|When the Puritans came to power in Britain, representations of religious subjects and nude classical heroes were deemed sinful, so portraiture and landscape rose in popularity. Also, in an era of social flux, the portrait can establish the subject within a privileged family.
c. 1764-66, OIL ON CANVAS,
25 x 30 IN.
Francis Cotes (1726-70) was a founding member of the Royal Academy, but an accidental poisoning killed him at the height of his powers. Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and Thomas Gainsborough all outlived him by decades and eclipsed him in the process. Interest in Cotes was renewed only in the 20th century, when the demand in America for British portraits rose.
Mr. John Utterson of Fareham, Hampshire,
1769, OIL ON CANVAS,
30 x 25 IN.
Benjamin West (1738-1820) had a brilliant career, becoming in 1768 one of the founders of the Royal Academy and in 1772 a historical painter in the court of George III. In 1792, he succeeded Reynolds as president of the Royal Academy, serving until 1805 and then again from 1807 to 1820. As a portraitist in his day, one of Londons most fashionable he painted with a signature immediacy and candor. Mr. John Utterson of Fareham, Hampshire (1769), is an excellent example of Wests Early English style. The sitter, possibly a well-to-do Quaker, is posed traditionally and rendered with a sensitive attention both to skin tones and textures so much so that the coat and vest can be identified as wool broadcloth and the coats collar as velvet.
c. 1776-90, OIL ON CANVAS,
30 25 IN.
Originally in the provenance of the Hon. B. Downman, this portrait was mistitled Mrs. Anne Downman when Fisher Gallery received it in 1939. An inquiry into the sitters identity led to John Downman, Kauffmanns fellow portraitist and Royal Academician. In his portfolio was a drawing almost identical to Kauffmanns oil; further investigation found that it was a drawing of Kauffmanns portrait of his cousin Isabella Hunter. So, Isabella Hunter it is.
OIL ON CANVAS SKETCH, 27x25 IN.
George Romney (1734-1802) is considered along with Gainsborough and Reynolds one of the most important British portrait painters of the 18th century. For all his skill, however, he may not have been as well-remembered as he is if it were not for his most frequent sitter: Emily Hart, later the Lady Emma Hamilton.
1769, OIL ON CANVAS,
Though Thomas Gainsborough was a Royal Academician, his style was almost opposite to the one advocated by Reynolds. Instead of a rational, classically-based approach, the largely self-taught Gainsborough developed a lyrical, painterly brush stroke. When he won the favor of George III, he further alienated Reynolds; by the 1780s, following some dispute, Gainsbor-ough retired from the Academy entirely and began arranging exhibits in his own home.
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