Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of William Dacres Adams c.1810

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of William Dacres Adams, Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.4 cm
Family collection until sold Sotheby''s March 17th 1982 (lot 29); Berger Collection
Kenneth Garlick Sir Thomas Lawrence London 1954 pp15-16 Kenneth Garlick Sir Thomas Lawrence London 1989 p133
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William Dacres Adams was private secretary to two Prime Ministers, William Pitt the Younger, and the Duke of Portland, and as such was at the heart of British politics during the beginning of the nineteenth century.

He was the son of William Adams MP Mayor of Totnes, and shared - or was obedient to - his father''s support for William Pitt's ministry. When Pitt returned to power in May 1804, William Dacres Adams was the last person to be his Private Secretary. Subsequently, and again with the support of his father, he was Secretary to the Duke of Portland during that Premier's recall from retirement between 1807-1809. His service was rewarded with a sinecure, and in July 1810 he was appointed Commissioner of Woods and Forests. Dacres Adams was a close friend of Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was a frequent visitor to the former''s house in Sydenham.

This intimate and contemplative portrait is typical of the style that was so uniquely Lawrence’s own, and which, thanks to his dominance, came to be followed by the generation of artists that succeeded him. It displays his preference for bold, pure colours and broad robust brushwork, which, with his unrivalled draughtmanship, combine to portray skin, eyes, clothing and hair with an astonishing degree of realism. It was these skills, together with a tendency for flattering likenesses, that made Lawrence one of the world’s pre-eminent portraitists, and a giant of British art.
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