James Tibbitts Willmore

Born 1800
Died 1863
Place of Birth Handsworth
Place of Death London
Gender Male
Biographical Notes Landscape and subject line engraver, was born on 15 September 1800 at Handsworth near Birmingham, the son of James Willmore, a silversmith who subsequently became a farmer. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to the Birmingham engraver William Radclyffe, and he also studied with the drawing-master Joseph Vincent Barber. His marriage, in 1822, to Elizabeth brought one daughter, Sarah Ann. Having moved to London he worked for three years as an assistant to Charles Heath. Willmore's plates for William Brockedon's Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps (1828–9) and J. M. W. Turner's Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1827–38) were among the earliest engravings published under his own name. His first large plate was Byron's Dream (Tate collection), after Charles Eastlake, published in 1834. Willmore became known as a highly accomplished and productive engraver of both book illustrations and large plates, working on copper and steel. He was sought out by Turner, who exhorted him to ‘by all means sacrifice everything for his art’ (Art Journal, 1863, 88) and commissioned him to engrave a large plate. The two men eventually agreed on a proposal for Willmore to engrave Mercury and Argus, published in 1841 and described in a contemporary review as ‘one of the most perfect examples of the English burin’ (Art Union, 16). Willmore was considered by Turner to be one of his six best engravers, and produced thirty-seven plates after his work during Turner's lifetime. Willmore's numerous engravings for other artists include plates after Edwin Landseer, James Duffield Harding, Samuel Prout, and Clarkson Stanfield. Willmore was elected an associate engraver at the Royal Academy in 1843 after exhibiting a proof of Ancient Italy (original painting, exh. 1838; priv. coll.) after Turner in the same year; he exhibited twenty-two engravings there between 1843 and 1860 and was proposed, unsuccessfully, for election to academician in 1856. He exhibited eleven works at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists between 1829 and 1859. He was an active member of the Artists' Annuity Fund. Willmore's health began to fail about 1857 and he became paralysed in 1862. Unable to work and with only a modest income of £40 from the Artists' Annuity Fund he was granted a pension from the Royal Academy in January 1862. His brother Arthur completed some of his unfinished plates. He died, a widower, at his home, 23 Polygon, Somers Town, London, on 12 March 1863 and was buried in Highgate cemetery. In 1877 his work was featured in an exhibition of the work of Birmingham engravers organized by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

Gillian Forrester, ‘Willmore, James Tibbitts (1800–1863)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29594, accessed 8 May 2013]

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