Richard Cosway (5 November 1742 - 4 July 1821) was a leading English portrait painter – more accurately a miniaturist - of the Regency era.
Born in Tiverton, Devon, the son of a schoolmaster, he was allowed to travel to London aged just 12 to take lessons in learning. He won a prize from the Society of Artists in 1754 and by 1760 had established his own business. He exhibited his first works aged just 20 in 1762 and was soon in demand. Such was his success, that still not 30, Cosway was elected one of the founder members of the Royal Academy (he is included in a group portrait of the 1768 founders, though some accounts suggest he was appointed an Academician three years later, in 1771).
He painted King George IV in 1780 and was appointed Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1785 – the only time this title was ever awarded. His subjects included the Prince's first wife, Maria Anne Fitzherbert, and various English and French aristocrats, including Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV of France.
Cosway's pupils included Andrew Plimer (1763-1837).
On 18 January 1781, Cosway married talented Anglo-Italian artist Maria Hadfield (also a composer, musician and authority on girls' education, and much admired by Thomas Jefferson). In 1784 the Cosways moved into Schomberg House, Pall Mall, which became a fashionable salon for London society. In 1791 they moved to a larger house in Stratford Place. However, the marriage did not last, eventually being annulled; in later life, Cosway also suffered from mental disorders and spent some time in various institutions. He died in London in 1821 and was buried at Marylebone New Church.