The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Kneller, Sir Godfrey

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Kneller, Sir Godfrey
Edition of 1920. See also Godfrey Kneller on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

KNELLER, nĕl'ėr, Sir Godfrey, originally Gottfried Kniller, Anglo-German portrait painter: b. Lübeck, 8 Aug. 1646; d. Twickenham, England, 7 Nov. 1723. He studied under Bol and Rembrandt at Amsterdam. He visited Italy in 1672, where he studied under Maratti and Bernin and painted several historical pieces and portraits, both at Rome and Venice. On his return he visited England, in 1674, and was introduced to Charles II. by whom he was much patronized and thereby enabled to quickly outstrip Lely (q.v.) in popularity. He was equally favored by James II, William III and Queen Mary, for the latter of whom he painted the “beauties” at Hampton Court, and several of the portraits in the Gallery of Admirals. He also painted the portraits of the Tsar Peter the Great, Louis XIV and Charles VI of Spain for the same sovereign, who in 1692 knighted him and made him gentleman of the privy chamber. Queen Anne continued him in the same office, and George I, in 1715, made him a baronet. There was hardly a person of note, at least resident in or visiting England, of whom he did not paint a portrait. Among his works should be mentioned also a series of 43 portraits of his co-members in the famous Kit-Cat-Ciub, He continued to practise his art to an advanced age. Naturally his earnings were very large. Although he lost a good deal of money in the South Sea Bubble and lived in great style, both in London and on his estate, Kneller Hall near Twickenham — now an army college for military musicians — he left a large fortune. He left money and instructions for a splendid monument to himself in Westminster Abbey, erected by Rysbrack in 1729, which bears an epitaph by Pope. His coloring is true and harmonious and his drawing correct, but be displays a great want of imagination in his pictures, the altitudes, action and drapery being insipid, unvarying and ungraceful. Many of the portraits bearing his name were only partly painted by himself, the less important portions being done by assistants. His fame has declined considerably as time passed, a natural enough fact considering the great superiority possessed by later English portrait painters, such as Reynolds, Gainsborough, etc. His work can be studied to greatest advantage at Hampton Court and in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Comparatively few of his paintings are owned outside England, though there are specimens in the galleries at Antwerp, Brunswick, Munich and Vienna. Consult Ackermann, W. A., ‘Der Porträt-Maler Sir G. Kneller im Verhältniss zur Kunstboldung Seiner Zeit’ (Lübeck 1845); Anon., ‘Lely and Kneller’ (in Munsey's Magazine, Vol. XVII, p. 542, New York 1897); Baker, C. H. C., ‘Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters’ (2 vols., London 1912); Buckeridge, B., ‘Life of Sir G. Kneller’ (in Piles, R. de, ‘The Art of Painting,’ 3d ed., London 1750).