Saturday, 4 July 2015

Artists and the Rooms

The Assembly Rooms were magnets for the rich and fashionable of the Georgian age. Consequently, those who made their living from the rich wanted to be close to the rooms.

This effect can be seen most clearly from moves by three famous Bath portrait artists when the Upper Rooms were opened and became the most fashionable of the Bath Rooms.

Thomas Gainsborough moved from near the Abbey to the Circus where he lived at number 17, William Hoare moved from Queen Square to Edgar Buildings and Thomas Lawrence's father brought his young genius of a son to live at 2 Alfred Street where he built his reputation by painting small pastel portraits of the visitors to the Assemblies.

A pastel portrait by Thomas Lawrence from the 1780s
William Hoare was the first fashionable portraitist to settle in Bath, and he remained as the leading portraitist there until the arrival of Thomas Gainsborough in 1759. He remained the favourite of his powerful patron the Duke of Newcastle, his family, followers and political associates. Included amongst his other important patrons were the Earls of Pembroke and Chesterfield and the Duke of Beaufort. With Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, he was a founding member of the Royal Academy.

Sir Thomas Lawrence was the second president of the Royal Academy. Lawrence was a child prodigy. He was born in Bristol and began drawing in Devizes, where his father was an innkeeper. He moved to Bath at the age of ten in 1779 where he was supporting his family with his pastel portraits.

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