Stephanoff, James (1784-1874)

Stephanoff, James (1784-1874)

James Stephanoff was an accomplished British watercolour painter working primarily during the Regency Period in Britain. Stephanoff’s works have a focus on depicting scenes of contemporary and historical events although he also painted smaller portraits and interior scenes.

He was praised for his attention to detail in historical costuming and the skill he possessed in composition, often grouping large numbers of people together in a scene. This earned him the appointment of Historical Painter in Watercolours to King William IV in 1831. For the King and other distinguished patrons, Stephanoff would produce works depicting events such as the Coronation of King George IV and the Trial of Queen Caroline. These required a hand able to portray specific individuals within a whole, grand scene.

As well as this, Stephanoff contributed to Pyne’s ‘The History of the Royal Residences,’ demonstrating his skill in detailed depictions of lavish spaces.

Stephanoff participated in the rise of watercolour as its own respectable medium during the late 18th and early-19th centuries.

He was noted for being one of the first artists not to simply adopt watercolour for the use of engravings, although this did indeed happen to some of his works, but also for its own sake.

In 1845 he depicted the Greek and Roman antiquities in the British Museum for the Society of Antiquaries in London. He captured them in a neat collection which reflected the romantic fascination with the classics at the time.

Stephanoff’s family were incredibly artistically minded. His father’s career as a set designer, producing scenery for the Haymarket Theatre, might have potentially given Stephanoff an understanding of how to create large scenes and depth on a flat surface.

Furthermore, his mother was an accomplished flower painter much patronised by botanist Sir Joseph Banks. She also taught art, and it is possible young Stephanoff learned much from his mother. That artistic ability ran strong in his family is further evidenced by Stephanoff’s brother, Phillip Francis Stephanoff (1787-1860), and his career as a painter. Whatever the case, Stephanoff carved a clearly high-skilled career for himself.

Some of his work is now housed in the National Gallery and the Royal Collection Trust.


Born in London.


Began studying at the Royal Academy.


First began exhibiting at the Artist’s Academy and the Royal Academy.


Became a member of the Sketching Society.


First began exhibiting at the Old Watercolour Society.


Became a member of the Artist’s Academy.


Became a member of the Old Watercolour Society.


Collaborated with Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) on ‘Coronation of George IV in Westminster Abbey.’


Appointed Historical Painter to King William IV.


Died in Bristol.

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