Historical Portraits Picture Archive

A Gentleman, wearing jacket worn open with waistcoat and cravat, his pink powdered hair worn en queue 

John Smart (1741-1811)

A Gentleman, wearing jacket worn open with waistcoat and cravat, his pink powdered hair worn en queue, John Smart
Pencil and watercolour on paper
18th Century
1 13/16 x 1 5/8 in. (46 x 41 mm)
Reputedly by family descent to Mabel Annie Busteed (née Bose), by whom sold; Christie’s, London, 17 December 1936; Hans Berger Collection, Buffalo, USA; Karin Henninger-Tavcar by 2002, as ‘Portrait of Captain Tonyn’; Private Collection, Germany.
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This work is a rare example of Smart using pink colouring in his sitter’s hair which, although frequently seen in his finished works, is seldom seen in these preparatory works on paper.

In terms of eighteenth century portrait miniature painters John Smart remains one of the most coveted and desired. The eighteenth century was a highly prosperous period for the miniature painter and when compared with his contemporaries such as Cosway or Engleheart, Smart’s style feels a lot more restrained and less flouncy then his peers. He therefore appealed to a different set of patrons who cared less for swagger and more for delicacy and clarity of features.

In 1755, at the age of thirteen, Smart began to enter pencil and chalk drawings for prizes at the Society of Arts. Smart established himself in the early 1760’s and these early years provided Smart with the necessary confidence, contacts and drive. In 1765 he was elected Fellow Royal Society of Artists (FSA), becoming director in 1772, Vice-President in 1777 and finally President in 1778, a position he held until the society’s liquidation.
In 1785 Smart travelled to India with his daughter Anna Maria, settling in Madras where he experienced an eager appetite for sittings amongst the East India Company officials as well as with the more wealthy natives. Smart’s Indian period miniatures are distinguishable by the increased reflection of light on his sitter’s faces, which give them a more exotic feel and signify the warmer climate in which he was working.

In its unfinished state, this preparatory sketch cleverly creates a sense of movement in the turn of the gentleman’s head. It is a hasty, yet careful, drawing which illustrates a fantastic insight into Smart’s working methods.
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