Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lady of the Dormer Family 1740c.

Thomas Frye 

Portrait of a Lady of the Dormer Family, Thomas Frye
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63 cm
The Dormer Family
The qualities that make Frye an unusual and refreshing figure among portraitists of the mid-eighteenth century are expressed to the full in this painting. Although he was born in Ireland Frye is known to have arrived in England by 1735, when he was producing miniatures and oil portraits. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he seems always to be fully aware of all three dimensions, and displays a concern with modelling -as here- which almost suggests the vision of the sculptor as much as the painter.

His patronage was elevated from his earliest career in this country, and in 1741 he engraved a mezzotint after his full-length portrait of Frederick Prince of Wales. In the Prince's circle at this time he would have come into contact with foreign painters such as Jean-Baptiste Van Loo and Bartelemy du Pan, although the dominant influence on his mature manner would appear to be that of Hogarth. This present portrait certainly shows the vigorous characterisation and sheer animation, which can be termed Hogarthian. It also displays an unwillingness to flatter or standardise, which recalls the English painter, and whether or not the sitter be judged beautiful, her aspect is undeniably compelling and memorable.

In colour and tone Frye shows himself to be a master of considerable talent and subtlety and, in these at least, it is hard to detect a debt to Hogarth, or indeed any other British painter. Italian art seems to be inspiration for the silvery grey and soft pink of the draperies, and for the bold chiaroscuro that models the face. It may have been an influence long-cherished: Frye's earliest recognised works are crayon portraits in the manner of Rosalba Carriera.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.