- Museum number
Portrait of George Morland, artist; whole-length standing, with hands behind his back, looking over to left, fireplace behind him, wearing green jacket and blue and white striped waistcoat
Pen and grey ink with watercolour
- Production date
Height: 314 millimetres
Width: 213 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following text is from S. Lloyd and K. Sloan, 'The Intimate Portrait' (exh. SNPG & BM, 2008-9), cat. no. 95:
Both George Morland (1763-1804) and Thomas Rowlandson were extremely prolific artists and both, in their own ways, were clever commentators on eighteenth-century life and society but both artists await a definitive modern assessment of their lives and work. Ann Wyburn-Powell has begun to demonstrate that anecdotal contemporary accounts of Morland's life were written in order to promote the sale of his paintings and the thousands of prints after them. She notes for example that he was already an established painter, having trained with his father, when he enrolled at the RA schools and this explains his infrequent attendance, rather than his irresponsible life-style. In spite of his, according to those accounts, incessant drinking, fighting, debts and the occasional foray into forgery, he was an extremely prolific artist, although the numbers of works recorded vary from 800 in the last eight years of his life to 1,000 or 4,000 over his lifetime.
Thus, although this watercolour appears to be a visual confirmation of Morland's reputation, we must look again to see whether this was indeed what Rowlandson intended in this portrait of his friend. Wyburn-Powell has suggested that Morland might collude in such an image in order to enhance his reputation as an 'intemperate or bohemian genius with an "exciting" life-style.' Contemporary biographies had begun to celebrate genius in the form of individuals who lived on the margins of society, 'sprinkling anecdote and moral judgements with admiration for their work' (Wyburn-Powell, p.58).
Placing this watercolour in the context of this section of images of artists' friends and families brings us to question even this approach. Rowlandson's watercolour, unlike many of his works, was never engraved. Its consumption was not for the benefit of the general public, whether to confirm or enhance Morland's reputation, but instead for a more intimate circle - Rowlandson's own. There are two other pencil sketches in the Museum of Morland by Rowlandson; both were once attributed to other artists (1868,0328.337, 1872,1012.3372). They are lively and natural but neither shows him in quite the disarray and casual stance here where his figure is contrasted with the elegant fireplace behind him. The two men were close companions in the 1780s when both were popular with the public and with their artist friends, particularly engravers. The watercolour has been dated to 1786 when Morland married or 1787 when he lived in style in Hampstead. But later Morland's life-style caught up with him and it is indicated clearly here by the tail of his coat caught up in his waistband and the hatches indicating mottled skin on his face. Perhaps this watercolour was painted not for the benefit of Rowlandson's circle or a wider public but as a personal 'wake up call' for the sitter - or even for Rowlandson himself. In 1789, he had inherited a small fortune from his aunt and by 1793 had gambled it away and was living in poverty. In the later 1790s, he had rooms adjoining Morland's above a print shop and it may be around this time that this watercolour was painted. It was Rowlandson's work for Ackermann from 1797 that revived his career.
SELECTED LITERATURE: LB19; J. Gere (ed.), ‘Portrait Drawings XV-XX Centuries,’ London 1974, no. 179; J. Hayes ‘Art of Thomas Rowlandson’, Washington, 1990, no.36; A. Wyburn-Powell, ‘George Morland’ in ‘British Art Journal’, vol. VII, no. 3 2006, pp. 55-63; J. Hayes, ' Thomas Rowlandson', Oxford DNB
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1891 Feb-Mar, BM, 'Exhibition of Drawings and Sketches'
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.325
1956/7 London, RA, 'British portraits', no.675
1968 London, RA Bi-centenary exhibition, no. 648
1974 July-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no. 179
1980, BM, 'British Figure Drawings' (no.cat)
1983 Mar-May, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Beautiful Art/England, no.13
1990 Feb-Apr, New York, The Frick, 'Rowlandson', no.36
1990 Apr-Jun, The Frick, Pittsburg, 'Rowlandson', no.36
1990 Jun-Aug, Baltimore MA, 'Rowlandson', no.36
2001 May-Jul, Hannover,Wilhelm-Busch Mus, Rowlandson
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'The Intimate Portrait', no. 95
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90,'The Intimate Portrait', no. 95
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number