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Pen and ink drawing by Charles West Cope of Richard Rothwell circa 1862.

Richard Rothwell (20 November 1800 – 13 September 1868) was a nineteenth-century Irish portrait and genre painter.



Rothwell was born in Athlone, Ireland to James and Elizabeth and was the oldest of their seven children. He trained to become a painter at the Dublin Society's school from 1814 until 1820 and won a silver medal for his work. At the age of 24, he was made a member of the newly established Royal Hibernian Academy and exhibited portraits there from 1826 to 1829. He subsequently moved to London and worked as a studio assistant to Thomas Lawrence,.[1] When Lawrence died in 1830, Rothwell completed many of his unfinished works and was poised to become the next foremost portrait painter in Britain and Ireland.[1] According to Leoneé Ormond's biographical article in the Grove Dictionary of Art, Rothwell "was at the height of his powers from 1829 to 1831"; he "was much influenced by Lawrence, but he lacked the incisiveness and flair of his master".[1] From 1831 to 1834, Rothwell toured Italy to study Italian art so that he could paint history paintings. When he returned to London, his popularity had evaporated.[2] Rothwell lived and exhibited works in Ireland, the United States, London, and Italy, but he never again achieved the same level of popularity he had reached in the late 1820s.[2]

In 1842 Rothwell married Rosa Marshall; the couple had several children.

In 1868, Rothwell contracted a fever while working in Rome and died. Joseph Severn, who painted a portrait of the Romantic poet John Keats, arranged for Rothwell's funeral and tomb in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome.[2]


According to Fintan Cullen's biographical entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Rothwell's "portraits are highly accomplished" and "fine examples" include those of novelist Gerald Griffin and Mary Shelley.[2] In the 1830s, he started painting genre pictures, such as The Poor Mendicants (1837). Rothwell usually painted Italian-inspired pieces, such as his semi-nude study Calisto (c. 1850s), a work he considered his masterpiece.[2] He was furious when the painting was poorly hung at the 1862 International Exhibition in London and published a pamphlet on the topic.

Examples of his workEdit


  1. ^ a b c Ormond, "Richard Rothwell".
  2. ^ a b c d e Cullen, "Richard Rothwell".