When he arrived in Bath in 1780, aged just eleven, Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) was already being hailed as a prodigy in the mould of Renaissance masters such as Raphael, Dürer and Michelangelo.
The Holburne’s focussed display will look at works made when the artist was between the ages of ten and twenty-two, giving visitors fresh insights into the early development of one of Britain’s greatest portrait painters and the range of his uniquely prodigious talent. On display will be some of Lawrence’s earliest and most brilliant works in pencil, pastel and oil, several of which have been rarely seen in public.
When the Royal Academy’s 22nd annual exhibition opened in April 1790, its most sensational paintings included twelve portraits by Lawrence. Visitors and critics could scarcely believe that the artist was only 20, he was due to celebrate his 21st birthday the following week; in fact, one reviewer published Lawrence’s birth certificate to prove that the creator of several of the exhibition’s most outstanding and original works had yet to come of age.
The exhibition was inspired by our acquisition of one of Lawrence’s greatest works, his Portrait of Arthur Atherley, 1791. It is one of a number of portraits by Lawrence of young men, and women, in their late teens, on the cusp of adulthood. This is, perhaps, a unique phenomenon of an artist portraying young adulthood when he was, himself, not much older than the sitters. It is around this idea of young people facing a rite of passage, confronting the hopes and fears of leaving adolescence for adulthood, that we find some of the contemporary resonances in Lawrence’s art.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication, Thomas Lawrence Coming of Age by Amina Wright, it is £16.95 and published by Philip Wilson and available from our shop.
Admission to the display is included in your General Admission Ticket.
Arthur Atherley, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1791 © Holburne Museum / Peter Stone
With thanks to:
Ben Elwes Fine Art