Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Gentleman 1720c.

Hans Hysing 

Portrait of a Gentleman, Hans Hysing
Oil on canvas
18th Century
36 x 28 inches 91.4 x 71.1 cm
Hans Hysing is one of a number of Swedish artists working in London around the turn of the eighteenth century, the most prominent of whom is, of course, Michael Dahl. Hysing worked in Dahl''s studio from the timeof his arrival in London in 1700 until at least 1715, although he would have executed independent works during that time. Distinction between the painting of Hysing and Dahl is not always easy, (The Portrait ofLordBrooke and its companion Portrait of Lady Brooke, Warwick Castle, being a case in point, since they have been ascribed, at different times, to both painters). Stylistically Hysing's work is similar to Dahl''s but can demonstrate greater delicacy and animation. Dated paintings by Hysing cover the years up to 1739, when he may have retired.

This portrait is painted on a canvas of a size first introduced into England by Sir Godfrey Kneller, when he employed it in the first decade of the eighteenth century for his portrait of members of the Kit Cat Club, from which the canvas gained its name. It was a novel size for contemporary portraiture, although Rembrandt -briefly Kneller's master- had employed it on a number of occasions, inspired by its use in Raphael's Portrait of Baldassare Castliglione. The canvas size -slightly larger than the usual thirty by twenty five inches- enabled the sitter to be shown on the scale of life, the standard price and composition to include the sitter''s head and a single hand. Plainly this convention was adopted by other painters at the time, and the present example by Hysing shows how the format could be exploited to produce a portrait of considerable impact and animation.
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