Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Murray 1780s

George Romney (1734-1802)

Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Murray, George Romney
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches 74.9 x 62.2 cm
Private Collection, USA
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This portrait of the young woman shows the light and grace that Romney''s sitter's valued in his work. Romney began his career in the North of England, but there was insufficient patronage to support a lucrative practice, and he moved to London in 1762. There he worked in a hard, precise manner, reminiscent of Nathaniel Dance, but he felt that his art lacked the schooling of Italy, and so set off across the Alps in 1773, in the company of the painter Ozias Humphrey.

When he returned in 1776 -quite penniless- he established himself once more in London, and very swiftly began to rival the long-established Gainsborough and Reynolds in popularity. His technique encompassed a thorough understanding of form and colour -and a greater concern with finish than is apparent in the works of his contemporaries- with a freshness and buoyancy that had an immediate appeal for clients. He has also made himself master of a neo-classical approach to portraiture which embraced modern fashion without compromising a naturalness that English sitters so admired.

Reynolds disliked the younger man intensely, not only for his sudden claim on part of Reynolds's market, but for fact that he prospered despite total independence from the Royal Academy. It must also be said that Romney''s technique avoided the pitfalls of Reynolds''s later experiments. Miss Murray's complexion makes her the perfect model of an English rose, and the enduring life and freshness of the faces of Romney sitters was a telling contrast with the deathly palour that, even in the subjects' lifetimes, had begun to emerge from the fading pigments of Reynolds.

Elizabeth Murray married William Buchanan of Ardroch, and died in 1846.
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