Samuel De Wilde, typescript of diary 1810-1811

Scope and Content

The diary is a typescript of Samuel De Wilde's original diary and covers January 1 1810 to March 8 1811, diary entries include details of portraits and paintings worked on and money earned. Also included is details of social engagements and people De Wilde associated with. The typescript was made by E. De Wilde Holding who inserted notes and comments below some entries, he also wrote a foreword to the diary. The front of the volume contains two letters between E. De Wilde Holding and Charles Kingsley Adams, Assistant Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery, pertaining to the gift of the transcript. Notes by Adams on the diary can be found at the back of the volume.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel De Wilde (c. 1751-1832) was baptized at the Dutch church of Austin Friars, London, on 29th July 1751. He was the eldest son of a Dutch woodcarver, also named Samuel De Wilde (d. 1753) and Frances Harvart. In November 1765 De Wilde was apprenticed for seven years to his godfather, Samuel Haworth, a woodcarver in Denmark Street, Soho. He soon showed a talent for painting though and broke his apprenticeship, entering the newly formed Royal Academy Schools on 9 November 1796.

De Wilde first exhibited his small portraits at the Society of Artists in 1776 and continued showing there until 1778. From that date onwards he exhibited at the Royal Academy, he was best known for his theatrical portraits, which were exhibited almost every year at the academy from 1792 until 1821. He also displayed three paintings at the British Institution in 1812.

De Wilde's career in theatrical portraiture began with the start of the publication by John Bell (1745-1831) of the second issue of the 'British Theatre' in January 1791. Each issue of the 'British Theatre' consisted of a play accompanied by a vignette and a full-length portrait of a leading actor or actress of the day as one of the characters. De Wilde was employed as the portraitist and was extremely productive painting no fewer than 36 character portraits in 1791 and 33 in 1792. Over the course of the series De Wilde produced 93 pictures before he ceased working on it in 1795.

The early 1800s saw De Wilde's career flourishing, as well as having a studio at his home in Leicester Square he also rented additional rooms from the Duke of Bedford at 9 Tavistock Row, Covent Garden. Many actors and actresses came from Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres to sit for him and his portraits were included in many theatrical publications. His portraits were also published independently as prints and were highly sought after by collectors, including Charles Mathews whose collection forms the basis of that of the Garrick Club. As well as painting in oil, De Wilde also specialised in soft pencil or crayon with light washes of watercolour.

Little is known of De Wilde's wife other than her name Eleanor; he had two children Louisa Harriet (b. 1801) and George James De Wilde (1804-1871). De Wilde died on January 19 1832.

This biographical description is largely based on Kate Retford, 'Wilde, Samuel De (bap. 1751, d. 1832)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [ , accessed 1 Aug 2017]

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.