The other day I saw the excellent exhibition about Thomas Lawrence, the Regency portrait painter, currently on at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was blown away by the intense glamour of his pictures. Here are some Lawrence portraits from National Trust collections.
Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) showed great talent for drawing and painting from an early age. After his innkeeper father went bankrupt in 1780, the young Thomas’s pastels and drawings became the family’s chief source of income. In 1787 he moved to London and first exhibited at the annual Royal Academy exhibition. In 1789, aged just twenty, he was commissioned to paint Queen Charlotte.
Lawrence rose to the top of the Regency art world, being knighted in 1815 and becoming President of the Royal Academy in 1820. The Prince Regent, later George IV, commissioned him to paint a series of portraits of those instrumental in the downfall of Napoleon for the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle.
Lawrence was adept at portraying the dashing vigour of soldiers, statesmen and dandies, but he was also extremely accomplished at capturing the beauty and character of his female sitters. His manner was so charming and flirtatious that it was said women were always falling in love with him while sitting for their portrait.
The children in Lawrence’s portraits, moreover, always look spontaneous and carefree. He seems to have had a rare combination of social empathy, artistic perception and technical skill.
His paintings are also fascinating in how they convey the Regency cult of Sensibility through depictions of sparkling eyes, parted lips, tousled hair, pensive attitudes and moody skies.