JEFFERYS, James

1751 - 1784

Self portrait of James Jefferys

Born at Maidstone, Kent on 19 May and baptised at All Saints', Maidstone on 28 May 1751, son of William Jefferys (c.17231805), a coach-painter & artist, and his wife Parnell née Adderson, who married at Newington, Kent on 20 July 1750. James studied at the free school in Maidstone, being given basic artistic training by his father. Jefferys moved to London about 1771 being apprenticed to engraver William Woollett (17351785) and on 14 November 1772 entered the Royal Academy Schools. During the early 1770s he exhibited a number of subject pictures, mainly drawings, at the Society of Artists of Great Britain. In 1774 he won the Royal Academy's top prize for a historical painting with his 'Seleus and Stratonice' and a gold palette from the Society of Arts for a drawing 'The Deluge'. In 1774 Jefferys was put forward by Sir Joshua Reynolds for a three year travel scholarship offered to students of the Royal Academy by the Society of Dilettanti and Jefferys, together with artist William Pars left England in July 1775 for Rome and in 1781 is recorded back in England. Little is known of Jefferys's work following his return to London but a group of drawings illustrating the Revd Charles Davy's annotated edition of Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' is dated 1781. Davy (1757-1836), amongst other Suffolk livings, was rector of Onehouse, Suffolk, and the drawings were executed during Jefferys stay there. His only other known work from this later period was a painting, 'The Siege of Gibraltar', exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1783. Jefferys died from a fever at his lodgings at Meard's Court, Soho, London, on 31 January 1784. His drawings, often violent classical scenes, were rediscovered in the 1970s, many circulated as works by James Barry or John Hamilton Mortimer, which they closely resemble. Important examples are at Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Academy, London. Although highly derivative in style, these are now recognized as exemplary of the violently imaginative mannerism typical of British neo-classicism.




Works by This Painter