Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Mrs. Calverley Bewicke (died 1859) 1790s

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of Mrs. Calverley Bewicke (died 1859), Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 1/2 x 24 1/2 in., 75 x 62.2 cm.
With Scott & Fowles, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Frederick S. Ford, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan; By whom given to the Toledo Museum of Art.
D.E. Williams, The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Kt., London 1831, vol. I, p. 128; R.S. Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1900, p. 111; W. Armstrong, Lawrence, London 1913, p. 114; K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1954, p. 28, reproduced plate 9; K. Garlick, ‘A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence,’ in The Thirty-Ninth Volume of the Walpole Society 1962-1964, Glasgow 1964, p. 35; K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, a complete catalogue of the oil paintings, New York 1989, p. 152, cat. no. 101, reproduced (as ca. 1790-95).
Columbus, Ohio, The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, ‘Sir Thomas Lawrence as Painter and Collector’, October 7-November 13, 1955, no. 5. Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Art Museum, ‘Sir Thomas Lawrence, Regency Painter’, no. 6
To view portraits by Thomas Lawrence for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

Thomas Lawrence was the last of the great English portraitists. His work, alongside other eighteenth century English artists such as Reynolds and Romney, came to dominate portrait painting in England, Europe and America well into the nineteenth century. His rapid and fresh application of paint, born out of supreme confidence, allowed him to break away from the traditional constraints of portrait composition, even from an early age. His portrait of Elizabeth Farren (1790, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), painted when he was just twenty, is notable for its daring coquettishness, as well as its ability to convey movement and vibrancy even though the sitter is effectively standing still.

Lawrence began his portrait practice at the age of just ten, when, for a guinea a go, guests at his father’s inn at Devizes could be drawn by a celebrated local prodigy, the Mozart of art. In 1790 he received his first royal commission, a full-length of Queen Charlotte, which, despite his admission that she resembled ‘an old grey parrot’, was widely acclaimed when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790. Reynolds, then President, reportedly declared, ‘In you, sir, the world will expect to see accomplished what I have failed to achieve.’

This portrait of Margaret Bewicke dates from 1790-5, when Lawrence was just beginning to establish his portrait practice in London. It is painted with remarkable assurance, given that he had only recently begun working in oils and had hardly bothered with formal artistic training. The picture is composed from a bold confluence of colour; grey on the right, red on the left, and pure white at the bottom, all of which meet at the centre in a study of classical elegance. The broad, robust brushwork of the dress, turban and background is brought sharply into focus in the face, where Lawrence’s unrivalled draughtmanship portrays the sitter’s features and hair with an astonishing degree of realism.

Margaret Bewicke was the daughter of the theologian Robert Spearman of Old Acres, County of Durham, and married in 1781 Calverly Bewicke of Close Hall, in Northumberland. Calverley Bewicke (1755-1815) commanded the Durham Militia for many years, and was MP for Winchelsea from 1806-1815. Margaret Bewicke was an advocate of enlightened education, and in 1814 built a school on her estate at Heddon where local children were educated for free. The Bewicke’s sold Close Hall, which still stands, in 1953.
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