|Thomas Lawrence at the National Portrait Gallery until January 2011|
This is the first exhibition of his work in the UK for over thirty years. It includes 54 works of very good quality which were drawn from a number of collections including the Royal Collection. the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Palace of Versailles and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The exhibition has been organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven. It transfers to the Yale Centre in Connecticut in the New Year and the exhibition will run there between 24 February and 5 June 2011
I RECOMMEND this exhibition to all those interested in portraiture - of both adults and children, eighteenth and nineteenth century oil painting and drawing with dry media.
The notion that he was one of the most celebrated artists in Europe is unsurprising when you see the portraits in this exhibition. Not only are they very fine portraits but they also look incredibly fresh - almost as if they were painted yesterday.
Clearly he had a technique which created portraits with both impact and longevity - of which more later.
I was unsurprised to find out that he had been a child prodigy - and had helped to support his family from an early age through his talent for portrait drawing. He started his professional career drawing portraits in pastel.
His meteoric rise through the art world began when he was just 21 and exhibited at the Summer Ehibition for the first time.
This is the summary of him which you can find on the National Portrait Gallery website
Artist associated with 641 portraits
Beginning as a child prodigy working in pastels, the gifted Lawrence eventually succeeded Reynolds as Britain's greatest portrait painter, With the temperament and flair to capture the glamour of the age, Lawrence created the image of Regency high-society with dazzling brushwork and an innovative use of colour. His international reputation was ensured when the Prince Regent commissioned portraits of all the foreign leaders involved in the downfall of Napoleon. Lawrence was appointed President of the Royal Academy in 1820.
NPG website: Sir Thomas Lawrence
- he's completely self-taught. His approach was informed by his study of and regard for old master drawings - which he also collected.
- as a result Lawrence is a superb draughtsman
- the portrait paintings he submitted to his firste ever Summer exhibition at the Royal Academy succeeded in making Joshua Reynolds's (the President of the RA) 'portraits seem old fashioned. One of these is the portrait of Elizabeth Farren which you can see at the top of this post.
- his particular talent as a portrait painter appears to be for putting his subjects completely at ease so that they appear completely natural and themselves - even those who were not enamoured of portrait painting (such as Queen Charlotte and Wellington)
- as a result he was patronised by the great and the good
- he was exceptionally effective as a painter of small children
- his use of colour is absolutely stunning - he uses vivid colours and in particular a deep red to exceptional effect
- he's an innovator and experiments constantly - trying different formats and also new approaches to pastel drawing and portrait painting
- his work is very painterly and he obviously loves the viscosity of oil paint - and includes "great gobs of paint" in the clothes of his sitters
|Detail of Queen Charlotte 1744-1818 by Thomas Lawrence (oil on canvas 1789-90)|
|Windsor Castle - Waterloo Chamber Portraits by Thomas Lawrence|
(L to R) Pope Pius VII 1742-1823; Charles, Archdule of Austria (1771-18547)
and Field Marsgall Gebhardt von Blucher (1742-1819)
|Section of Pope Pius VII by Thomas Lawrence (oil on canvas 1820)|
It is also the portrait which Wellington liked the best. He sent engravings of it to his friends.
|(section of) Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1769-1852 |
by Thomas Lawrence
Private Collection of Sir Robert Ogden CBE
Countess Therese Czernin 1798-1896
by Thomas Lawreence 1819
black, red, brown and white chlak on prepared canvas
Another feature of Lawrence is that he was very innovative - and this exhibition provided me with the first opportunity to see a classic pastel chalk drawing on gessoed canvas and framed like an oil painting.
As you progress through the exhibition you gradually begin to appreciate his use of red for creating very "look at me" portraits and a tremendous coherence to an exhibition of this sort. I would imagine exhibitions including his portraits might very well have had the same impact at the time.
|Thomas Lawrence Exhibition - Court, Academy and Society the 1820s|
Also that red was a very popular colour to use at the time - but that undoubtedly it was Lawrence who set the trend.
I'm curious about the red pigment and am trying to get an appointment to see one of the scientists at the NPG to see if it's possible to find out more why these paintings look so good!
Lawrence eventually followed that other great portrait painter Joshua Reynolds in being elected to President of the Royal Academy in 1820. He helped to establish the status of the artist in nineteenth century England.
The exhibition continues at the National Portrait Gallery until 23rd January 2011 prior to its transfer to the USA. There are a number of events during the course of the exhibition most of which must be booked.
This is a link to the catalogue for the exhibition Thomas Lawrence: Regency Brilliance and Power (Yale Center for British Art)
Other reviews of this exhibition
The reviews are unanimous - it's worth you making an effort to see this exhibition. You can read some of them by clicking on the links below.
- London Evening Standard - The eyes have it in Thomas Lawrence show by Brian Sewell ****
- The Observer - Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance – review
- The Guardian - Thomas Lawrence: The new romantic – review By Richard Holmes (an authority on Lawrence) Thomas Lawrence was a master of Regency portraiture who changed the way women were depicted in art. But he has long been mocked as a chocolate box sentimentalist. His ebullient work is due a reassessment, says Richard Holmes
- Financial Times - Thomas Lawrence’s portraits By Jackie Wullschlager
- The Telegraph - Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, National Portrait Gallery Witty and seductive, Thomas Lawrence was the perfect society portraitist, says Richard Dorment. Rating: * * * *
- The Independent - Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance By Matilda Battersby and Face to face with greatness: Thomas Lawrence A new exhibition confirms that the Regency artist Thomas Lawrence was a formidable talent, says Adrian Hamilton
- Wall Street Journal - The Sensual 'Brilliance' of An Underappreciated Artisthe experi