Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of an Unknown Lady, previously called Mrs Tickell, nee Ley (1756 - 1787) 1785c.

George Romney (1734-1802)

Portrait of an Unknown Lady, previously called Mrs Tickell, nee Ley (1756 - 1787), George Romney
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30x25 inches 76.2 x 63.5cm
E L Hill Christie's London 8th May 1897 - Lot 60 for 2100 guineas Agnews Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey (Inv. 34) Maria de Wit Jesup Metropolitan Museum 1914 Private Collection, Austria from 1993 to present
Sedelmeyer''s ''One Hundred Pictures by Old Masters'' 1897 Humphrey Ward and W Roberts ''Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonnee of his work'' 1904, vol 2pg 158 B Burroughs ''European Painting in the Jesup Collection'' 1915 K Baertjer ''European Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art'' 1980
To view portraits by George Romney for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

In this classic Romney, we see a lady seated before a suggested landscape together with a pencil and drawing pad - traditional accompaniments of a society lady.

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 at times 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 also 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. The enduring life and freshness of the faces of Romney sitters was a telling contrast with the deathly pallor that, even in the subjects' lifetimes, had begun to emerge from the fading pigments of Reynolds.

Romney returned to Cumbria before his death in 1802. It was suggested that he ended his days in madness, but in fact he fell victim to the depression and introspection which was a facet of his character throughout his life, and which, absent from the effervescent world of his portraiture, finds expression in the dark tortured world of his history paintings and sketches. The late Self-portrait (National Portrait Gallery, London) depicts the painter as he was beginning to surrender to these demons.
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