Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Frances Sophia Hunter 

Sir Martin Archer Shee PRA (1769-1850)

Portrait of Frances Sophia Hunter, Sir Martin Archer Shee
Oil on canvas
19th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.4 cm
The Sitter: Sir Lepel Griffin (1838-1908) the sitter's son; The Grafton Galleries, London; Col. G.H. Hoare, who sold it in 1919 to Reinhardt & Son, New York; Newhouse Galleries, New York, where purchased by Stella S. Rowen in 1963 and thus by descent in her family.
Born in Dublin and studying at the city's Royal Society Schools from 1781-83, where he won medals for both landscape and portraiture, Shee had established himself as a crayon portraitist of renown by the age of sixteen. He moved to London in 1788 and entered the Royal Academy schools two years later on the advice of Reynolds and Gilbert Stuart,both of whom were to become strong influences on his style.

Concentrating on oils and initially producing historical works, Shee moved into Lawrence's old studio in Jermyn Street that year and went on to become a much respected and highly successful society portrait painter. He was friendly with Hoppner and was similarly courted for Royal commissions; a portrait of Queen Adelaide was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837, and that of Queen Victoria in robes worn at the opening of Parliament, in 1843. Lawrence was a further life-long influence, and in 1830 Shee was both knighted and succeeded him as President of the Royal Academy.

Aside from his considerable skills with pastels and brush, Shee was further known as a poet, novelist, critic and writer on art. He wrote ''Elements of Art'' in 1805, ''Commemoration of Reynolds and other poems'' in 1814 and two full length novels in 1829 and 1834. Byron was clearly sympathetic to his literary outings and in ''English Bards and Scotch Reviewers'', he writes of the artist;

''And here let Shee and genius find a place
Whose pen and pencil yield an equal grace:
To guide whose hand a sister art combine,
And trace the poet''s as the painter''s line;
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