Michael Bryan (art historian)

Last updated

Portrait of Michael Bryan (Engraved by William Haines after Alexander Pope) Michael-bryan.jpg
Portrait of Michael Bryan (Engraved by William Haines after Alexander Pope)
Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Volume II, 1816 Michael Bryan - A Dictionary of Painters and Engravers - VII 1816.jpg
Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Volume II, 1816

Michael Bryan (9 April 1757 – 21 March 1821) was an English art historian, art dealer and connoisseur. He was involved in the purchase and resale of the great French Orleans Collection of art, selling it on to a British syndicate, and owned a fashionable art gallery in Savile Row, London. His book, Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, first published in 1813–1816, was a standard reference work (revised, and often under variant titles) throughout the 19th century, and was last republished in 1920; however it is now badly outdated.


Life and work

Bryan was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland (now Tyne and Wear), and educated at the Royal Grammar School under Dr. Moyce. He travelled to London in 1781, then to Flanders with his eldest brother, where he lived from 1782 to 1790, possibly having some connection with the cloth trade, but also building up his art historical knowledge. In June 1784, he married Juliana Talbot (1759–1801),[ citation needed ] the sister of Charles Talbot, the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, which gained him valuable aristocratic social connections. [1] [2] [3]

Bryan moved back to London in 1790 establishing himself as an authority and dealer in Fine Art. [4] In 1793 or 1794, he again went to the continent in search of fine pictures. Among other places he visited Holland, and remained there until an order arrived from the French government to stop all English citizens then resident there. He was, amongst many others, detained at Rotterdam. It was here that he met Jean-Joseph de Laborde who, in 1798, sought his advice and assistance in disposing of the Italian part of the famous private "Orleans Collection" of art which he had acquired. Bryan, in effect, became a middleman for the purchase, and contacted the Duke of Bridgewater, who authorised him to open negotiations. After three weeks, a syndicate consisting of the Duke of Bridgewater, Marquis of Stafford, then Lord Gower, and the Earl of Carlisle, became the purchasers of the collection from Bryan, at a price of £43,500. [5] The collection was displayed in Bryan's private art gallery in Pall Mall, London, as well as at The Lyceum in the Strand. [3] [6]

In 1801 Bryan obtained, through the Duke of Bridgewater, the king's permission to visit Paris in order to purchase art from the cabinet of Monsieur Robit to bring back to England. Among other fine pictures, he returned with two by the baroque Spanish artist Murillo - "The infant Christ as the Good Shepherd", [7] and "The infant St. John with the lamb". [3] [8]

In 1804 Bryan retired from the art world, and settled at his brother's home in Yorkshire, where he remained until 1811. In 1812 Bryan again visited London, and commenced writing his "magnum opus" - the Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers in 2 volumes. The first part appeared in May 1813, and concluded in 1816. He owned a gallery in London's Savile Row, which became a fashionable gathering place for artists and their patrons. [4] In 1818 he became involved with some speculative art purchases which proved a failure. [3]

On 14 February 1821, Bryan suffered a severe paralytic stroke, dying at Portman Square, London on 21 March of the same year. [3]


Volume 1 (A to C) 1903
Volume 2 (D to G)
Volume 3 (H to M)
Volume 4 (N to R)
Volume 5 (S to Z) 1905

Related Research Articles

François Boucher 18th-century French painter

François Boucher was a French painter, draughtsman and etcher, who worked in the Rococo style. Boucher is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories, and pastoral scenes. He was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo Spanish Baroque painter (1617-1682)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children. These lively, realist portraits of flower girls, street urchins, and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times. He also painted two self-portraits, one in the Frick Collection portraying him in his 30s, and one in London's National Gallery portraying him about 20 years later. In 2017-2018, the two museums held an exhibition of them.

Francesco Bartolozzi 18th/19th-century Italian artist

Francesco Bartolozzi was an Italian engraver, whose most productive period was spent in London. He is noted for popularizing the "crayon" method of engraving.

Frederic Leighton English painter and sculptor (1830–1896)

Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton,, known as Sir Frederic Leighton between 1878 and 1896, was a British painter, draughtsman, and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical, and classical subject matter in an academic style. His paintings were enormously popular, and expensive, during his lifetime.

John Russell (English painter)

John Russell RA was an English painter renowned for his portrait work in oils and pastels, and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, known as Lord Francis Egerton until 1748, was a British nobleman from the Egerton family. He was the youngest son of the 1st Duke. He did not marry, and the dukedom expired with him, although the earldom was inherited by a cousin, Lieutenant-General John Egerton.

Juan de Valdés Leal

Juan de Valdés Leal was a Spanish painter and etcher of the Baroque era.

Ottavio Leoni

Ottavio Leoni (1578–1630) was an Italian painter and printmaker of the early-Baroque, active mainly in Rome.

Peter Lely 17th-century Dutch painter

Sir Peter Lely was a painter of Dutch origin whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court.


Alessandro Leone Varotari (4 April 1588 – 20 July 1649), also commonly known as Il Padovanino, was an Italian painter of the late-Mannerist and early-Baroque Venetian school, best known for having mentored Pietro Liberi, Giulio Carpioni, and Bartolommeo Scaligero. He was the son of Dario Varotari the Elder and the brother of painter Chiara Varotari, who accompanied him on his travels and assisted with his work.

Jan Miense Molenaer

Jan Miense Molenaer, was a Dutch Golden Age genre painter whose style was a precursor to Jan Steen's work during Dutch Golden Age painting. He shared a studio with his wife, Judith Leyster, also a genre painter, as well as a portraitist and painter of still-life. Both Molenaer and Leyster may have been pupils of Frans Hals.

Bartolomeo Coriolano Italian engraver

Bartolommeo Coriolano was an Italian engraver during the Baroque period. His father, Cristoforo Coriolano, and brother, Giovanni Battista Coriolano were also woodblock printers, although there is some doubt over the actual relationship between Cristoforo and Bartolommeo Coriolano. Coriolano had a daughter, Teresa Maria Coriolano, who later became a painter and engraver.

<i>Diana and Callisto</i> Painting by Titian in London and Edinburgh

Diana and Callisto is a painting completed between 1556 and 1559 by the Italian late Renaissance artist Titian. It portrays the moment in which the goddess Diana discovers that her maid Callisto has become pregnant by Jupiter. The painting was jointly purchased by the National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery for £45 million in March 2012. Along with its companion painting Diana and Actaeon it is displayed on an alternating basis between London and Edinburgh. There is a later version by Titian and his workshop in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Orleans Collection

The Orleans Collection was a very important collection of over 500 paintings formed by Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans, mostly acquired between about 1700 and his death in 1723. Apart from the great royal-become-national collections of Europe it is arguably the greatest private collection of Western art, especially Italian, ever assembled, and probably the most famous, helped by the fact that most of the collection has been accessible to the public since it was formed, whether in Paris, or subsequently in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Peter Tillemans

Peter Tillemans was a Flemish painter, best known for his works on sporting and topographical subjects. Alongside John Wootton and James Seymour, he was one of the founders of the English school of sporting painting.

Henry Jutsum

Henry Jutsum, was an English landscape painter.

John Wykeham Archer

John Wykeham Archer was a British artist, engraver and writer.

William Bonnar British artist

William Bonnar RSA was a Scottish portrait painter.

John Lindsay Lucas (1807–1874) was an English portrait painter.

<i>Bridgewater Madonna</i> Painting by Raphael

The Bridgewater Madonna is a religious painting by Raphael, dated 1507. Originally on oil and wood, but later transferred to canvas, it measures 81 by 55 cm. The picture is part of the permanent collection of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, on loan to the Duke of Sutherland Collection.


  1. "Michael Bryan and his Family by James Ward — The Art Fund – national fundraising charity for works of art". Artfund.org. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  2. Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: The Anne of Exeter Volume, Containing ... - Melville Henry Massue Ruvigny et Raineval (marquis de) - Google Books. January 1994. ISBN   9780806314334 . Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Bryan, Michael". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  4. 1 2 "Search object details". British Museum. 8 January 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  5. "Diana and Actaeon: a history | The Bridgewater Syndicate | Collectors | The National Gallery, London". Nationalgallery.org.uk. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  6. "The syndicate | The Bridgewater Syndicate | Collectors | The National Gallery, London". Nationalgallery.org.uk. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  7. "Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections: GLAHA 43771". Huntsearch.gla.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  8. "Bartolomé Esteban Murillo | The Infant Saint John with the Lamb | NG176 | The National Gallery, London". Nationalgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 3 February 2012.