William Naish (1767-1800)
Examples of Naish's work are in the Victoria &Albert Museum and the British Museum has several engravings after Naish...
This animated portrait miniature of an unidentified officer is one of the most accomplished works by Naish to have emerged on the art market in recent years. Miniatures were often exchanged as gifts between loved ones, and this portrait would have almost certainly been given by the sitter, to his wife or lover, before his departure for war.
Born in Axbridge, Somerset, the miniature portrait painter, William Naish, entered the Royal Academy Schools on the 28th November 1788 at the age of twenty one. He remains a rather enigmatic figure today, but he appears to have run a successful practise in Georgian London, and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1786 until his death in 1800.
A series of engravings, produced by William Ridley after several of Naish’s original works (published in the Monthly Mirror on 1 July 1796), demonstrate the artist’s sensitive modelling and his close observation to the idiosyncrasies implicit in each sitter’s face. A signed, titled and dated portrait miniature of Naish, by fellow artist ‘H. W. Wymann’, attests to his presence in Bristol in 1797. It is likely that he moved here for a time in order to gain the patronage of a growing middle-class population, affluent from trade connections.
According to contemporary documents, Naish and his brother exhibited their work from a shared address (492 Strand, London) in 1792, while also exhibiting together at the Royal Academy from 1790 to 1795. Despite a woefully short life, Naish’s artistic accomplishments were extolled by The Gentleman’s Magazine, which published an ‘Ode to Mr William Naish, Limner’, celebrating his affable character and skill as a portraitist.
The oeuvre of William Naish is limited, due to his early death at the age of thirty-three. However, an example of his work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum has several engravings after Naish.
 The department of prints and drawings at the British Museum include engravings after Naish’s portrait miniatures.
 Foskett, Daphne, Miniatures: dictionary and guide, (1987), p. 606. William’s brother, John Naish, was a sporting and miniature painter, who also entered the Royal Academy Schools (1791)
 Foskett, (1987), p. 606. It is believed that he died at his home in Leicester Square at the age of thirty three.