Gilbert Stuart Newton RA (1794 - 1835)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Gilbert Stuart Newton was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the youngest of twelve sons of the Honourable Henry Newton, Collector of His Majesty’s Customs, and Ann (nee Stuart), who came from a successful family of Boston traders. Newton’s father died in 1803 and the family moved to Boston, to be nearer to his mother’s family. Newton, whose artistic talents were evident from a young age, began to take lessons from his uncle, the portrait painter Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), who also had a considerable role in his upbringing and education.

In 1817, Newton travelled with an older brother to Italy to further his artistic studies. Later that year, he travelled to London and exhibited his first work at the Royal Academy in 1818, a self-portrait. In London, he established connections with other American artists such as Benjamin West and Washington Allston, and enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools in 1820.

Newton focussed on literary subjects and everyday scenes, which were enhanced by his observations of English life, customs, and manners. The painting he exhibited at the British Institution in 1821, The Importunate Author depicted a scene from Molière’s musical-play Les Facheux, and was a huge critical and public success, establishing Newton’s reputation. He also became known for his exquisite use of colour, an element of painting he held in great esteem. Newton was by all accounts a likeable, easy-going individual – a personality that helped his career as a portraitist. He painted many notable figures such as Sir Walter Scott in 1825, and over his career attracted royal and aristocratic patrons including George IV. He was prolific – between 1818 and 1833 Newton exhibited 27 pictures at the Royal Academy and 22 at the British Institution. Many of his paintings were engraved, which helped to spread his reputation beyond his immediate circle of artists and patrons, across Europe and America. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1828 and became a full Member in 1832.

Often suffering from ill health, by the time Newton was elected to the Royal Academy he was exhibiting signs of a deteriorating mental state and in 1834 he was admitted to a mental asylum in Chelsea, London. While there, he was visited by several artists, including his lifelong friend Charles Robert Leslie and John Constable.

Newton died in 1835 and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Wimbledon, where a monument to him by Sir Francis Chantrey was raised by fellow Academicians.

References Hamlyn, Robin. “Newton, Gilbert Stuart (1794–1835), artist.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 20 May. 2022. Wilson, John. “Stuart, Gilbert Charles (1755–1828), portrait painter.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 20 May. 2022.


Royal Academician

Born: 20 September 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Died: 5 August 1835

Nationality: British

RA Schools student from 15 January 1820

Elected ARA: 3 November 1828

Elected RA: 10 February 1832

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting

Works by Gilbert Stuart Newton in the RA Collection

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Works after Gilbert Stuart Newton in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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