Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a gentleman 

George Engleheart (1750/3-1829)

Portrait miniature of a gentleman, George Engleheart
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Watercolour
18th Century
Oval, 3 in high (approx.)
 
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George Engleheart is considered to be one of the most distinguished miniaturists of the late Georgian period alongside Cosway, Smart and Humphry, and was one of the most prolific miniaturists ever known. He was born in Kew, the son of a German plaster modeller. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Reynolds and the landscape painter George Barret. Engleheart’s skill and industry as a miniaturist appealed to George III, and in 1789 he was appointed Miniature Painter to the King. He painted at least twenty-five portraits of the King and many others of the royal family. He spent most of his career working in London where he built up an excellent reputation.

He developed a rather decorative style, which flattered his sitters and as a result there was great demand for his work. His fee books, from 1775 to 1813, record, over a period of nearly forty years, no less than 4,853 miniatures (2,000 in the 1780’s alone). Despite this prodigious output, he maintained a very high standard. His style developed gradually over a long career that can be divided into three periods. During his early phase of about five years his miniatures were small and in the ‘modest school’ style before he really developed his own technique. By the 1780’s, his middle phase, he had gained in confidence and his characteristic and highly accomplished style evolved. His sitters were painted with large deep eyes and a cool flesh tone. After about 1795, Engleheart painted on larger ivories, and the familiar oval shape was frequently abandoned in favour of a rectangle. He often used a more somber palette to model his sitters’ features and the portraits became more honest and less flamboyant.
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