Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864) was, according to his most thorough biographer, "the best-known topographical artist of his day" (Phillips 11). His work was generally engraved (sometimes, in the early days, by the artist himself) and widely used in illustrations. Born in France on 13 January 1793, just before his family settled in London (see Phillips 8), Thomas was the son of George Shepherd, a watch-case maker, and the younger brother of George Sidney Shepherd. The two Georges have often been confused, but it seems clear now that, when it comes to attributions at least, "George and George Sidney were not father and son but the same person" (Peltz). In other words, Thomas's earliest works were collaborations with his brother George, rather than with his father, as has sometimes been assumed. These works were London views for Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts early in the century. But anyway, Thomas Shepherd soon came to have a reputation of his own. He was much admired for his "methodical care" in depicting old buildings in the streets in London and other cities, and sometimes in the countryside, in scenes enlivened with passers-by of different ages, horses and carriages, dogs, farm animals, deer etc.
Shepherd's work now appeared in many important collections, starting with the book-seller and publisher Jones & Co's Metropolitan Improvements, or London in the Nineteenth Century (1827), and several other collections brought out by the same firm: London and its Environs in the Nineteenth Century (1829), Modern Athens displayed, or Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century (1829), and Views of Bath and Bristol (1829–31). Then came Charles Frederick Partington's Natural History and Views of London (1835); London Interiors, with their Costumes and Ceremonies (1841–3); Charles Knight's London (1841-4); and Ernest Gambart's London in Miniature (1854). According to Lucy Peltz, his last big commission was to provide sixteen drawings for Mighty London (1855). During the course of his career, he also exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists, and provided illustrations for the Illustrated London News and the European Magazine (see O'Donoghue).
While Shepherd was greatly helped early in his career by Jones & Co., his main prop and stay throughout was the interior decorator Frederick Crace (1779-1859), who was an avid collector of fine prints and maps, and who employed him to make watercolours of London buildings, especially those due to be demolished. The happy result is that hundreds of his original works have been preserved in the Crace collection at the British Museum. But there is something a little sad about this about this huge output too: "For the profession of a topographical artist is not one that commands great rewards, and the poor wretch that sits on a camp-stool at the corner of the street and records your dilapidated mansion with infinite pains must find some other guerdon unknown to the comfortable profiteer to supplement the price which he will get if he is fortunate enough to sell. If his aim had been pecuniary recompense only, he had surely changed his profession in the initial stage of his career" ("Thomas Shepherd," 121). Shepherd was a family man, and, despite being so industrious and prolific, and making himself available as a drawing master, he is known to have "struggled financially" (O'Donoghue).
Some oil paintings are ascribed to him, and he pictured himself as an artist in oils in the apparently unused title-page shown at the top of this page. It is also sometimes possible to see the watercolours that he worked up from his drawings. This is fortunate because the "owe a great deal to a happy choice of colour which suggests the atmosphere of London in the past, and this quality is lost to a large extent when translated by the less sympathetic engraver" ("Thomas Shepherd").
The confusion about Shepherd's original family was repeated in the next generation: genealogical records show that a Thomas Hosmer Shepherd died in Islington in late 1847 — but this was his grown-up son, whose death was registered that December (see Phillips 14). He himself died in 1864: as Phillips states, "Crace died on 18 September 1859, and it is probably not a coincidence that Thomas Hosmer's last dated drawing was produced just five weeks earlier.... He lived on for another five years, dying in Islington at the age of 71 on 4 July 1864" (15). Still, confident attribution can be difficult, since later works ascribed to him were sometimes reworked from, or "after" his. As well as his brother George, his eldest son, Frederick Napoleon Shepherd (1819-1878), was a topographic artist, whom he clearly tried to help, while another son, Valentine Claude Shepherd (1835/6-1888), was also an artist and wood-engraver. — Jacqueline Banerjee
Prints, Engravings, Aquatints, chromolithographs
"About the Artist." In "House of Lords: Her Majesty Opening the Session of Parliament." Gov/Art/Col (Government Art Collection). Web. 19 November 2020.
FreeBMD (genealogical records).
O'Donoghue, F. "Shepherd, George (fl. 1800–1830)." Includes Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (archive content). Online ed. Web. 19 November 2020.
Peltz, Lucy. "Shepherd, George Sidney (1784–1862), draughtsman and watercolour painter." Includes Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 19 November 2020.
Phillips, J.F.C. Shepherd's London. London: Cassell, 1976. (May be borrowed for a limited time from the Internet Archive).
Roberts, Greg. "Thomas Hosmer Shepherd — A Recorder of London." Wicked William: Resources for study of the life and times of William-Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley (1788-1857). Useful introduction, and links to other web resources. Web. 19 November 2020.
"Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793 - 1864)." RA (Royal Academy). Web. 19 November 2020.
"Thomas Shepherd and Regent's Park." The Architectural Review Vol. 46 (1919): 121-22. Internet Archive. From a copy in Robarts Library, University of Toronto. 19 November 2020.
Last modified 25 November 2020