Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Mrs Morris, widow of Colonel Morris of Purcefield Park 1750

Allan Ramsay (1713-84)

Portrait of Mrs Morris, widow of Colonel Morris of Purcefield Park, Allan Ramsay
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 x 24 inches, 73.7 x 61 cm
Christie's London, 6th April 1951 (lot 139); Agnews, London; J B M Young, Renfrewshire; Thence by descent.
Alan Ramsay, A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Alastair Smart, London 1999, No. 380, p.161.
Allan Ramsay was the most talented artist to emerge from Scotland in the early eighteenth century, and, along with later English colleagues such as Joshua Reynolds, led the way to creating a new, independently British approach to portraiture. This example is one his earlier works, and is signed and dated 1750.

Like many of his English contemporaries, Ramsay worked in loose association with the St Martin's Lane Academy, as a nascent crop of native English artists was beginning to emerge in the 1730s. What gave Ramsay an advantage over his colleagues, however, was an important trip to Rome, undertaken in 1736-8. There Ramsay studied Old Masters, drew copiously, and took inspiration from antiquities such as the Apollo Belvedere, which would later prove crucial to the development of his Grand Manner portraits such as the Chief of Macleod of c.1747 [Dunvegan Castle].

The difference in Ramsay’s work on his return was immediately noticeable to the commissioning public. His works were infused with a delicate Italianate manner, which contrasted markedly with works by competitors such as Thomas Hudson. His portraits of women in particular gained an air of elegance and sophistication that proved immediately popular, aided in part by the fashion for portraits to show sitters in decorative ‘Van Dyck’ dress. By 1740 Ramsay was able to boast that he was 'the first fiddle' in London portraiture. He had a remarkable client-list for a newcomer, with sitters such as the Duke of Argyll, the Duke of Buccleuch, and the Lord Chancellor, Philip, Earl of Hardwicke.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.