Friday, January 31, 2020

Diana Hill, Miniaturist

by Lauren Gilbert

Diana was born about 1760, possibly in London, to George Dietz, a jeweller. Her mother’s name is unknown. Very little is known about her youth, except that she learned how to paint miniatures from Jeremiah Meyer, who painted miniatures for King George III and Queen Charlotte, and was a foundation member of the Royal Academy in 1768. In 1775, Diana Dietz exhibited miniatures at the Society of Artists. That year, for “promoting the Polite and Liberal arts”[1], she also won a silver palette and five guineas from the Society of Arts (Society for the Encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce) for her drawings of flowers. During the period 1777-1798, she exhibited miniatures at the Royal Academy, under her own name Diana Dietz from 1777-1780. One such painting was a portrait exhibited in 1778.

Jeremiah Meyer: Her Majesty Queen Charlotte of England,
Wife of King George III (reproduced in Photogravure)

On February 3, 1780, Diana was the victim of a theft at her father’s house. A record of her testimony, which provided her father’s name and occupation, is available on-line at the Old Bailey website.

On February 1st, 1781, at age 21, Diana married Haydock Hill (born around 1746-1750), at St. Mary’s, Marylebone, London. She exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785 under the name of Mrs. Hill as an “Honorary Exhibitor”; two of her three exhibited works were flower pictures. The couple had a son, Haydock James Hill in 1782, at least one daughter, and possibly more children. Haydock Hill reportedly died in London in 1785 aged in his mid to late 30’s. There is an indication he was buried in May of 1785. (Some sources show a date of death of 1816 for him; there was no conclusive documentation for either year. 1785 seems most likely.)

John Cary: A New Map of Hindoostan
from the latest authorities, 1806.

After Mr. Hill’s death,  Diana obtained permission on September 21, 1785 from the court of directors of the East India Company to work as a portrait painter in India. Elizabeth Hill (her mother-in-law) and a merchant named T. C. Blanchenhagen stood as approved securities for her. Her brother-in-law John Hill worked for the East India Company's civil service in Bengal. The involvement of her in-laws supports the date of death for Haydock Hill in 1785. It also seems possible that, as Mr. Meyer was still living, he or his son (who went to Calcutta, and was employed as a civil servant there) may have provided assistance with this enterprise, providing references or other support. Diana arrived in Calcutta in 1786. According to Janet Todd’s essay “Ivory Miniatures and the Art of Jane Austen” in British Women's Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century, she may have taken such a drastic step because there was so much competition within the market for miniatures in England. Apparently other female artists of the time made similar moves. I found no reference to indicate whether her children by Mr. Hill accompanied her.

The arrival of the widow was noted by artist Ozias Humphrey, in that he identified her as competition, acknowledging that her work was good. One of her subjects was General Lord Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, painted in 1786, now in the Mount Vernon collection. Another miniature painted in 1786 was that of a lady, Mrs. Robert Graham. Diana was successful as an artist due to her undoubted talent, as well as her connections.

On November 15th, 1788, she married Lieutenant Thomas Harriott of the 1st Native Infantry (an officer in the East India Company’s service) who was then acting brigade major for the 3rd brigade. She painted a miniature of Harriott about 1791, currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She stopped working professionally after this marriage. However, a miniature of Elizabeth Steuart, which appears to have been painted about 1790, has been attributed to Diana, although it was not signed.

Diana and Thomas had four children, at least one, possibly two of whom were born in India. They took their family back to England in 1806. They lived in West Hall in Kew for an unknown period of time. Thomas died April 19, 1817. He left a will leaving Diana and their children as beneficiaries, which was proved June (day unclear) 1817.

Diana died February 10, 1844 in  Twickenham, Middlesex, and was buried at St. Mary, Mortlake, Surrey February 17, 1844. She also left a will, which was proved February 22, 1844. She outlived all but two (possibly three) of her children. In her day, she was a prize-winning artist, exhibited at the Royal Academy. Sadly, she fell into obscurity, even though her work is known and valued today.

[1] Transactions Of The Society Instituted At London, For The Encouragement Of Arts, Manufactures And Commerce, With The Premiums Offered In The Year 1784, Volume II.  p. 124.

Sources include:

Aronson, Julie and Wiseman, Marjory E. Perfect Likeness: European And American Portrait Miniatures From The Cincinnati Art Museum p. 209. 2006: Yale University Press.

Transactions Of The Society Instituted At London, For The Encouragement Of Arts, Manufactures And Commerce, With The Premiums Offered In The Year 1784, Volume II. London.

Library of the Fine Arts, or Repertory of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Engraving, Vol. III. 1832: M. Arnold, London. Catalogue of Pictures Exhibited at the Rooms of the Royal Academy, Tenth Exhibition, 1778, p. 259.

Batchelor, Jennie and Kaplan, Cora, ed. British Women’s Writing In The Long Eighteenth Century: Authorship, Politics and History. 2005: Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke. P. 80.
Globemakers.com. “Past Residents at West Hall.” (no author or post date shown).

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 29 January 2020), April 1780, trial of WILLIAM BAGNALL ELISABETH ROSE otherwise BAGNALL (t17800405-19).

Peach, A. (2008, January 03). Hill [née Dietz; other married name Harriott], Diana (d. 1844), miniature painter. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 Jan. 2020, from https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-38354.

“Pencil Sketch Portrait Biography.” Retrieved from http://pencilsketchesofflowers.blogspot.com/ ; posted October 2, 2013.

Meyer, Jeremiah (DNB00). (2013, February 27). In Wikisource. Retrieved 23:21, January 29, 2020, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Meyer,_Jeremiah_(DNB00)&oldid=4325744

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An avid reader, Lauren Gilbert was introduced to English authors early in life. Lauren has a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts English with a minor in Art History. A long time member of JASNA, she has presented a number of programs. She lives in Florida with her husband. Her first book, HEYERWOOD A Novel, is available. Just released in December 2019, A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT is her second novel. Her work is included in both volumes of CASTLES, CUSTOMS AND KINGS: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. She is also researching material for a non-fiction work.

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A Rational Attachment
Heyerwood: A Novel

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