Born in Devonshire, he went to London to study art before he was twelve. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1770 and a full RA in the 1771. At the outset of his career he intended to be a portrait painter in oils, but he came to concentrate on miniatures on ivory. In 1784 he moved to Schomberg House, Pall Mall, where is had Gainsborough as a neighbour, and at this time he attracted the notice of the Prince of Wales. He became the most representative and fashionable miniaturist of the late 18th century in England. He died in London.