Thomas Lawrence

John Florens | Jan 3, 2024

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Sir Thomas Lawrence (13 April 1769 - 7 January 1830), was an English painter. He was one of the leading British portrait painters, especially in the early 19th century.

Lawrence was born in Bristol. He was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1787, although his basic education was limited. Lawrence became a Fellow of the Royal Academy in 1794. He was knighted in 1815, and in 1820 he became Director of the Royal Academy. Between 1818 and 1820 Lawrence toured Europe painting portraits of people who had contributed to Napoleon's defeat.

Early years

The future artist's father owned an inn and the boy became popular for drawing pictures of customers. In 1780 the family moved to Bath and Lawrence became a professional draughtsman. He had only a limited education in general and art when he moved to London in 1787. In London he took up the use of oil paints. Lawrence was not a pupil of the Royal Art Academy for very long, but he received considerable support from Sir Joshua Reynolds. He quickly became a popular painter and, aged just 20, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Queen Charlotte. However, the Queen did not like Lawrence's painting and it remained in his studio until his death.

Lawrence was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1791. After Reynolds' death there was a vacancy at the Academy, so Lawrence was admitted as a full member in 1794. At the time, he was modelled on the wealthiest British and European nobles alike.

Scandal tip

In the 1790s, Lawrence caused a scandal when it emerged that he was having an affair with both daughters of actress Sarah Siddons. First, Lawrence fell in love Sally, but exchanged her for her sister Maria. When she died in 1798, he returned to her. After the affair became public, Lawrence was widely resented and considered immoral. The relationship also gave rise to many books. As a result of the discussion, Lawrence experienced what was then called 'male hysteria', now known as a nervous breakdown. He only got over it with the help of his friends.

At the top of your career

Although Lawrence had a good income, he lived most of his life in debt. Some of the money probably went to support relatives, but a lot of it went to building up his art collection. His collection included drawings by Michelangelo and Raphael.

Lawrence was knighted in 1815, after which he was sent to the Congresses of Aix-la-Chapelle and Vienna to paint portraits of European heads of state and generals. In all, 24 portraits were painted. Today they are on display in the Waterloo Room at Windsor Castle. The works were universally admired and led to Lawrence being regarded as the leading portrait painter of his time. His models included Pope Pius VII, Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and the Archduke of Austria.

On his return to his native country in 1820, Lawrence was appointed director of the Royal Art Academy. King George IV was a major supporter. During the 1820s, Lawrence painted his best works, including a portrait of Princess Sophia in 1825 and a mud painting of Rosamund Crocker in 1827, the latter of which was said to be so lovely that the men who admired it would circle around it. The portrait of Isabella Wolff is also famous. Isabella Wolff was the wife of the Danish Consul in London and probably Lawrence's mistress.

Lawrence complained of chest pains throughout January 1830. However, he continued to work tirelessly and died suddenly on 7 January 1830. He was a bachelor at the time of his death, but had lived through his adult life amidst various affairs.

Thomas Lawrence is considered the last great portrait painter of the 17th century. His fluency with the brush attracted the attention and respect of his French colleagues. Throughout his adult life he studied the drawings of the old masters and his portrait sketches are considered to be refined and to capture the character of the model. The downside of his work has been the occasional sloppiness that has plagued it. Lawrence lived in constant debt and had to take on more work than he could carefully complete.

When he died, Lawrence was at the peak of his career. In the Victorian era, which began at that time, with its emphasis on family values, Lawrence was seen as the embodiment of the immorality of the previous era, and the popularity of his work went into a long decline. They were not exhibited until 2010.


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  5. 4,0 4,1 4,2 4,3 Ανακτήθηκε στις 18  Νοεμβρίου 2020.
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  7. Datenbankeintrag – Thomas Lawrence. Royal Academy of Arts; abgerufen am 10. April 2013.

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