a considerable reputation when in 1759 he was asked to create a print depicting the installation of John Fane (bap. 1686-1762), the 7th Earl of Westmorland, as Chancellor of the University of Oxford. In his largest print (40x60 cm), Worlidge depicted individual portraits of perhaps two hundred dignitaries who filled the Sheldonian Theatre. Worlidge himself is depicted in the front of the balcony on the right, sketch-pad in hand. His preparatory drawing and both a trial proof and an impression of the finished drypoint etching (completed only in 1761) are in the Fine Arts Museums’ collections. He priced impressions of this print at the extraordinary price of one guinea, and it sold poorly. Worlidge continued to create etchings after Rembrandt during the 1760s. One notable example from 1765 is his etched portrait of his patron Sir Edward Astley (1729-1802) in the same pose as Rembrandt’s well-known etched portrait of his patron Jan Six (1618-1700, B. 285, Hind 228), both of which are in the Museums’ collections. He continued to paint portraits during the 1760s, and exhibited with the Society of Artists and the Free Society in London. Worlidge died at his home in Hammersmith (now part of London) in 1766. This third wife, Mary Wickstead (d. 1790) who was from a prominent family in Bath, published his portfolio of 183 etchings, “A Select Collection of Drawings from Curious Antique Gems … Etched after the Manner of Rembrandt” in 1768. (TNB 3/2105) Selected bibliography: Sharp, Richard. “The Oxford Installation of 1759,” in Oxoniensia, Oxford Architectural and Historical Society, vol. 51, pp. 145-153 (1991). Sloman, Susan. “Worlidge, Thomas (1700–1766),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 West, Shearer. “Thomas Worlidge,” in Grove Dictionary of Art.