ELLYS, John

1701 - 1757

Baptised in St Paul's, Covent Garden on 21 March 1701, son of John Ellis and his wife Sarah. He studied briefly under Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), reputedly assisting him in decorative painting at Greenwich Hospital, and under the Swiss-born portraitist Johann Rudolf Schmutz (1670-1715). By the age of sixteen Ellys is listed among students at the academy in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Thornhill succeeded Kneller as governor. From 1720 he attended the academy conducted in 1720–24 by Louis Chéron (1660-1725) and John Vanderbank (1694-1739) in St Martin's Lane. When this academy closed, Thornhill allowed his own house to be used by students as a ‘free academy’, leaving its management to Ellys and his friend Hogarth. In 1735 together they established a second academy in St Martin's Lane, welcoming artists such as Gravelot, Hayman, Rysbrack, and Roubiliac as teachers; of this highly influential academy, which flourished until 1768, Ellys was a director from 1735 to 1747. In 1755 he was among the signatories to the plan for a royal academy, but did not live to see its establishment. In or about 1729 Ellys bought, from Moses Vanderbank, the Soho Tapestry Manufactory in Great Queen Street, and with it the office of yeoman arras worker to the (royal) wardrobe. Ellys already enjoyed court favour, having secured permission by the mid-1720s to copy pictures in the Royal Collection. From 1733 until at least the mid-1740s, Ellys was variously employed by Frederick, Prince of Wales, and on 7 October 1736 officially replacing Philip Mercier as serjeant-painter to the prince. Ellys advised Sir Robert Walpole over the formation of the collection at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, acting as his agent and Walpole rewarded him with the office of master keeper of the lions in the Tower of London, a sinecure worth nine shillings a day, with an apartment in the Tower, which Ellys enjoyed for some twenty years before his death. Ellys lived chiefly in or around Covent Garden Piazza, but owned property in Orford, Suffolk. He died on 14 September 1757 being survived by a son Charles and a daughter Agnes.




Works by This Painter