Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Lord Strange, c.1745 

Thomas Hudson (1701-79)

Lord Strange, c.1745, Thomas Hudson
Oil on canvas
18th Century
22 1/4 x 17 1/8 in (56.5 x 43.5 cm)
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This portrait is an ad vivum study for Thomas Hudson's three-quarter length portrait of Lord Strange in Vandyke masquerade dress (Knowsley Hall, Earl of Derby collection). Its status as an autograph preparatory study is apparent from the quality of its execution, its relationship to the Knowsley three-quarter length portrait and from the instances of pentimenti that reveal alterations to the portraits design worked out during execution.

Between the departure of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo in 1742 and the growing supremacy of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the later 1750s, Thomas Hudson was the principal portraitist to London society, who appreciated his smooth, elegant manner and his shimmering depiction of elaborate costume. Hudson's liberal employment of assistants - including the young Reynolds and specialist drapery painters is well known, and works that are entirely from his hand are rare and highly prized as a consequence.

The standard of execution and observation in this ad vivum sketch of James Stanley Lord Strange is extremely high, and still apparent today on account of its excellent condition. The sketch serves as a perfect illustration of Hudson's delicate technique, whereby he builds the shading of the face by applying strokes in the direction of its contours. The remarkably lifelike appearance achieved in the sketch is of a higher order than that now seen in the three-quarter length portrait at Knowlsey or in a further version formerly with Colnaghi (exh. The British Face 1986). The fresh appearance of the paint surface is due to the fact that the canvas has not been relined at any stage in its history, and recent conservation required only strip-lining to strengthen the tacking edges.

This sketch was copied in the early nineteenth century by William Derby (1786 - 1847) in a work now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, which is identified by an inscription.

Lord Strange was the elder son of the 11th Earl of Derby. His parliamentary career, during which he represented Lancashire for thirty years until his death was anomalous in mid-eighteenth century politics for his indifference to the party whip. Nominally a Tory he was nonetheless described as ''A Whig in principle'' who ''always acts according to the dictates of conscience'' and Horace Walpole described him in 1749 as being ''of a party by himself, yet voting generally with the Tories.''
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