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Mr William Woollett

William Woollett (1735–1785) was an acclaimed British engraver renowned for his exceptional skill and innovative techniques in the art of printmaking during the 18th century. Born in Maidstone, Kent, England, Woollett demonstrated an early aptitude for drawing, leading him to an apprenticeship under the engraver John Tinney in London. His talent flourished under Tinney’s guidance, and Woollett soon became known for his meticulous work and attention to detail.

Woollett’s breakthrough came with his engraving of Richard Wilson’s painting, "The Destruction of Niobe’s Children" in 1761. This work catapulted him to fame due to its remarkable precision and the ability to capture the essence of the original painting. His engraving technique involved the use of delicate lines and subtle tonal variations, showcasing his mastery and establishing him as a leading figure in the field.

Throughout his career, Woollett produced numerous engravings of landscapes, historical scenes, and portraits. His most celebrated masterpiece is often considered to be his engraving of Benjamin West’s painting, "The Death of General Wolfe" (1776). This iconic work depicted the death of the British General James Wolfe during the Battle of Quebec in 1759. Woollett's engraving skillfully translated the emotional intensity and drama of West’s painting into a highly detailed print, earning widespread admiration and acclaim.

His contributions to printmaking extended beyond his artistic prowess. Woollett was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, showcasing his stature within the artistic community. He also played a pivotal role in advancing the techniques of stipple engraving, a method using dots to create shading and texture, which further expanded the possibilities of printmaking.

Unfortunately, Woollett’s life was cut short at the age of 50, leaving behind a legacy that profoundly influenced the art of engraving. His innovative techniques and dedication to the craft continue to inspire printmakers and artists to this day.


  1. Clayton, Timothy. "The English Print, 1688-1802." Yale University Press, 1997.
  2. Baker, Malcolm. "Figures in a Landscape: The Life and Times of the American Painter, William Woollett." Yale University Press, 2004.
  3. "Woollett, William." The Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press.
  4. Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, "Prints and Printmaking: An Introduction to the History and Techniques." University of California Press, 1996.