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Unknown artist, Leaf from a sketchbook

Leaf from a sketchbook, c.1779 - 1780

Unknown artist

RA Collection: Art

This sketchbook was given to the Academy by John Postle Heseltine, a collector of prints and drawings, who believed it to be the work of Thomas Gainsborough. However, this attribution is no longer considered to be correct. Although the artist remains unidentified a connection with the Royal Academy Schools has been established. The inscriptions under some of the drawings appear to correctly identify the sitters, almost all of whom were young artists enrolled at the Schools in the mid-to-late 1770s, in particular Richard Corbould and Thomas Stowers. It is highly likely that the artist was himself a student at the Schools in the late 1770s. Almost all of the portrait sketches are drawn in pen and ink outline over pencil with shading in grey wash and some of the sketches show the young men drawing or painting.

As well as the series of portrait sketches there is also a set of rapidly drawn but accomplished pencil sketches of a theatrical subject, perhaps King Lear, and of scenes depicting musical entertainment. These are probably by another artist. Further drawings in the book appear to be after, or based on, contemporary portraits. Although some of them resemble portraits by Gainsborough, none of them have yet been clearly identified. There are also some less accomplished pencil drawings, perhaps made by a child.

Object details

Leaf from a sketchbook
c.1779 - 1780
Object type
Laid paper
Royal Academy of Arts
Object number


A seated man
Pen and ink with wash over pencil

196 mm x 158 mm


Preparatory sketch for a dramatic composition

196 mm x 158 mm

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