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Thomas Lawrence (painter)

Thomas Lawrence (painter)

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Sir Thomas Lawrence RA
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

 FRS (13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830) was a leading English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 portrait painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and president of the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

.

Lawrence was a child prodigy. He was born in Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and began drawing in Devizes
Devizes
Devizes is a market town and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The town is about southeast of Chippenham and about east of Trowbridge.Devizes serves as a centre for banks, solicitors and shops, with a large open market place where a market is held once a week...

, where his father was an innkeeper. At the age of ten, having moved to Bath, he was supporting his family with his pastel
Pastel
Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation....

 portraits. At eighteen he went to London and soon established his reputation as a portrait painter in oils
Oil paint
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the...

, receiving his first royal commission, a portrait of Queen Charlotte
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III...

, in 1790. He stayed at the top of his profession until his death, aged 60, in 1830. Self-taught, he was a brilliant draughtsman and known for his gift of capturing a likeness, as well as his virtuoso handling of paint. He became an associate of the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

 in 1791, a full member in 1794, and president in 1820. In 1810 he acquired the generous patronage of the Prince Regent
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

, was sent abroad to paint portraits of allied leaders for the Waterloo chamber at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

, and is particularly remembered as the Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 portraitist of the Regency. Lawrence's love affairs were not happy (his tortuous relationships with Sally and Maria Siddons became the subject of several books) and, in spite of his success, he spent most of life deep in debt. He never married. At his death, Lawrence was the most fashionable portrait painter in Europe. His reputation waned during Victorian times
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

, but has been partially restored in more recent ones.

Childhood and early career


Thomas Lawrence was born at 6 Redcross Street, Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, the youngest surviving child of Thomas Lawrence, a supervisor of excise, and Lucy Read, the daughter of a clergyman. The couple had 16 children but only five survived infancy: Lawrence's brother Andrew became a clergyman; William had a career in the army; sisters Lucy and Anne married a solicitor and a clergyman (Lawrence's nephews included Andrew Bloxam
Andrew Bloxam
Andrew Bloxam was an English clergyman and naturalist; in his later life he had a particular interest in botany. He was the naturalist on board during its voyage around South America and the Pacific in 1824–26, where he collected mainly birds...

). Soon after Thomas was born his father decided to become an innkeeper and took over the White Lion Inn and next-door American Coffee House in Broad Street, Bristol. But the venture did not prosper and in 1773 Lawrence senior removed his family from Bristol and took over the tenancy of the Black Bear Inn in Devizes, a favourite stopping place for the London gentry who were making their annual trip to take the waters at Bath.

It was during the family's six-year stay at the Black Bear Inn that Lawrence senior began to make use of his son's precocious talents for drawing and reciting poetry. Visitors would be greeted with the words "Gentlemen, here's my son - will you have him recite from the poets, or take your portraits?" Among those who listened to a recitation from Tom, or Tommy as he was called, was the actor David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

. Lawrence's formal schooling was limited to two years at The Fort, a school in Bristol, when he was aged six to eight, and a little tuition in French and Latin from a dissenting minister. He also became accomplished in dancing, fencing, boxing and billiards. By the age of ten his fame had spread sufficiently for him to receive a mention in Daines Barrington's
Daines Barrington
Daines Barrington, FRS was an English lawyer, antiquary and naturalist.Barrington was the fourth son of the first Viscount Barrington. He was educated for the profession of the law, and after filling various posts, was appointed a Welsh judge in 1757 and afterwards second justice of Chester...

 Miscellanies as "without the most distant instruction from anyone, capable of copying historical pictures in a masterly style". But once again Lawrence senior failed as a landlord and, in 1779, he was declared bankrupt and the family moved to Bath. From now on, Lawrence was to support his parents with the money he earned from his portraits.

The family settled at 2 Alfred Street in Bath, and the young Lawrence established himself as a portraitist in pastel
Pastel
Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation....

s. The oval portraits, for which he was soon charging three guineas, were about 12 inches by 10 inches (30 by 25 centimetres), and usually portrayed a half-length. His sitters included the Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire , formerly Lady Georgiana Spencer, was the first wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and mother of the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Her father, the 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb...

, Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons was a Welsh actress, the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. She was the elder sister of John Philip Kemble, Charles Kemble, Stephen Kemble, Ann Hatton and Elizabeth Whitlock, and the aunt of Fanny Kemble. She was most famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character,...

, Sir Henry Harpur
Sir Henry Harpur, 6th Baronet
Sir Henry Harpur, 6th Baronet was an English Tory politician who represented the constituency of Derbyshire.Harpur was the son of Sir Henry Harpur, 5th Baronet and Lady Caroline Manners, daughter of John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland. He succeeded his father to the Baronetcy in 1748. He lived at...

 (of Calke Abbey
Calke Abbey
Calke Abbey is a Grade I listed country house near Ticknall, Derbyshire, England, in the care of the charitable National Trust.The site was an Augustinian priory from the 12th century until its dissolution by Henry VIII...

, Derbyshire, who offered to send Lawrence to Italy - Lawrence senior refused to part with his son), Warren Hastings
Warren Hastings
Warren Hastings PC was the first Governor-General of India, from 1773 to 1785. He was famously accused of corruption in an impeachment in 1787, but was acquitted in 1795. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1814.-Early life:...

 and Sir Elijah Impey
Elijah Impey
Sir Elijah Impey was a British judge, at one time chief justice of Bengal and MP for New Romney.He was born the youngest son of Elijah Impey and his wife Martha, daughter of James Fraser and was educated at Westminster School with Warren Hastings, who was his intimate friend throughout life...

. Talented, charming and attractive (and surprisingly modest) Lawrence was popular with Bath residents and visitors: artists William Hoare
William Hoare
William Hoare of Bath RA was an English painter and printmaker, co-founder of the Royal Academy noted for his pastels....

 and Mary Hartley gave him encouragement; wealthy people allowed him to study their collections of paintings and Lawrence's drawing of a copy of Raphael's Transfiguration was awarded a silver-gilt
Silver-gilt
Silver-gilt or gilded/gilt silver, sometimes known in American English by the French term vermeil, is silver gilded with gold. Most large objects made in goldsmithing that appear to be gold are actually silver-gilt; for example most sporting trophies, medals , and many crown jewels...

 palette and a prize of 5 guineas by the Society of Arts in London.

"Always in love and always in debt"



Sometime before his eighteenth birthday in 1787 Lawrence arrived in London, taking lodgings in Leicester Square, near to Joshua Reynold's
Joshua Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

 studio. He was introduced to Reynolds, who advised him to study nature, rather than the Old Masters. Lawrence set up a studio at 41 Jermyn Street and installed his parents in a house in Greek Street. He exhibited several works in the 1787 Royal Academy exhibition at Somerset House
Somerset House
Somerset House is a large building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, England, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The central block of the Neoclassical building, the outstanding project of the architect Sir William Chambers, dates from 1776–96. It...

, and enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

 but didn't stay long, abandoning the drawing of classical statues to concentrate on his portraiture. In the Royal Academy exhibition of 1788 Lawrence was represented by five portraits in pastels and one in oils, a medium he quickly mastered. Between 1787 and his death in 1830 he would miss only two of the annual exhibitions: once, 1809, in protest about the way his paintings had been displayed and once, in 1819, because he was abroad. In 1789 he exhibited 13 portraits, mostly in oil, including one of William Linley
William Linley
William Linley was one of 7 musical siblings born to Thomas Linley the elder and his wife Mary Johnson.He joined the British East India Company and was in India 1790-5 and 1800-5, holding a writership at their College in Madras. He retired from the company in 1810 and devoted himself to singing,...

 and one of Lady Cremorne, his first attempt at a full-length portrait. The paintings received favourable comments in the press with one critic referring to him as "the Sir Joshua of futurity not far off" and, aged just twenty, Lawrence received his first royal commission, a summons arriving from Windsor Palace to paint the portraits of Queen Charlotte
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III...

 and Princess Amelia
Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom
Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom was a member of the British Royal Family as the youngest daughter of King George III of the United Kingdom and his queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.-Early life:...

. The queen found Lawrence presumptuous (although he made a good impression on the princesses and ladies-in-waiting) and she didn't like the finished portrait, which remained in Lawrence's studio until his death. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790 however it received critical acclaim. Also shown that year was another of Lawrence's most famous portraits, that of the actress Elizabeth Farren, soon to be the Countess of Derby, "completely Elizabeth Farren: arch, spirited, elegant and engaging", according to one newspaper.

In 1791 Lawrence was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and the following year, on the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds, King George III appointed him "painter-in-ordinary to his majesty"
Principal Painter in Ordinary
The title of Principal Painter in Ordinary to the King or Queen of England or, later, Great Britain, was awarded to a number of artists, nearly all mainly portraitists. It was different to the role of Serjeant Painter, and similar to the earlier role of "King's Painter"...

. His reputation was established, and he moved to a studio in Old Bond Street. In 1794 he became a full member of the Royal Academy. Although commissions were pouring in, Lawrence was in financial difficulties. His debts would stay with him for the rest of life: he narrowly avoided bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by wealthy sitters and friends, and died insolvent. Biographers have never been able to discover the source of his debts; he was a prodigiously hard worker (once referring in a letter to his portrait painting as "mill-horse business") and didn't appear to live extravagantly. Lawrence himself said: "I have never been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me". This has generally been accepted, with biographers blaming his financial problems on his generosity towards his family and others, his inability to keep accounts (in spite of advice from his friend the painter and diarist Joseph Farington
Joseph Farington
Joseph Farington was an 18th-century English landscape painter and diarist.-Life and work:Born in Leigh, Lancashire, Farington was the second of seven sons of William Farington and Esther Gilbody. His father was the rector of Warrington and vicar of Leigh...

), and his magnificent but costly collection of Old Master drawings.

Another source of unhappiness in Lawrence's life was his romantic entanglement with two of Sarah Siddons' daughters. He fell in love first with Sally, then transferred his affections on to her sister Maria, then broke with Maria and turned to Sally again. Both the sisters had fragile health; Maria died in 1798, on her deathbed extracting a promise from her sister never to marry Lawrence. Sally kept her promise and refused to see Lawrence again, dying in 1803. But Lawrence continued on friendly terms with their mother and painted several portraits of her. He never married. In later years two women would provide him with companionship, friends Elizabeth Croft and Isabella Wolff who first met Lawrence when she sat for her portrait in 1803. Isabella was married to the Danish consul Jens Wolff, but she separated from him in 1810, and Sir Michael Levey suggests that people may have wondered if Lawrence was the father of her son Herman.

Lawrence's departures from portraiture were very rare. In the early 1790s he completed two history pictures: Homer reciting his poems, a small picture of the poet in a pastoral setting; and Satan summoning his legions, a giant canvas to illustrate lines from John Milton's
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

 Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

. The boxer John Jackson
John Jackson (boxer)
"Gentleman" John Jackson was a celebrated pugilist of the late 18th century.He won the title Champion of England in a fight on 15 April 1795 in which he beat...

 posed for the naked body of Satan; the face is that of Sarah Siddons' brother, John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble was an English actor. He was born into a theatrical family as the eldest son of Roger Kemble, actor-manager of a touring troupe. His elder sister Sarah Siddons achieved fame with him on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane...

.

Lawrence's parents died within a few months of each other in 1797 and he gave up his house in Picadilly, where he had moved from Old Bond Street, to set up his studio in the family home in Greek Street. By now, to keep up with the demand for replicas of his portraits, he was making use of studio assistants, most notable of whom would be William Etty
William Etty
William Etty was an English painter, best known for his paintings of nudes.-Beginnings:In accordance with the wishes of his father, Etty served seven years of apprenticeship to a printer in Hull...

 and George Henry Harlow
George Henry Harlow
George Henry Harlow , was a highly-regarded English portrait painter.- Life :Harlow was born in St. James's Street, London, the posthumous son of a China merchant, who after some years' residence in the East had died about five months before his son's birth, leaving a widow with five infant daughters...

. The early years of the nineteenth century saw Lawrence's portrait practice continue to flourish: amongst his sitters were major political figures such as Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville PC and Baron Dunira was a Scottish lawyer and politician. He was the first Secretary of State for War and the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom....

 and William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, PC, FRS was a British Whig statesman who served as Home Secretary and Prime Minister . He is best known for his intense and successful mentoring of Queen Victoria, at ages 18-21, in the ways of politics...

, whose wife Lady Caroline Lamb
Lady Caroline Lamb
The Lady Caroline Lamb was a British aristocrat and novelist, best known for her affair with Lord Byron in 1812. Her husband was the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, the Prime Minister...

 was also painted by Lawrence. The king commissioned portraits of his daughter-in-law Caroline
Caroline of Brunswick
Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was the Queen consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom from 29 January 1820 until her death...

, the estranged wife of the Prince of Wales
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

, and his granddaughter Charlotte
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
Princess Charlotte of Wales was the only child of George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Brunswick...

. Lawrence stayed at the Montague House, the residence of the princess in Blackheath, while he was painting the portraits and thus became implicated in the "delicate investigation" into Caroline's morals. He swore an affidavit that although he had on occasion been alone with the princess, the door had never been locked or bolted and he had "not the least objection for all the world to have heard or seen what took place". Expertly defended by Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval, KC was a British statesman and First Lord of the Treasury, making him de facto Prime Minister. He is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated...

, he was exonerated.

"Pictorial chronicler of the Regency"



By the time the Prince of Wales was made regent in 1814, Lawrence was acknowledged as the foremost portrait painter in the country. Through one of his sitters, Lord Charles Stewart, he met the Prince Regent who was to become his most important patron. As well as portraits of himself, the prince commissioned portraits of allied leaders: the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

, Field-Marshal von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

 and Count Platov
Matvei Platov
Count Matvei Ivanovich Platov was a Russian general who commanded the Don Cossacks in the Napoleonic wars....

 sat for Lawrence at his new house at 65 Russell Square. The prince also had plans for Lawrence to travel abroad and paint foreign royalty and leaders, and as a preliminary he was given a knighthood on 22 April 1815. Napoleon's return from Elba put these plans on hold, although Lawrence did make a visit to Paris, where his friend Lord Charles Stewart was ambassador, and saw the art that Napoleon had looted from Italy, including Raphael's Transfiguration
Transfiguration (Raphael)
The Transfiguration is considered the last painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael. It was left unfinished by Raphael, and is believed to have been completed by his pupil, Giulio Romano, shortly after Raphael's death in 1520...

, the painting he had reproduced for his silver-gilt palette as a boy.


In 1817 the prince commissioned Lawrence to paint a portrait of his daughter Princess Charlotte, who was pregnant with her first child. Charlotte died in childbirth; Lawrence completed the portrait and presented it to her husband Prince Leopold
Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

 at Claremont
Claremont (country house)
Claremont, also known historically as 'Clermont', is an 18th-century Palladian mansion situated less than a mile south of Esher in Surrey, England...

 on his birthday, as agreed. The princess's obstetrician, Sir Richard Croft, who later shot himself, was the half-brother of Lawrence's friend, Elizabeth Croft, and for her Lawrence drew a sketch of Croft in his coffin.

Eventually, in September 1818, Lawrence was able to make his postponed trip to the continent to paint the allied leaders, first at Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

 and then at the conference of Vienna, for what would become the Waterloo Chamber
The Waterloo Chamber
.The Waterloo Chamber, dating from 1830–31, is a large room in Windsor Castle dedicated to the initial military vanquishing of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte by British, Prussian, Russian and Austrian forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in Belgium...

 series, housed in Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

. His sitters included Tsar Alexander
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

, Emperor Francis I of Austria
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz...

, the King of Prussia
Frederick William III of Prussia
Frederick William III was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel .-Early life:...

, Field-Marshal Prince Schwarzenberg
Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg
Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg (or Charles Philip, Prince of Schwarzenberg (April 18, 1771 – October 15, 1820) was an Austrian field marshal.- Life :...

, Archduke Charles of Austria
Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen
Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of emperor Leopold II and his wife Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain...

 and Henriette his wife, and a young Napoleon II, as well as various French and Prussian ministers. In May 1819, still under orders from the Prince Regent, he left Vienna for Rome to paint Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII , born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was a monk, theologian and bishop, who reigned as Pope from 14 March 1800 to 20 August 1823.-Early life:...

 and Cardinal Consalvi.

President of the Royal Academy


Lawrence arrived back in London 30 March 1820 to find that the president of the Royal Academy, Benjamin West
Benjamin West
Benjamin West, RA was an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence...

, had died. That very evening Lawrence was voted the new president, a position he would hold until his death 10 years later. George III had died in January; Lawrence was granted a place in the procession for the coronation of George IV. On 28 February 1822 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society "for his eminence in art". The royal commissions continued during the 1820s, including one for a portrait of the king's sister Sophia
Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom
The Princess Sophia was a member of the British Royal Family, the twelfth child and fifth daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte...

, and one of Sir Walter Scott
Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time....

 (along with Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

, one of Lawrence's favourite authors), as well as one to paint King Charles X of France
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

 for the Waterloo series, for which Lawrence made a trip to Paris, taking Herman Wolff with him. Lawrence acquired another important patron in Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

, who commissioned the painter to do portraits of his family as well a portrait of George Canning
George Canning
George Canning PC, FRS was a British statesman and politician who served as Foreign Secretary and briefly Prime Minister.-Early life: 1770–1793:...

. Two of Lawrence's most famous portraits of children were painted during the 1820s: that of Emily and Laura Calmady and that of Master Charles William Lambton, painted for his father Lord Durham
John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham GCB, PC , also known as "Radical Jack" and commonly referred to in history texts simply as Lord Durham, was a British Whig statesman, colonial administrator, Governor General and high commissioner of British North America...

 for 600 guineas and known as The Red Boy. The latter portrait attracted much praise when it was exhibited in Paris in 1827. One of the artist's last commissions was of future prime-minister the Earl of Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen KG, KT, FRS, PC , styled Lord Haddo from 1791 to 1801, was a Scottish politician, successively a Tory, Conservative and Peelite, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1852 until 1855.-Early life:Born in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784, he...

. Fanny Kemble
Fanny Kemble
Frances Anne Kemble , was a famous British actress and author in the early and mid nineteenth century.-Youth and acting career:...

, a niece of Sarah Siddons, was one of his last sitters (for a drawing).

Lawrence died suddenly on 7 January 1830, just months after his friend Isabella Wolff. A few days previously he had experienced chest pains but had continued working and was eagerly anticipating a stay with his sister at Rugby, when he collapsed and died during a visit from his friends Elizabeth Croft and Archibald Keightley. After a post-mortem examination, doctors concluded that the artist's death had been caused by ossification of the aorta and vessels of the heart. Lawrence's first biographer, D. E. Williams suggested that this in itself was not enough to cause death and it was his doctors' over-zealous bleeding and leeching that killed him. Lawrence was buried on 21 January in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

. Amongst the mourners was J. M. W. Turner
J. M. W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner RA was an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting...

 who painted a sketch of the funeral from memory.

Lawrence was famed for the length of time he took to finish some of his paintings (Isabella Wolff waited twelve years for her portrait to be completed) and, at his death, his studio contained a large number of unfinished works. Some were completed by his assistants and other artists, some were sold as they were. In his will Lawrence left instructions to offer, at a price much below their worth, his collection of Old Master drawings to first George IV, then the trustees of the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, then Robert Peel and the Earl of Dudley. None of them accepted the offer and the collection was split up and auctioned; many of the drawings later found their way into the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum...

. After Lawrence's creditors had been paid, there was no money left, although a memorial exhibition at the British Institution
British Institution
The British Institution was a private 19th-century society in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists; it was also known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery...

 raised £3,000 which was given to his nieces.

Legacy


Lawrence's friends asked the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell to write the artist's biography, but he passed the task on to D.E. Williams whose two rather inaccurate volumes were published in 1831. It would be nearly 70 years later, in 1900, before another biography of Lawrence appeared, this time by Lord Ronald Gower. In 1913 Sir Walter Armstrong, who was not a great admirer of Lawrence, published a monograph. The 1950s saw the publication of two further works: Douglas Goldring's
Douglas Goldring
Douglas Goldring was a British writer and journalist.-Life:He was born in Greenwich, England. He was educated initially at Hurstpierpoint, Magdalen College School and for his secondary education Felsted...

 Regency portrait painter, and Kenneth Garlick's catalogue of Lawrence's paintings (a further edition was published in 1989). Sir Michael Levey
Michael Levey
Sir Michael Vincent Levey, LVO was a British art historian and was director of the National Gallery for thirteen years, from 1973 to 1986.-Biography:...

, curator of the National Portrait Gallery's 1979-80 Lawrence exhibition, produced books on the artist in 1979 and 2005. Lawrence's entanglements with the Siddons family has been the subject of three books (by Oswald Knapp, André Maurois
André Maurois
André Maurois, born Emile Salomon Wilhelm Herzog was a French author.-Life:Maurois was born in Elbeuf and educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, both in Normandy. Maurois was the son of Ernest Herzog, a Jewish textile manufacturer, and Alice Herzog...

 and Naomi Royde-Smith) and a recent radio play.

Lawrence's reputation as an artist fell during the Victorian era. Critic and artist Roger Fry
Roger Fry
Roger Eliot Fry was an English artist and art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Establishing his reputation as a scholar of the Old Masters, he became an advocate of more recent developments in French painting, to which he gave the name Post-Impressionism...

 did something to restore it in the 1930s, when he described Lawrence as having a "consummate mastery over the means of artistic expression" with an "unerring hand and eye". At one time Lawrence was more popular in the United States and France than he was in Britain, and some of his best known portraits, including those of Elizabeth Farren
Elizabeth Farren
Elizabeth Farren was an English actress of the late 18th century.-Early life:Elizabeth Farren was the daughter of George Farren of Cork, Ireland, formerly a surgeon and apothecary, then later an actor, and his wife of Liverpool, Lancashire, the daughter of a publican or brewer.At a very early age...

, Sarah Barrett Moulton
Pinkie (Lawrence painting)
Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of The Huntington at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute's art collection, which specializes in...

 (known to her family as Pinkie), and Charles Lambton (the "Red Boy") found their way to the United States during the early 20th century enthusiasm there for English portraits. Sir Michael Levey acknowledges that Lawrence is still dismissed by some art historians; his explanation is that "He was a highly original artist, quite unexpected on the English scene: self-taught, self-absorbed in perfecting his own personal style, and in effect self-destructing, since he left behind no significant followers or creative influence. Leaving aside Sargent, his sole successor has been not in painting, but in fashionable, virtuoso photography."

The most extensive collections of Lawrence's work can be found in the Royal Collections and the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Tate Britain
Tate Britain
Tate Britain is an art gallery situated on Millbank in London, and part of the Tate gallery network in Britain, with Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. It is the oldest gallery in the network, opening in 1897. It houses a substantial collection of the works of J. M. W. Turner.-History:It...

, the National Gallery
National Gallery, London
The National Gallery is an art museum on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The gallery is an exempt charity, and a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media...

 and the Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery is an art gallery in Dulwich, South London. England's first purpose-built public art gallery, it was designed by Regency architect Sir John Soane and opened to the public in 1817. Soane arranged the exhibition spaces as a series of interlinked rooms illuminated naturally...

 house smaller collections of his work in London. There are a few examples of his work in the Holburne Museum of Art
Holburne Museum of Art
The Holburne Museum of Art is in Sydney Pleasure Gardens, Sydney Place, in the Bathwick area of Bath, Somerset, England.-History:...

 and the Victoria Art Gallery
Victoria Art Gallery
The Victoria Art Gallery is free public art museum in Bath, Somerset, England.The building was designed in 1897 by John McKean Brydon, and has been designated as a Grade II listed building. The exterior of the building includes a statue of Queen Victoria, by A. C. Lucchesi, and friezes of...

 in Bath, and in Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery is a large museum and art gallery in Bristol, England. It is run by the city council with no entrance fee. It holds designated museum status, granted by the national government to protect outstanding museums...

. In the United States, The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is an educational and research institution established by Henry E. Huntington in San Marino, in the San Rafael Hills near Pasadena, California in the United States...

 houses Pinkie
Pinkie (Lawrence painting)
Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of The Huntington at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute's art collection, which specializes in...

, and Lawrence's portraits of Elizabeth Farren
Elizabeth Farren
Elizabeth Farren was an English actress of the late 18th century.-Early life:Elizabeth Farren was the daughter of George Farren of Cork, Ireland, formerly a surgeon and apothecary, then later an actor, and his wife of Liverpool, Lancashire, the daughter of a publican or brewer.At a very early age...

, Lady Harriet Maria Conyngham, and the Calmady children are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

. In Europe, the Musée du Louvre has a few example's of Lawrence's work, and the Vatican Pinacoteca has a swagger portrait of George IV (presented by the king himself) as almost its only British work.

In October 2010 a survey of Lawrence's work opened at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. Closing in Great Britain in January 2011, the exhibition then traveled to Yale Center for British Art
Yale Center for British Art
The Yale Center for British Art is an art museum in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University which houses the most comprehensive collection of British Art outside the United Kingdom...

 in New Haven, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 where it opened in February 2011, and is on view until early June.

External links