Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lawrence, Thomas (1769-1830)
LAWRENCE, Sir THOMAS (1769–1830), president of the Royal Academy, was born in the parish of St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol, on 4 May 1769, and was the youngest of sixteen children, most of whom died in infancy. His father was the son of a presbyterian minister, and had been well educated and articled to a solicitor; but when his articles had expired he preferred idleness and verse-making to the pursuit of his profession. During a varied career he was at different periods an actor and a supervisor of excise, and made a runaway match with Lucy, daughter of William Read, vicar of Tenbury and rector of Rocheford, both in Worcestershire. He had sunk to be the landlord of the White Lion in Broad Street, Bristol, when his son Thomas was born. This venture not prospering, he removed in 1772 to the Black Bear Inn at Devizes, at that time a favourite resting-place of the gentry on their way to Bath. Here the precocious talents of his youngest son soon formed a notable feature of the entertainment provided for his guests. The father taught him to recite passages from Pope, Collins, and Milton, standing on a table before his customers. Thomas, moreover, developed early an astonishing talent for drawing, so that when he was but five years old his father usually introduced him to his visitors with ' Gentlemen, here's my son. Will you have him recite from the poets or take your portraits?' Apart from these accomplishments, he appears to have been a boy of spirit, fond of athletic games, with a passion for pugilism. The earliest portraits of which there is a distinct record are those of Mr. and Mrs. (afterwards Lord and Lady) Kenyon, which were drawn in 1775, the lady in profile, because, the child said, ' her face was not straight.' About this time he was sent to his only school at 'The Fort.' near Bristol, which was kept by a Mr. Jones. With the exception of a few lessons in fVench and Latin from a dissenting minister in Devizes named Jervis, this was the only regular education he received ; but it would appear from an anecdote related of him in mature life that he had some acquaintance with Greek.
Notwithstanding the gentlemanly manners of the father, who was always fashionably dressed, and the astonishing talents of his beautiful boy, with his bright eyes and long chestnut hair, the Black Bear did not succeed much better than the White Lion, and when Lawrence was ten years old or a little more the family left Devizes. It is hinted that the infant prodigy was too much pressed upon the attention of the ordinary guests ; but his talents were too decided not to attract the attention of the more intelligent. Among these are noted the names of Garrick, Foote, Wilkes, Sheridan, Burke, Johnson, Churchill, Sir William Chambers, and Mrs. Siddons. Prince Hoare [q. v.] not only praised the drawing of Lawrence's hands and eyes, but painted his portrait at the age of seven (or ten), which was engraved by Snerwin and exhibited at the Royal Academy. Before he left Devizes he had been taken to Lord Pembroke's at Wilton, and to Corsham House, the seat of the Methuens, where he was permitted to study some copies of 'old masters,' of which he made imitations at home, apparently from memory. One of these, 'Peter denying Christ,' is particularly mentioned by the Hon. Dairies Barrington. He was also taken to London when about ten years old by Hugh Boyd, and introduced at several houses, where he displayed his talents. From the time they left Devizes young Lawrence's pencil seems to have been the main support of the family. After successful visits to Oxford, where he took the likenesses of the most eminent persons of the university, and to Weymouth, the Lawrences settled at Bath, to their great benefit. His brother Andrew obtained the lectureship of St. Michael's, and contributed to the family income. His sisters after a while obtained employment, one as companion to the daughters of Sir Alexander Crawford, and the other at a school at Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, while Thomas soon became recognised, not only as a prodigy, but as an artist of taste and elegance, and his price was soon raised from a guinea to a guinea and a half. His portraits were mostly half-life size and oval, and executed in crayons. One in pencil of Mrs. Siddons as Zara and another of Admiral Barrington were engraved, and the same honour was paid later to another drawing of Mrs. Siddons as Aspasia. To his attractions as an artist and a reciter were added those of personal beauty and agreeable manners. The beautiful Duchess of Devonshire patronised him, Sir H. Harpur wished to adopt him as a son, and William Hoare, R.A., proposed to paint him as a Christ. His studio (2 Alfred Street, Bath), before he was twelve years old, was the favourite resort of the beauty and fashion of Bath. Here he also made the acquaintance of Ralph Price. He had, nevertheless, an inclination for the stage, as a readier means of assisting his family ; but this his more prudent fatner, with the assistance of Bernard the actor, adroitly contrived to divert. At the house of the Hon. Mr. Hamilton on Lansdowne Hill he copied (in crayons on glass) some copies of 'The Transfiguration' of Raphael, 'The Aurora' of Guido, and 'The Descent from the Cross' of Daniel de Volterra, and in 1784 he obtained a premium of five guineas and a silver palette for the first of these from the Society of Arts in London. The rules of the society alone prevented the award of their gold medal, as the work had not been executed within a year and a day of the date it was sent in to the Adelphi ; but to mark their sense of its merit they had the palette 'gilt all over.'
In his seventeenth year he began to paint in oils. One of his early efforts in oil colours was a 'Christ bearing the Cross.' some eight feet high, and another was a portrait of himself, which was more successful. So satisfied was he with these first attempts that he wrote to his mother that, 'excepting Sir Joshua, for the painting of a head I would risk my reputation with any painter in London.' This letter is dated 1786, and appears to have been written from London ; but the following year is that given by his chroniclers fir his migration from fiath to the metropolis, where he took handsome apartments in Leicester Square (No. 4). His father now purchased, with a legacy left to his daughter Anne, a small collection of stuffed birds and curiosities, then being exhibited in the Strand, and added thereto some of his son's works. But this, like his father's other ventures, proved a failure, not even paying its expenses. To the Royal Academy exhibition of this year he had contributed 'A Mad Girl.' 'A Vestal Virgin.' and five portraits. Soon the apartments in Leicester Square were given up, and a house taken in Duke Street, St. James's, where the whole family were reunited, and Lawrence removed his studio to 41 Jermyn Street, and in September 1787 entered the schools of the Royal Academy. His drawings of 'The Fighting Gladiator' and 'The Apollo Belvedere' distanced all competitors, Dut he did not contend for the medal. He obtained an introduction to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and took with him his portrait of himself in oils before mentioned. Reynolds examined it carefully, and, recommending him to study nature rather than the old masters, gave him a feneral invitation to visit him, of which jawrence availed himself. Reynolds always afterwards showed an interest in him. It is even stated, though on the doubtful authority of the lampooner John Williams, who wrote under the name of Antony Pasquin, that Reynolds once said of Lawrence, 'This young man has begun at a point of excellence where I left off.' Among other artists with whom he associated at this time were Joseph Farington [q. v.], Robert Smirke [q. v.], and Henry Fuseli [q. v.] ; while his beauty, manners, and talent lor reciting poetry soon gained him a welcome in high society. His professional position 6teadily progressed. Among the list of his portraits given by his biographer, Williams, as executed prior to or immediately after coming to London, are found the names of such patrons of the arts as Lord Mulgrave and Mr. Locke of Norbury, Surrey, and a long list of the nobility, including the Duchess 01 Buccleuch, the children of Lord Melbourne, and Lord Abercorn. The names of the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of York and Clarence are also there, and the Royal Academy Catalogue of 1789 shows that he had at that time, though by what channel is not known, obtained court patronage. In this year he exhibited a portrait of the Duke of York, in the next portraits of the queen and the Princess Amelia. A portrait of 'An Actress' (exhibited 1790) was probably that of Miss Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, whom he painted in a fur-lined white satin winter cloak (called a ' John ' cloak) and muff, with naked arms, an inconsistency which gave him his first taste of hostile criticism. But the picture caught much of the fascination of the popular actress, and brought him into notice with the public.
He now moved his studio from Jermyn Street to 24 Old Bond Street, and in 1791 his portraits were varied by 'Homer reciting the Iliad.' a commission from Payne Knight, and in 1792 a portrait of George III marked his progress in royal favour. The presence in the same exhibition of a portrait by Hoppner of the Prince of Wales showed the rival positions which the two artists were henceforth to occupy till the death of Hoppner in 1810 [see Hoppner, John].
Lawrence so pleased George in that he endeavoured to procure his election as an associate (an extra or supplemental associate) in 1790, when the artist was only twenty-one years old, or three years under the age required by a rule which had been sanctioned by the king himself. Notwithstanding the support of Reynolds and West the Academy elected Francis Wheatley instead, an act of independence which gave Peter Pindar (Dr. John Wolcot [q. v.]) occasion for his 'Rights of Kings, a Collection of mock-heroic Odes.' in one of which he recommends the academicians to go with halters round their necks and implore pardon from 'much-offended Majesty.' saying :
Forgive, dread Sir, the crying sin,
And Mister Lawrence shall come in.
The Academy practically followed the doctor's advice, for Lawrence was elected on 10 Nov. 1791 a supplemental associate — an irregular honour which no artist has since enjoyed. The royal favour was still more strongly employed in the following year, when on the death of Reynolds Lawrence was appointed principal portrait-painter in ordinary to the king. The appointment was immediately followed, if it was not preceded, by a commission for portraits of the king and queen, to be presented to the Emperor of China by Lord Macartney, who set out on his embassy to China in this year (1792). Lawrence was also now elected painter of the Dilettanti Society, who, in order to grant him membership, abrogated their rule that all members must have passed the Alps.
In 1793 he exhibited another poetical picture, 'Prospero raising the Storm.' and among his portraits were those of Sir George Beaumont, Mr. (afterwards Earl) Grey, the Marquis of Abercorn, and the Duke of Clarence. In February of the following year he was elected a Royal Academician, an honour which was immediately followed by an increase of influential patronage and another change of address, this time to Piccadilly, opposite the Green Park. In 1795 he painted Cowper the poet, who pressed him to come and stay with him at Olney. But not satisfied with a reputation as a portrait-painter he now nerved himself for a great effort in the poetical line, and chose 'Satan calling his Legions' for his subject. The 'Satan' (exhibited in 1797), now in the possession of the Royal Academy, showed clearly that the 'grand style' was beyond the reach of the artist. Though civilly and seriously treated by some critics, one of whom called the figure of Satan 'sublime.' it was severely handled by others, especially Antony Pasquin, who, in his 'Critical Guide to the Present Exhibition at the Royal Academy.' compared the rebel angel to 'a mad sugar-baker dancing naked in a conflagration of his own treacle.' To Lawrence, however, the effect of the picture was satisfactory. 'The Satan.' he wrote to Miss Lee, ' answered my secret motives in attempting it ; my success in portraits will no longer be thought accident or fortune ; and if I have trod the second path with honour it is because my limbs are strong. My claims are acknowledged by the circle of taste, and are undisfuted by competitors and rivals.' His friend, Fuseli, however, who had said of it that 'it was a d—d thing certainly, but not the devil.' also took exception to it on the ground that the idea was oorrowed from him, and this occasioned the only interruption in the long friendship of these two very different artists, who as a rule cordially admired each other's works. The interruption was probably dissolved in laughter, for Lawrence was able to prove, by a sketch which he had taken of Fuseli as he stood in a wild posture on a rock near Bristol, that his idea of Satan was taken not from Fuseli's paintings but from his own person. Other stories with equally-slight foundations are told of Lawrence s borrowings from Fuseli, one in particular relating to the 'Prospero raising the Storm' (see Library of the Fine Arts, 1831, p. 367 ; and Redgrave, Century of Painters, ii. 14). In the same year as the Satan appeared Lawrence achieved a less doubtful success by a portrait of Mrs. Siddons. It was in this year also that he lost both his parents, to whom he was greatly attached. His mother died in May and his father in September.
After the Satan Lawrence did not attempt another picture of pure imagination, but contented himself with portraiture, with now and then a picture which he called 'half history.' representing John Kemble in different characters. The first of these was 'Coriolanusat the hearth of Aufidius' (1798), which was followed by 'Rolla' (1800), 'Hamlet' (1801), and 'Cato' (1802). 'Rolla' was painted over 'Prospero raising the Storm.' and though the features were Kemble's the body was drawn from Jackson the pugilist. The 'Hamlet' is considered the finest of the group, and was presented by William IV to the National Gallery. In the year after the 'Hamlet' (1802) Lawrence for once consented to take a part in private theatricals at the Marquis of Abercorn's at the Priory, Stanmore. The prince was there, with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Lord and Lady Melbourne, and other distinguished guests. Lawrence took the parts of Lord Rakeland in the 'Wedding Day' and Grainger in 'Who's the Dupe?' The performances were a success, but he seems to have thought acting derogatory to a person in his position, and determined not to act again except at the marquis's.
Lawrence, who was still popular at the palace, is said to have amused George III y his flirtation with Mrs. Papendiek, the wife of a German musician of the king's household. The king, who espoused the side of the unfortunate Princess of Wales, now discarded by her husband, gave a commission to Lawrence to paint the portrait of the princess and her daughter the Princess Charlotte. While engaged upon these portraits he slept several nights at Montagu House, Blackheath, where the Princess of Wales was then living, was alone with her in the painting-room, and sat up late (though not alone) with her. After the portraits were finished he continued to call upon her. The conduct of both parties was imprudent, and a charge of undue familiarity was set up, which formed part of the inquiry known as 'the delicate investigation' [see Caroline, Amelia Elizabeth, of Brunswick-Wolfenbiittel]. The report of the commissioners completely exculpated Lawrence, but not content with this he explicitly denied the charges in an affidavit. This incident is said to have checked for a while the influx of lady sitters, but his progress was still steady, for in 1806 he raised his prices from thirty to fifty guineas for a three-quarters portrait, and from one hundred and twenty to two hundred for a whole length. Among the portraits of this period, 1800-10, were Curran, of whom he made a very spirited likeness, Lords Eldon, Thurlow, and Ellenborough, Sir J. Mackintosh, two important groups of the Baring family, William Pitt (posthumous), Mrs. Siddons (his lastportrait of her), Lady E. Foster, and Lady Hood.
By the death of Hoppner in 1810 Lawrence was left without a rival. He moved from Greek Street, where he had lived since 1798, and took a house in Russell Square (No. 65), where he remained till his death, is prices, which had been raised in 1808, were now raised again — the smallest size from eighty to a hundred guineas, and full lengths from two hundred to four hundred guineas apiece.
In 1814, if not before, the favour of the prince regent began to descend upon him. His ' friend at court ' in this instance was Lord Charles Stewart, afterwards Marquis of Londonderry, whose friendship he constantly enjoyed afterwards. Lawrence had taken advantage of the peace to proceed with other English artists to Paris to see the pictures which Napoleon had brought together in the Louvre from every quarter of Europe, but he was recalled by the prince to England to paint the portraits of some of the allied sovereigns, their ministers and Minerals then assembled in this country, heir stay was too short for Lawrence to complete his task, but the next year's Academy showed that he had not been idle, for it contained his portraits of Prince Metternich, the Duke of Wellington (holding the sword of state), Blucher, and Platoff. They were painted at York House, now replaced by the mansion of the Duke of Sutherland. Lawrence's first portrait of the prince regent was also exhibited this year.
On 22 April 1815 he was knighted by the prince regent, who assured him that he was proud in conferring a mark of his favour on one who had raised the character of British art in the estimation of all Europe.
In 1817 Lawrence painted a portrait of the Princess Charlotte, intended as a present to her husband on his next birthday, which she did not live to see. In his letters to Mrs. Wolff Lawrence gives an interesting account of the private life of the princess. Shortly afterwards he was sent by the prince regent to Aix-la-Chapelle (where the powers of Europe were assembled in congress), in order to complete the series of portraits which now hang in the Waterloo Gallery at Windsor. He was allowed a thousand a year for contingent expenses and paid his usual price for the portraits. A portable wooden house with a large painting-room was also specially made for him. It was to be sent out and erected in the gardens of the British ambassador, Lord Castlereagh. It arrived too late, but its place was well supplied by part of the large gallery of the Hotel deVille, which was fitted up for Lawrence's painting-room by the magistrates of the city. At Aix-la-Chapelle he painted the emperors of Russia and Austria, the king of Prussia, Prince Hardenburgh, Prince Metternich, Count Nesselrode, the Due de Richelieu, and other distinguished persons. The emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia both presented him with diamond rings. He then proceeded to Vienna, where he painted the emperor of Austria again, Prince Schwartzenburg, Count Capo D'Istrias, the generals Tchernicheff and Ovaroff, Lord Stewart (the British ambassador), Baron Gentz, &c. Here a still more magnificent chamber was allotted to him for a painting-room, and he records with much satisfaction the friendly reception accorded to him by the leaders of Viennese society. At Rome, which at first he found 'small.' though he was afterwards overpowered by its ' immensity.' equal if not greater honours awaited him. Apartments in the Quirinal were allotted him, with servants, a table, and a carriage. Here he painted two of his finest portraits, Pope Pius VII and Cardinal Gonsalvi, and repainted his portrait of Canova, which he presented to the pope. Great admiration was excited in Rome at these and his other works, and he was looked upon as another Raphael. His vanity was perhaps more flattered than ever. But notwithstanding his great success and the attentions which were lavished on him by the society at Rome, both native and foreign, he was very glad to turn his face homewards.
When he again arrived in England on 20 March 1820 it was to receive fresh honours. During his absence George III had died, and also Benjamin West, the president of the Royal Academy. George IV continued his appointment as principal portrait-painter in ordinary to his majesty, and the Royal Academy elected him president on the evening of his return. The king, in giving his sanction to the election, presented Lawrence with a gold chain and a medal of himself, inscribed 'From His Majesty George IV to the President of the Royal Academy.' In the catalogue of the Royal Academy for 1820 he was able to add to his honours 'Member of the Roman Academy of St. Luke's, of the Academy of Fine Arts at Florence, and of the Fine Arts at New York.'
He had now reached the summit of his profession, and attained a fame which increased rather than diminished during the next and last ten years of his life. This is a period marked also by equal activity and skill. To it belong his portrait of Lady Blessington, celebrated in Byron's verses, and the charming Miss Fry, now in the National Gallery, and one of the last of his works. In this period were also executed his most famous pictures of children, the young Lambton, son of John George Lambton, afterwards first earl of Durham, the Calmady children, the charming group called 'Nature.' and the children of the Marquis of Londonderry, as well as a series of pictures painted for Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Peel, including Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Canning, Southey. The well-known portraits of Mrs. Peel and her daughter, and the groups of the Countess Gower and her son, of Lady Georgiana Agar Ellis and her son, and the Marchioness of Londonderry and her son, and portraits of Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Moore were also among his latest works. The favour of the king continued with him to the end. In 1826 he sent Lawrence to Paris to paint the portraits of Charles X and the dauphin, and he subsequently allowed him to wear the cross of the Legion of Honour which was conferred on him by the French king. A magnificent service of Sevres china, which was also sent to him by Charles X, was left in his will to the Royal Academy to be used on state occasions. Other m inor hou ours in the shape of diplomas from the academies of Bologna, Venice, Vienna, Turin, and Copenhagen fell upon him. He was also created a D.C.L. of Oxford, 14 June 1820, and was a trustee of the British Museum. Nothing could apparently exceed his prosperity. He lived in a fine house, which was a perfect museum of art treasures, and included the finest collection of drawings by the old masters ever made by a private person ; he held every distinction which could fall to one of his profession, and was courted by the highest society scarcely less as a man than as an artist. Yet, notwithstanding all this, he was never free from anxiety or the necessity for continual labour. As a boy he hampered himself by allowing his father 300l. a year, and signing a bond on his behalf, but since the death of his parents he made large sums of money. His prices were high. Lord Gower paid fifteen hundred guineas for the portrait of Lady Gower and her child, and Lord Durham paid him six hundred guineas for that of his son. Yet he had managed his affairs so ill that at sixty years of age he was still continually harassed by his pecuniary obligations. He died of ossification of the heart, after a few days' illness, on 7 Jan. 1830, and was buried with many honours in St. Paul's Cathedral. When his estate was realised it was found to be no more than sufficient to meet the demands upon it, but 3,000l. was produced by an exhibition of his works at the British Institution, and this sum was devoted to the benefit of his nieces. Lawrence no doubt spent much money on his collection of drawings, but he lived simply and entertained little, and he may be elieved when he says : 'I have neither been extravagant nor profligate in the use of money. Neither gaming, horses, curricles, expensive entertainments, nor secret sources of ruin from vulgar licentiousness have swept it from me.' But he began early in life to anticipate his income, and when he had money in hand he would lend it or give it away with lavish and thoughtless generosity. But if Lawrence was a bad hand at keeping money, he was very accomplished in the art which, when combined with professional skill, chiefly enables a portrait-painter to make a fortune — the art of a courtier. The desire of pleasing was bred if not born in him, and from the time he pencilled his father's guests in the Black Bear at Devizes till his death he never lost a sitter by an unflattering likeness. Nor did he fail to make use of any of the advantages with which nature had endowed him. Though not tall (he was under five feet nine), his beautiful face, active figure, agreeable manners, and fine voice were not thrown away upon either lords or ladies, emperors or kings. Even George IV pronounced him a high-bred gentleman, and his own portrait was so much in request that the king, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Francis Leveson Gower, and the city of Bristol were at the same time candidates for the first from his easel.
Though shining in society he was not a sociable man . Among his many male friends he had few, if any, who could be called intimate. To John Julius Angerstein [q. v.], 'his very first friend' as he calls him, who had early in life helped him with a large loan, to Joseph Farington, R.A., who for many years tried to regulate his expenditure, to Lysons the antiquarian, who constructed a false pedigree for him, to Fuseli and the Smirkes, to Hamilton, West, Westall, Thomson, Howard, Flaxman, and other artists he was no doubt attached, but he reserved his confidence for the ladies, especially married ladies like Mrs. Wolff and Mrs. Hayman. The bulk of his published correspondence is addressed to ladies, to his sister Anne (Mrs. Bloxam), to Mrs. Boucherette, the daughter-in-law of Mr. Angerstein, to Miss Iiarriet Lee [q. v.], the author of * The Canterbury Tales, &c, to Miss Crofts, and to Mrs. Wolff, the wife of a Danish consul, with whom he was accused of something more than a platonic flirtation. He painted Mrs. Wolff's portrait in 1815, and saw much of her while she lived in London, but for many years before her death in 1829 she had retired into Wales, and Lawrence's stilted letters to her are a sufficient proof of the purity of their relations. But he was a flirt throughout his life, always fancying that he was in love and was causing many flutterings in female hearts. ' He could not write a common answer to a dinner invitation without its assuming the tone of a billet-doux ; the very commonest conversation was held in that soft low whisper and with that tone of deference and interest which are so unusual and so calculated to please.' One lady with whom he thought himself seriously in love was Miss Upton, the sister of Lord Templetown, but all his flirtations were innocuous with one exception. Even his friends could not defend his conduct towards two daughters of Mrs. Siddons. To them and them only he proposed marriage, transferring his affections from one to the other. They were both delicate and died shortly afterwards, and Mrs. Siddons, who had been one of the best of his friends since his childhood, refused to see him again. He still, however, kept up his friendship with John Kemble, and Mrs. Siddons seems to have retained her affection for him, as she expressed a wish that she should be carried to the grave by him and her brother. But Lawrence's death took place shortly before her own. This sad story is confirmed by Fanny Kemble, the cousin of the Misses Siddons, who was herself one of the latest objects of Lawrence's adoration, and owns to have felt something of the 'dangerous fascination' of the old flirt.
Lawrence must be acquitted of any intentions dishonourable or unkind. If his character was of no great depth, he was always kind-hearted and generous to his family, his friends, and his servants. Though solicitous for his own advancement in the world, he never disparaged his rivals, young or old, whether Hoppner or Owen, and to young students he was ever ready with advice and commissions, and he allowed them to study his fine collection of drawings. Of Sir Joshua Reynolds he always spoke in terms of great admiration, giving him a position with the great masters Michel Angelo and Titian, and of the genius of Stothard and Flaxman, Turner and Fuseli, and some others of his colleagues, he expressed warm appreciation. He is said to have purchased a large number of Fuseli's drawings, and his study was adorned with busts of his favourite artists, dead and living, by Bailey and Flaxman.
His love of art was strong and genuine, and though his admiration for certain artists, like Fuseli and Domenichino, seems exaggerated to-day, he never missed what was really fine. He was one of the first to perceive the superiority of the Elgin marbles, and his evidence in their favour before the committee of 1816 is a standing testimony to his judgment. His appreciation of Michel Angelo and Raphael was shown by the large sums he spent in the acquisition of the drawings, which are now in the possession of the university of Oxford, and perhaps the most valuable passages in his generally verbose and commonplace letters are those which deal with the comparative merits of these two great artists. He gives the palm to Michel Angelo — a preference scarcely shown in his own works. These were facile, accomplished, original, and in their own style unexcelled. But this style was on a lower level than that of his predecessors, especially Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Romney. He had little insight into character, and was deficient in imagination. In place of these qualities he had an unusually acute perception of the graces of society, for the elegant airs of the men, for the gracious smiles and sparkling eyes of the ladies. Opie said of him, 'Lawrence made coxcombs of his sitters and his sitters made a coxcomb of him.' and Campbell, with truer appreciation, called his own portrait 'lovely,' and added : 'This is the merit of Lawrence's painting — he makes one seem to have got into a drawing-room in the mansions of the blest, and to be looking at oneself in the mirrors.' As a draughtsman, especially of faces and hands, he is scarcely equalled by any English artist, but his pictures have little atmosphere, and his colour, though brilliant and effective, is often hard and glassy. His children are well-dressed, well-mannered, and pretty, but their attitudes are studied and their expressions artificial. His most perfect works are his drawings in crayons and pencil, which he continued to execute throughout his life. Many of these are well known by engravings and lithographs, like Fuseli's portrait in Lavater's 'Physiognomy' and the beautiful head of Horace Walpole which he drew in 1796, the year before Walpole's death. It was engraved for the quarto edition of Walpole's 'Works' published in 1798. Another notable drawing was a head of the Emperor Napoleon's son, the Duke of Reichstadt, done in Vienna. Once (1801) he essayed sculpture and modelled the head of Mr. Locke of Norbury. Among other distinguished persons not already mentioned whom he either drew or painted were Bunbury the caricaturist (at Bath), Lady Hamilton (1791), John Abernethy, Sir Humphry Davy, Sir Astley Cooper, Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, John Soane, James Watt (posthumous), J. Wilson Croker, and Warren Hastings.
Among Lawrence's pupils were Etty and Harlowe, but he appears to have left them pretty much to themselves, and though he was in many ways fitted for his position as president of the Royal Academy, his addresses to the students were poor.
The largest collection of Lawrence's works is at Windsor. In the national collection ore portraits of Angerstein, Benjamin West, Mrs. Siddons, Sir Samuel Romilly, and Miss Caroline Fry, 'A Child with a Kid' (these are in Trafalgar Square), the 'Hamlet.' and a nortrait of John Fawcett, which are on loan elsewhere. At the South Kensington Museum are portraits of Sir C. E. Carrington and his first wife, and of Princess Caroline. In the National Portrait Gallery is another of Princess Caroline, and others of George IV, Lord Thurlow, Lord Eldon, William Windham, Sir James Mackintosh, Wilberforce, Warren Hastings, Samuel Rogers, Thomas Campbell, and Elizabeth Carter. In the British Museum are several of his drawings. The Royal Academy owns an unfinished portrait of himself.
[Life by D. E. Williams; Cunningham's Lives of Painters (Heaton); Library of the Fine Arts, 1831; Redgrave's Century of Painters; Redgrave's Dict.; Bryan's Dict. (Graves and Armstrong); Graves's Dict.; Knowles's Life of Fuseli; Catalogues of the Royal Academy, National Gallery, South Kensington Museum, Loan Collection at South Kensington, 1867, Guelph Exhibition, 1890-1, Victorian Exhibition, 1891-2, National Portrait Gallery, &c.]