The Intimate Portrait:
drawings, miniatures and pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence

5 March – 31 May 2009

Exhibition closed

Room 90

Organised with:

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This exhibition explores a fascinating but relatively unknown type of portraiture that flourished in Georgian and Regency Britain between the 1730s and 1830s.

It features intimate portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, John Downman, Richard Cosway, David Wilkie and many others, all drawn from the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Museum, many never exhibited before.

Portraits were displayed in public at the Royal Academy exhibitions but behind the scenes, in private sitting rooms, studies and bedrooms some of them served a more intimate role. Miniatures were often worn as jewellery to keep a loved one close; fragile pastels protected by glittering gilt frames were displayed on walls, while drawings were framed or mounted in albums to be shown to friends and family.

The exhibition features nearly 200 examples in a range of materials, from pencil, chalk, watercolours and pastels to miniatures on ivory. It includes many self-portraits as well as intimate portraits of the artists’ families and friends. Sitters vary from the merchant and middle classes to the aristocracy, actors and celebrities including Lady Hamilton, and political and literary figures such as Sir Walter Scott, the Duke of Wellington, Robert Burns and the young Queen Victoria.

Further information

Full press release 

Portrait of Mary Hamilton