Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford PM (1732 - 1792) 1760s

John Russell RA 

Portrait of Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford PM (1732 - 1792), John Russell RA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
31 x 27 inches 78.7 x 68.6 cm
B. Rowbotham Esq., 1 Cowpers Court, Cornhill, London His sale, Christie''s, 16 December 1871, Lot.71. Collection of Sir William Agnew, Bt. (1825-1910) By descent to Mrs Walter Agnew Her sale, Christie''s, 12 June 1931, Lot.
E.K.Waterhouse, Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, The Walpole Society, Vol.XXXIII, 1950, p.52.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, 1894, No. 132 (lent by Wm Agnew) London, New Gallery, Winter Exhibition, 1897-8, No. 180 (lent by Sir W. Agnew)
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This portrait of the famous statesman and prime minister, known throughout his career as Lord North, is probably datable to c. 1765-8 during the period when North had retired from office as a Lord of the Treasury and prior to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The singular immediacy and vivacity of the portrait captures what Hogarth termed a speaking likeness, depicting the sitter at the most animated moment - in this instance probably engaged in political discourse. The unfinished nature of the work might also suggest that it was not a conventional commissioned work, but a sitting solicited by the artist himself on grounds of his own interests or admiration.

John Russell was one of the most colourful artistic figures in the later 18th-century: a successful portrait painter whose clients included both the King and the Prince of Wales; a religious enthusiast whose conviction bordered on mania; a man of the Enlightenment who as a keen astronomer spent nearly twenty years of his life drawing and engraving the visible surface of the moon. Born on 29 March 1745 in Guildford, Surrey, where his family ran a book and print dealing business, Russell was apprenticed to Francis Cotes (1726-70), a fashionable London-based portrait painter who was the leading pastellist of the day. By the mid-1760s he set up his own practice as a portrait painter and at the beginning of his career he regularly worked in oils, an example being his signed full-length portrait of Philip Stanhope (signed and dated 1765) which had been commissioned by his father, the statesman, Philip, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. ^ He exhibited for the first time in public at the Society of Artist in spring Gardens in 1768 (two oils and a pastel). The following year two of his oil portraits were hung in the first Royal Academy exhibition. His sitters included many notable statesmen of the day such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Wilberforce and Sir Joseph Banks.

Although elected an Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1772, Russell had to wait until 1788 for full membership. Royal commissions came at the end of the 1780s, and in the 1790 Royal Academy exhibition, when he exhibited a portrait of Queen Charlotte, the catalogue styled him Painter to the King and Prince of Wales.

Frederick, Lord North was the son of Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford and his wife Lucy, daughter of George, 1st Earl of Halifax. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and was elected Tory Member of Parliament for Banbury in 1754, a seat he held until 1790. He was appointed a junior lord of the Treasury in 1759 but retired from the post in 1766. In Parliament he took a leading part against Wilkes and his appointments included joint paymaster of the Forces and a privy Councillor; Knight of the Garter in 1772, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1767-82 and finally First Lord of the Treasury 1770-82 (and as such Prime Minister).

Although a skilful and diplomatic politician he met with considerable opposition and was particularly hampered by his roll as an agent of George III, who entirely directed the policy of the ministry. The American War of Independence was the chief feature of North's period in office as Prime Minister or what Gibbon called this long, stormy and at length unfortunate administration. He goes on to add that though Lord North during its long continuance had many political opponents, yet such was his genial nature that he was almost without a personal enemy. He resigned from office in 1782.

George C.Williamson, John Russell, R.A., 1894, pp. 135-72.
Shelburne''s ministry in 1783. He succeeded his father in the peerage as 2nd Earl of Guilford in 1790.
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