British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Height: 458.000 mm
Width: 312.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Mary Hamilton, pencil and chalk drawing
This important drawing of Mary Hamilton is arguably the most beautiful female portrait of its type remaining in this country. It is by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), recognised as one of the nation's greatest artists.
Lawrence was great friends with William Hamilton (1751-1801), a history and portrait painter and Royal Academician. They used to draw together in the evenings from antique casts while William's wife Mary read to them 'either poetry, history, or works of the imagination'.
This portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1789, when Lawrence was only 20 years old. Drawn in pencil and red and black chalk, the portrait was completed as a framed finished work intended for public exhibition and later to be hung on display in a house.
Relatively few portrait drawings of this period have been identified with those known to have been exhibited at the Royal Academy. Portrait drawings were an extremely popular genre of art; they were indicators of taste, sentiment and social and material culture. The vigour and freedom that characterised Lawrence's early work is manifest in this charming piece.
K. J. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence-1 (Oxford, 1989)
D.E. Williams, The life and correspondence -1 (, 1831)
M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769-1830 (London, NPG, 1979)
K. Garlick, 'A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence', Walpole Society (1962-64)
M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence (New Haven and London, 2005)