Lemuel "Francis" Abbott (1760/61 – 5 December 1802) was an English portrait painter, famous for his likeness of Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (currently hanging in the Terracotta Room of number 10 Downing Street) and for those of other naval officers and literary figures of the 18th century.
He was born Lemuel Abbott in Leicestershire in 1760 or 1761, the son of clergyman Lemuel Abbott, curate of Anstey (and later vicar of Thornton) and his wife Mary. In 1775, at the age of 14, he became a pupil of Francis Hayman and lived in London, but returned to his parents after his teacher's death in 1776. There he continued to develop his artistic talents independently, but some authorities have suggested that he may also have studied with Joseph Wright of Derby.
In 1780, Abbott married Anna Maria, and again settled in London, residing for many years in Caroline Street in Bloomsbury. Although he exhibited at the Royal Academy, he never became an Academician. It is said that overwork, due to the commissions he took on, and domestic unhappiness led to his becoming insane. He was declared insane in 1798 and was treated by Dr Thomas Munro (1759–1833), the chief physician to Bethlem Hospital and a specialist in mental disorders – Munro also treated King George III (1738–1820).
Abbott died in London on 5 December 1802.
Abbott painted portraits of many figures of the day including leading seamen such as Admiral Nelson (starting work on the portrait during the time that he was living in the same lodgings in Bond Street where Nelson was recuperating after losing his arm), Admiral Sir Robert Calder, Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley and Captain William Locker, astronomer Sir William Herschel, poet William Cowper, artists Francesco Bartolozzi and Joseph Nollekens, entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and industrialist John Wilkinson amongst others.
His portrait of Henry Callender, Captain General of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, is one of the earliest portrayals of the game of golf. Reproductions hang in golf clubs the world over. It was sold at Bonhams in London on 9 December 2015.
Some of his paintings were signed "Francis Lemuel Abbott", but it is not known why he assumed the additional Christian name, as it was not one with which he was baptised.
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