Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Young Gentleman, wearing dark blue coat 

William Wood (1769-1810)

Portrait miniature of a Young Gentleman, wearing dark blue coat, William Wood
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 80mm (3 1/8in) high
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Gold frame, the reverse glazed to reveal dark brown hair.

William Wood can be considered as one of the most inventive miniaturists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. His portrait miniatures can be compared alongside the ‘greats’ of the age, including works by John Smart, Richard Cosway and George Engleheart, whilst always maintaining a unique and distinctive style.

Wood entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1785 and is known to have been working from Bristol in 1791 and 1803 and from Gloucester in 1798. Wood became an active member of the Associated Artists in Watercolour and held position of president 1808-09, exhibiting frequently with the group. Wood’s interests in the arts lay not just in miniature painting, and in 1808 he published An Essay on National and Sepuchral Monuments as well as reputedly displaying a keen interest in landscape gardening.

In contrast to the delicate hand of John Smart, Wood’s style was broader and more confident, bestowing his sitters a greater sense of movement, a quality not all dissimilar to the Regency ‘great’, Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1835). As well as portraits, Wood also painted subject miniatures as well as eye miniatures, watercolours and drawings. An acute technician as well as a clever draughtsman, Wood experimented and solidified a way of stabilizing his colours on ivory, thus preserving the rich blues and deep shading as exemplified in the present work.
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