London-born Francis Wheatley studied drawing at the Royal Academy and won several prizes from the Society of Arts. He assisted in the decoration of Vauxhall, and in painting a ceiling for Lord Melbourne at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1778, built up a good practice and was praised by the critics, but he fell in with extravagant company and was forced to flee his creditors. He eloped to Ireland with Elizabeth Gresse, wife of a fellow artist John Alexander Gresse. He tried to pass her off as his wife, and got into Dublin high society, but was found out and returned to London after painting several aristocrats’ portraits.
He produced small landscapes, portraits, or street scenes, painted several subjects for Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, designed illustrations to Bell’s edition of the poets, and practiced to some small extent as an etcher and mezzotint-engraver. However, it is as a painter, in oil and watercolor, of landscapes and rustic subjects that Wheatley is best remembered.
In 1787 he married one of his most popular models, the young Clara Maria Leigh. Wheatley exhibited his series of oil paintings entitled the “Cries of London” at the Royal Academy between 1792 and 1795. During this time, he fell out of favor with King George III and never secured any further commissions from the aristocracy. He lost his entire income, filed for bankruptcy, and died penniless in 1801.
Yet in the midst of this turmoil, Wheatley created these sublime images of street sellers that although seen at the time as of little consequence beside his aristocratic portraits are now the works upon which his reputation rests. Wheatley was ideally qualified to portray these hawkers because he grew up amongst them and their cries, echoing in the streets around the market. The women portrayed in these pictures is believed to be Mrs Wheatley.
This is fully framed, 16″ x 19,” and matted. The image is 8.5″ x 11.5″. It was printed in 1930 as a lithograph in color after the originals by Wheatley.