Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady seated wearing a white dress and a waistband with gold clasp 

Andrew Plimer (c.1763-1837)

Portrait of a Lady seated wearing a white dress and a waistband with gold clasp, Andrew Plimer
Watercolour on paper
9 1/4 x 7 1/8 ins. (23.5cm x 18cm)
Private Collection, UK.
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This expressive portrait, which has recently emerged from a private collection in Guernsey, is a rare example of a work on paper by the portrait miniaturist Andrew Plimer.

Due to its larger scale, it allows us an exciting glimpse into Plimer’s abilities as a draftsman, an insight which can sometimes be difficult to glean through studying his smaller portrait miniature works. The composition, which shows the sitter almost full-face and positioned contra-posto, has the dynamicity and flow more in keeping with a larger work in oils, and this is perhaps a scarce example of Plimer attempting to break into the more established market for larger works, which was still by this point dominated by the likes of Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). This would make sense, as it has been suggested that by the 1820s (this work is dated 1826) Plimer was beginning to look further afield for work – perhaps due to the ever-increasing competition amongst his peers in London – and he is known to have travelled to Cornwall, Devon and also to Wales and Scotland.

Born and Shropshire and apprenticed to a clockmaker, Andrew and his brother Nathaniel purportedly ran away, arriving in London in 1781 where Andrew found employment as a servant in the household of Richard Cosway. Whilst working for Cosway, who by this point was a highly regarded portrait miniaturist, Plimer took lessons in painting, establishing a practice of his own a few years later in 1785. By the next year Plimer was exhibiting at the Royal Academy from an address in Golden Square, then a fashionable part of London, where he appears to have remained until 1810.

Between 1815 and 1820 Plimer travelled around, establishing himself first in Exeter, and after a brief return to London, onto Scotland where he is thought to have experienced great success. In 1835 Plimer moved with his family to Brighton where he died two years later with considerable wealth.
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