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William Home Lizars


1788 - 1859

Artist and engraver. Born in Edinburgh, Lizars began as apprentice to his father, the engraver and printer Daniel Lizars (d. 1812), He attended the High School in the city and went on to train in painting at the Trustees' Academy under John Graham (1754 - 1817), where he was a contemporary of David Wilkie (1785 - 1841), who was to influence Lizar's style as a genre painter. His first works were portraits, but went on to produce Reading the Will and the Scotch Wedding which were exhibited in 1811 and are now held by the National Gallery of Scotland. Following the death of his father, Lizars was to concentrate on engraving. His work included book illustrations, particularly natural history subjects and Scottish scenes, maps, charts and banknotes, and he soon gained a reputation as Edinburgh's leading engraver, working from premises in St. James' Square. He perfected a method of engraving copper to imitate the detail of wood-block engraving, but he also engraved on steel. His work was often subsequently hand-coloured.

Working for his brother, the surgeon John Lizars (c.1787 - 1860), he engraved the plates for A System of Anatomical Plates of the Human Body (1822). He was sought out by the noted ornithologist John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) to produce the plates for his remarkable Birds of America. Lizars produced a number of plates between 1826 and 1830, although Audubon was to dispense with his services owing to his slow progress.

His other engravings included work by Alexander Nasmyth for Sir Walter Scott's Provincial and Border Antiquities of Scotland (1821), the Picturesque Views of Edinburgh (1825) for John Wilson Ewbank (1779 - 1847) and The Naturalist's Library (a remarkable work in forty volumes, 1833-43) edited by Sir William Jardine (1800-74). Lizars also recorded contemporary events, including the rediscovery of the Scottish Royal Regalia by Sir Walter Scott in 1818 and the Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824. He was a founder of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1826.

Lizars died in Galashiels and lies buried in St Cuthbert's churchyard in Edinburgh, near his father. He is best remembered for his remarkable engravings of wildlife, although the Scottish National Portrait Gallery hold several of his portraits in chalk and pencil and his fine painting of an Edinburgh beggar, dating from 1808, now hangs in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.


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