Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charlotte Anne Child-Villiers Lady William Russell 1790s

John Hoppner RA (17581810)

Portrait of Charlotte Anne Child-Villiers Lady William Russell, John Hoppner RA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
24 x 20 inches 68 x 47cm
Probably The Artist''s Studio Sale Christie''s May 31st 1823 (lot 2) Lady William Russell; William Russell Esq., Onslow Gardens; His posthumous sale December 5th and 6th 1884 (lot 237) as George Romney; Collection Camille Groult, Paris; By descent.
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Charlotte Anne Child-Villiers was the eldest daughter of George 4th Earl of Jersey. She married Lord William Russell, posthumous son of the Marquess of Tavistock heir to the 4th Duke of Bedford, on July 11th 1789, and was the mother of four sons, the youngest of whom, William, owned this portrait at the time of his posthumous sale in 1884. The portrait was then attributed to George Romney, but the brisk impasto and chocolatey strokes of the hair, not to mention the distinctive characterisation, identify the painting at once as the work of John Hoppner. Again and again the unfinished sketches for portraits that survive from Hoppner''s studio impress the modern viewer with the sureness of their drawing and the vigour of their handling, and it is not an exaggeration to suggest that in this state as with the present example the sketch is an even more satisfying piece of art than any example of the fully worked-up portrait. In considering a sketch such as Lady William Russell we are able to experience the pleasure of the observing the artist working for his own satisfaction, and at the speed of his own inspiration, rather than under an obligation to a patron. A comparatively large number of such unfinished portraits such as this survive from Hoppner's hand, and it is tempting to speculate that this is the stage at which the portraits gave their creator the most satisfaction.

Along with Gainsborough and Reynolds, Hoppner was one of the leading portrait painters in late eighteenth-century Britain. Born in London on 25 April 1758, he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1775, where he won a Gold Medal in 1782. He was a regular contributor to the Royal Academy exhibitions and quickly established himself as a fashionable portrait painter. He was appointed painter to the Prince of Wales in 1789.

At first his work was inspired by the later portraits of Reynolds, but he soon developed an individual style that is distinguished by bravura and vivacity, combined with a strong feeling of character. From the 1790s he was also the only serious rival to the young Lawrence and with him was responsible for painting the finest Romantic portraits of the Regency period. These works show a deliberate move away from the classicism of Reynolds, towards a more emotional and natural-looking image.

We are grateful to Christopher Gravett, curator at Woburn Abbey for drawing our attention to a miniature of Lady Charlotte Child-Villiers Lady William Russell in the collection of the Duke of Bedford which confirms the identity of our portrait.
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