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James Doyle: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Sunday, 31 July 2011

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James E. Doyle was a British antiquary and illustrator.

picture, James Doyle, painter, artist, illustrator, De Montfort, Battle of Evesham

The death of Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham, illustrated by James Doyle

James William Edmund Doyle was born on 22 October 1822, the son of John Doyle (1797-1868), an Irish political cartoonist and caricaturist best known for his work in Punch, which he signed ‘H.B.’. He was the brother of Richard Doyle, who was also an illustrator and Punch cartoonist, and Henry Edward Doyle, artist and director of the National Gallery of Ireland; he was the uncle of Sherlock Holmes’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Doyle grew up in an artistic family and studied drawing and painting. Amongst his early works was a painting of Dr. Johnson reading the manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefield, the copyright of which he sold for £100. However, he abandoned painting in preference for historical studies, compiling a Chronicle of England from 55BC to 1485AD, which he adorned with numerous illustrations in colour.

The book was widely praised following its publication in 1864 and he followed it with Official Baronage of England, which included every rank of nobility except barons. The epithet ‘official’ was not intended to imply any authority but that it was exhaustive; it was indeed a painstaking work, giving particulars, as complete as possible, of the succession, titles, offices, heraldic bearings and personal appearances of each peer.

The book appeared in a limited edition of 200 copies in 1885 and then a three-volume edition in 1886. Despite his efforts, Doyle was criticised for relying too heavily on secondary authorities and the book was not a financial success, inflicting a heavy loss on its publishers.

Doyle also provided a commentary for his brother Richard’s cartoon book Scenes from English History (1886).

Doyle died at his home, 38 Dorset Square, in London on 3 December 1892. He was married to Jane Henrietta Hawkins in 1874.

Many more illustrations by James Doyle can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

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