Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Naval Officer 1740s

Thomas Hudson (1701-79)

Portrait of a Naval Officer, Thomas Hudson
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
The present portrait of a Naval Officer amply illustrates the qualities that guaranteed Hudson's success as a portraitist to Society and -by birth a Devonian- to the officers of the Royal Navy in the 1730s, 40s and 50s. The portrait is not merely a static icon of a commander, but -unusually for Hudson- includes a strong narrative element. The storm-tossed ship in the background, seen making for a rocky headland defended by a fort, must refer to some exploit -and narrow escape- of the sitter, although this has presently defied elucidation.
Hudson's work combines the high-keyed colours of the Rococo with poses derived from such artists as van Dyck, Kneller and his own teacher and father-in-law, Jonathan Richardson. He painted at least 400 portraits, about 80 of which were engraved. Among his many pupils were Joseph Wright of Derby, John Hamilton Mortimer and Joshua Reynolds. Hudson was a member of the group of artists including Hogarth, Allan Ramsay, Francis Hayman and the sculptor John Michael Rysbrack who met at Old Slaughter's Coffee House in the mid-1740s and who promoted Thomas Coram''s Foundling Hospital, of which they were governors, as the first public exhibiting space for artists in London.
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