Stephen Catterson Smith

1806 - 1872

English Portrait Painter

Stephen Catterson Smith Biography

Skipton-in-Craven, N. Yorks, 12 March 1806; d Dublin, 30 May 1872). Irish painter. Although born in England, Smith made his name in Ireland, becoming after 1840 one of the leading fashionable portrait painters outside London. He had previously worked in London, where he made chalk sketches of the Royal family, including the young Princess Victoria (Windsor Castle, Berks, Royal Col.). After a short period in Londonderry, he arrived in Dublin in 1839 where he soon became Portrait Painter to the Lord Lieutenant, a post he held for almost 30 years. He painted numerous portraits, including seven lord lieutenants (six of the portraits in Dublin Castle, one in Dublin, N.G.). Many of his sitters came from Ireland's most distinguished families, such as the Leinsters of Carton, the Conollys of Castletown and the O'Conors of Clonalis. Smith could capture a liveliness of face and had a genuine talent for drapery and texture. When viewed in their original settings his works can be seen as a mid-19th-century complement to the 18th-century portraits often found in Irish country houses. Civic and institutional portraiture was an important part of Smith's output, and he produced at least two portraits of Daniel O'Connell, one of which was a posthumous oil of 1871 (destr. 1908), commissioned by the Royal Exchange, Dublin. He was active in the Royal Hibernian Academy and twice served as President (1859-66, 1868-9). The National Gallery of Ireland, of which he was Director from 1868, has a spirited self-portrait sketch in oils which is in marked contrast to his smooth set pieces. A son, Stephen Catterson Smith jr (1849-1912), was also a portrait painter.