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James Malton c.1760 – 1803
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James Malton c.1760 – 1803

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The Portico of the Parliament House, Dublin, looking towards Trinity College.



Pen and ink and watercolour on paper: unframed 18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61 cm.). Inscribed on a fragment of the old backing board: Portico of the Bank of Ireland / drawn and coloured by James Malton


Provenance: from the collection of John Mulhall of Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin; sale, Christie's 15th November 1983 (lot 156)


Exhibited: Royal Academy, London, 1792, number 552


Malton's views of Dublin have defined our image of the Georgian city. Although widely popularised as prints – perhaps the most popular of all 18th-century Irish engravings – Malton's original watercolours are extremely rare, and show him to have been a draughtsman of outstanding quality. The and its companion view of The Provost's House and Grafton Street, and among these rare survivals and act, as McParland notes, as 'informative and beautiful witnesses to the appearance of Dublin at the height of the 18th century”1

James Malton was the son of Thomas Malton (1726-1801), architectural draughtsman and writer on geometry, cabinet-maker and lecturer on perspective. accompanied his father to Dublin, where he worked for architect James Gandon, despite a suspicion that the elder Malton had anonymously published severe criticism of Gandon's designs for the Royal Exchange in Dublin. After three years, however, James Malton ‘so frequently betrayed all official confidence, and was guilty of so many irregularities that it became quite necessary to dismiss him from employment’. Subsequently Gandon suspected that Malton was responsible for Letters Addressed to Parliament (1787), which expressed hostile views on the architect's work, but the authorship was not proved.

In the 1790s James Malton returned to London, where he supported himself as a topographical artist, exhibiting some fifty-one drawings, designs for, and elevations of buildings at the Royal Academy between 1792 and 1803. From 1794 his address was 17 Norton Street (later Bolsover Street), Portland Place. In 1797 he published a handsome volume of illustrations with text, A Descriptive View of Dublin. In the following year he published An Essay on British Cottage Architecture (which went into a second edition in 1804) and in 1802 A Collection of Designs for Rural Retreats, which was attacked by R. Elsam in his Essay on Rural Architecture of 1803. These two works of Malton's have aquatint illustrations of an exceptionally high quality and delicacy. Malton's importance as a pioneer of the cottage orné has been recognized.

James Malton died at his home in Norton Street on 28 July 1803 from brain fever and was buried in Marylebone churchyard. The brief notice in the Gentleman's Magazine describes him as ‘an ingenious and distinguished artist’ (GM, 1st ser., 73/2, 1803, 791). The contents of his studio and his effects were auctioned at Christies on 8 and 9 March 1804.


Edward McParland “Malton's Views of Dublin: Too Good to be True ?” in Raymond Gillespie and Brian Kennedy (eds.) Ireland, Art into History, Dublin, 1994, p.15





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