Joseph Batholomew Kidd (1808-1889) – Scottish Landscape Painter

View of a Country Residence near Kingston, Jamaica. From a Lithograph by Joseph Bartholomew Kidd, London, 1838. Collection: Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins.

Joseph Bartholomew Kidd (1808-1889), Scottish Landscape Painter. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was educated by the Reverend John Thomson of Duddingston. He was one Preview post of the original founders of the Scottish Academy of Art in 1826, where he regularly exhibited his oil paintings of Scottish landscapes for many years afterwards.

Kidd became a close friend of John James Audubon and in the early 1830s he translated many of Audubon’s drawings of American Birds into oil paintings. These oil paintings of American Birds by Joseph Bartholomew Kidd are extremely rare and command very high prices whenever they come up for Auction and several of them are in major Museums in the United States including the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

In 1835 Joseph Bartholomew Kidd went out to Jamaica, where one of his brothers, Thomas Patrick Kidd, was a Merchant with stores in Falmouth and Stewart Town, Trelawny. While visiting his brother in Falmouth, Kidd held an Exhibition of his Scottish landscapes and it was such a resounding success that he immediately received numerous commissions to paint Portraits of the local Planters and Views of their Sugar Plantations.

A number of Early 19th Century Portraits in various Great Houses in Jamaica are thought to have possibly been painted by J. B. Kidd, but so far none have been found that bear his signature. A Pair of Early 19th Century Oil Portraits of the Hon. Thomas Ashmeade II, Custos of St. Ann, and his wife, Frances nee Lawrence Hilton, painted in 1836, have been attributed to J. B. Kidd. They were my Mother’s Great-Great-Great-Grandparents and both Portraits are still in my Private Collection.

Original oil paintings of Jamaican towns, plantations, landscapes and scenes by J. B. Kidd are incredibly rare. Only four are still known to exist. Two of them are of Sugar Plantations, Weston Favel Estate in Trelawny and possibly Bellefield Estate in St. James and both are in the Private Collection of Wallace Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica. A third painting, also of a Sugar Plantation, Good Hope Estate in Trelawny, is in the Private Collection of Tony and Sheila Hart at Good Hope Great House in Trelawny. The fourth, a painting of Retirement Penn, St. Ann, a cattle and pimento estate in the St. Ann Highlands, is in a Private Collection in Jamaica.

Kidd’s early success in Trelawny, Jamaica encouraged him to continue painting Landscapes of the Island. He fell in love with the Jamaican landscape and in 1836 he began travelling throughout the Island painting views of the various Towns and Plantations. Kidd then decided to publish many of these Oil Paintings as Lithographs and in 1837 he embarked upon an ambitious plan to publish 50 Views of Jamaica in a Folio for Collectors.

This massive Folio Book was grandly titled “Illustrations of West Indian Scenery, in a Series of Views comprising the Principal Towns, Public Buildings, Estates and most Picturesque Scenery of the Island of Jamaica”. It was published in Sections of 5 Lithographs at a time between 1837 and 1843. The large Hand-Coloured Lithographs of Jamaica were unaccompanied by any descriptive text, but they immediately became sought after by Collectors in Jamaica who framed them and displayed them on the walls of their Town Houses and Plantation Houses. These Kidd Prints of Jamaica are also rare and they are still much sought after by Dealers and Collectors today. I have several Early 19th Century Kidd Prints in my Private Collection.

Joseph Bartholomew Kidd left Jamaica and returned home to Scotland in 1843. He never visited Jamaica again although he remained in close contact with his family still on the Island. Kidd spent the rest of his life as a Landscape and Portrait Painter in Scotland and England. He died at Greenwich, near London, England, in 1889.