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Thomas Lawrence exhibition – National Portrait Gallery

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LONDON- A tribute to portraitist Thomas Lawrence.

Tuesday, 19th October 2010 –  David Franchi

LONDON: “Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance” exhibition opens its doors from 21st October 2010 to 23rd January 2011.

The exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery the first for 30 years and displays 54 portraits coming from all over the world.

Lawrence was one of the most famous portraitists of UK, very innovative.

The exhibition is in chronological order of portraits.

Lawrence was a prodigy. He started to portrait as a child. Once moved to London he became more and more famous. He was appointed President of the Royal Academy in 1820 and remained until he died in 1830.

The National Portrait Gallery hosts the show, organised in collaboration with Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven in USA, where it will be next year.

The first exhibition in the UK dedicated to Lawrence, for 30 years, displays 54 dazzling portraits some seen in public for the first time.

Works on display are coming from around the world, remarkably The Royal Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Palace of Versailles and Art Institute of Chicago, and including also many portraits from private collections.

The greatest paintings and drawings of Thomas Lawrence are present. Some of them are rarely to be seen in public.

This exhibition makes people understand why Lawrence work is so important, firstly placing him within the bigger framework of the art debates, networks of patronage and politics of his day. An unmarked point of view of this exhibition is about Lawrence production, about technical innovations, both as a draughtsman and painter, and also about his international reputation.

Lawrence can be called today a master of the Regency period though in the past his name was linked to advertisement environment.

Beginning as a child prodigy working in pastels, Thomas Lawrence succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as Britain’s greatest portrait painter. He has represented Regency high- society with dazzling brushwork and an innovative use of colour.

At the exhibition entrance a recently rediscovered self- portrait of Lawrence one of his earliest experiments in oil painting.

The first room “Arrival on the scene: the 1790s” contains important portraits, like “Arthur Atherley” and “Elizabeth Farren” displayed at the 1790 Royal Academy exhibition, and allowed Lawrence to break in the London art world, when he was mostly unknown and 21 years old only.

The second room “Delineating a life: Lawrence as draughtsman” contains drawn portraits. It is possible to see examples of the most innovative technique Lawrence created: drawing predominantly using chalks directly on primed canvas as preliminary stage of painting. To be highlighted here the “Thomas Holcroft and William Godwin” and “Mrs Angerstein Nursing”.

Next gallery is “New ambition: experimentation in portraiture” and it covers the period from 1805 to 1815 in which Lawrence started to innovate, pushing his art into new territories. From this room “Sir Francis Baring, John Baring and Charles Wall”, “John Philip Kemble as Cato” and “Isabella Wolff” the latter represents a figure of inspiration for Lawrence and maybe a lover.

The fourth room “Lawrence in Europe: international career and reputation” starts from the year 1815. After the Napoleon final defeat, Lawrence could achieve the reputation of greatest British artist by travelling Europe and painting a series of monumental portraits of the sovereigns and military leaders allied in the wars, such as “Charles Archduke of Austria”, “Charles Lambton” and “Pope Pius VII”.

Last room is “Court, Academy and Society: the 1820s”. Lawrence success was huge at that time. Here to be highlighted are “Princess Sophia”, “”Arthur Wellesley” and the famous “Earl of Aberdeen”.

Sir Thomas Lawrence (13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830) was a leading English portrait painter and president of the Royal Academy. He was born in Bristol in a troubled family. Moving in Devizes in 1773 his father started to use Thomas talent for drawing and reciting poetry to make money. Thomas formal schooling was limited but aged ten he was enough famous to be mentioned in local newspapers.

They moved to Bath, in 1779, his father was declared bankrupted and from then on it was Thomas to support his family with his portraitist work.

In 1787 Lawrence arrived in London. In 1788 he participated at the Royal Academy annual exhibition and started to be famous. In 1789 Lawrence received his first royal commission from Windsor.

He was an innovative artist in using subject. For many of his portraits there were critics or great acclaims, creating a real artist figure that was important not only for art but also for the entire society.


In 1791 Lawrence was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and the following year King George III appointed him “painter-in-ordinary to His Majesty”.

Though receiving many commissions, Lawrence was in financial difficulties. He was a hard worker and didn’t live extravagantly, but debts would stay with him for the rest of life. Biographers couldn’t discover the source of his debts, maybe related to his generosity, his inability to keep accounts and his costly collection of Old Master.

Lawrence never gets married and his romantic life was tantalized by complicated relationship beginning with the Siddons sisters. In later years Elizabeth Croft would provide him with companionship. Lately was Isabella Wolff who biographer suggests that Lawrence may have been the father of her son.

His international reputation was ensured when the Prince Regent commissioned portraits of all the foreign leaders involved in the downfall of Napoleon.

After travelling Europe Lawrence arrived back in London in 1820 and was voted the new President of the Royal Academy, a position he will hold until his death in 1830. In 1822 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society “for his eminence in art”.

He died suddenly on 7th January 1830 few months later his friend Isabella Wolff.

This exhibition is the first in Britain since 1979. Some of the works are absolutely superb. It is strongly suggested to pay a visit.



A full programme of events including lectures, tours and lunchtime talks will accompany this
landmark exhibition. A major conference Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will be
held at the National Portrait Gallery and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 18-19
November. This will include talks, panel discussions and a keynote speech by Richard Holmes.
Tickets (including lunch, refreshments and entry to the exhibition) £40/£20 concessions and Gallery
Supporters. Please call 020 7580 0311 or email events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk Questo indirizzo e-mail è protetto dallo spam bot. Abilita Javascript per vederlo.
For further press information, please contact:
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055 Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 Website/Tickets: www.npg.org.uk
Published for: www.italoeuropeo.co.uk
Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3299:-thomas-lawrence-regency-power-and-brilliance&catid=53:artsarte&Itemid=214 

Written by davidfranchi

November 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

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