Circa 1807 England

John Raphael Smith (1751-1812) Pastel Portrait of a Gentleman in His Library


1 in stock

Height 22 inches (55.75 cm)
Width 18 1/4 inches (46.5 cm)
Depth 2 1/2 inches (6 cm)

John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

Portrait of a Gentleman in his Library.

Patel on paper; held in period frame; inscribed on original backing.

Provenance: Professor Philip Rieff (1922-2006); Thomas Agnews, Bond St. (stock no. Bols 8580), October 1980; Private Collection, Shropshire

John Raphael Smith was born in Derby, the son of the itinerant landscape painter Thomas Smith of Derby (fl.1745-1767). Apprenticed to a linen-draper he subsequently pursued the same business in London, adding to his income by producing miniatures and chalk-drawings, largely portraits of middle-class sitters. In 1769 he turned to engraving and executed his first plate eventually becoming the most celebrated producer of prints of the period. Upon the decline of his business as a print-seller he gave up engraving in 1802 to concentrate on his work as a portrait painter in chalk and crayon; his giving up engraving may well be connected with the strain on his eyes occasioned by the fineness of detail required in the work. Whatever the precise reason he went on to quickly develop a lucrative practice in pastel portraiture as a result with as many as forty sitters a week at two guineas a head. His patrons included some of the leading politicians of the day, such as the Whigs Charles James Fox and Lord Holland.

This engaging and colourful portrait of a young gentleman seated in his library was completed by John Raphael Smith in a trip to Leeds in 1807, these details being inscribed in ink on the original backing board. The distinct colours and confident flourishes of chalk are all hallmark Smith. Embarking on a tour through the north and midland counties of England, he produced many images of the rising commercial classes newly enriched by the industrial revolution in towns such as Newark, York, Leeds, Sheffield and Doncaster. This gentleman is a typical patron of the type encountered during his journey, and is a fine example of his confident portrait style in the pastel medium.

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