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  • B
  • Sir William Beechey
James Watt, 1736 - 1819. Engineer, inventor of the steam engine

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James Watt, 1736 - 1819. Engineer, inventor of the steam engine 1806


  • Scottish Art
James Watt achieved lasting fame as an engineer and scientist when his improvement of Newcomen's steam engine made it a practical industrial tool. Soon, his partnership with businessman Matthew Boulton led to the opening of a purpose-built steam engine factory. In 1800 Watt withdrew from active participation in the business and became entirely devoted to research. After his death in 1819, the ‘watt’ – a unit of measurement of electrical and mechanical power – was named in his honour. This portrait is a copy of a painting by Sir William Beechey. The original was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1802 and was regarded a true likeness by Watt himself. Partridge painted this copy a few years later and secured additional sittings by Watt to enhance the resemblance.

Glossary Open

Royal Academy

An independent institution founded in 1768 with Sir Joshua Reynolds as its first president. It is governed by the Royal Academicians - leading painters, sculptors, printmakers and architects, which number no more than 80 at one time. It organises exhibitions at its London galleries, including an annual Summer Exhibition.

Royal Academy


  • Acc. No. PG 2612
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 76.80 x 64.20 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1984