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 Nathaniel (Sir) Bacon  (1585 - 1627)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Sir Nathaniel Bacon (1585-1627)

Born at Redgrave, Suffolk in August 1585, the grandson of Lord Keeper Bacon and the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (c.1543-1624), subsequently the premier baronet of England, and his wife, Anne Butts (c.1547–1616).  Raised at Redgrave Hall and admitted to the Order of the Bath in February 1626 to mark Charles Ist’s coronation.  On his marriage to Jane, née Meautys (1580/81–1659), widow of Sir William Cornwallis, on 1 May 1614, Bacon acquired Brome Hall, Suffolk and later inherited Culford Hall, 4 miles north of Bury St. Edmund’s, from his parents.

Bacon has been described as ‘the most accomplished [British] amateur painter of the [seventeenth] century’, although fewer than a dozen of his works survive, a number of which are self-portraits.  The earliest documentary reference to specific pictures is in the inventory of Culford attached to his widow's will of 1659, which mentions ‘Ten great peeces in wainscoate of fish and fowle &c. done by Sr: Nath: Bacon’.  The Cookmaid with Still Life of Birds, still in the possession of the artist's descendants, is thought to be one of these, as are the Cookmaid with Still Life of Game, acquired by the family in the 1950’s, and the Tate collection's Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit, all executed about 1620 to 1625.  A tiny Landscape, painted on copper, bearing the conjoined monogram NB (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), is thought to be the ‘small Landskip drawn by Sir Nath. Bacon’ listed in the Tradescant Collection in 1656 (Musaeum Tradescantianum, 1656, 40).  The Antwerp artist Frans Snyders (1579-1657) was a major exponent of the genre, and Bacon visited that city in 1613.  As a gentleman, Bacon did not need to paint for his living but his art was clearly significant to him.  His funerary monument in St. Mary's Church, Culford, bears two carved painter's palettes.

In 1622 Henry Peacham (1578-c.1644) commended him as a well-born Englishman who could draw and paint, while Edward Norgate (1581-1650) credited Bacon with inventing a particular ‘Pinke’ (i.e. yellow) apparently used by other artists, such as Peter Oliver (1589-1647) and John Hoskins {c.1590-1665).

Bacon died in June 1627 and buried at St Mary's church, Culford, on 1 July 1627. The record of his funeral states that he died of ‘a lingering illness’, and letters indicate a decline in health from about 1622.  Of his three children only Anne (b. 1615), who married, secondly, Sir Harbottle Grimston (1603-1685), had any children.

Nathaniel Bacon: Artist, Gentleman and Gardener by Karen Hearn (2006)

Information provided by Tony Copsey, author and researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England

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