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Thomas Hudson 1701-1779
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Thomas Hudson 1701-1779

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The eldest children of Charles Noel, 4th Duke of Beaufort: Head and shoulders portraits of Henry (1744-1803; later 5th Duke) a little boy dressed in blue Van Dyck costume, and his sister Lady Anne Somerset,1 (1741-1763) in a white dress set with pink ribbons, and a lace ruff.

Oil paintings on canvas each 20 x 15 inches in carved and giltwood frames

Painted circa 1747/8

 

 

Thomas Hudson, a native of Devon, was by far the leading portrait painter in London for two decades in the middle years of the 18th century. He had arrived in London in the 1720’s after the death of Sir Godfrey Kneller, who had dominated London society portraiture for decades. He was taught to paint portraits by the redoubtable Jonathan Richardson, the artist, connoisseur, collector and theoretician of the arts.

His portrait practice by 1740 was substantial and highly successful, and numerous paintings by him survive. He continued the tradition of Van Dyck and Lely, and maintained a large studio with numerous talented young artists whom he taught: Henry Pickering, Joseph Wright of Derby, Sir Joshua Reynolds and others. He usually employed Joseph Van Aken as his drapery painter, and the consequence is that many of the works of these artists in these two decades are often difficult to distinguish one from another.

His quality, though, is consistent, and his likenesses truthful: they are the sound Georgian Prose that may be contrasted with the feathery rococo poetry of painters of the next generation, most notably Gainsborough.

 

The present paintings illustrate the high fashion of circa 1750 when the “Van Dyck” falling lace collar enjoyed a substantial, if rather brief, popularity. Hudson used the style on numerous occasions for both male and female sitters. The present pictures are autograph replicas of two of the group of portraits by Hudson of the 4th Duke's children painted towards the end of the 1740's, and which remain at Badminton House. The Badminton version of the portrait of Lady Anne Somerset was loaned to the Thomas Hudson 1701 – 1779 bicentenary exhibition at Kenwood in 1979 (catalogue number 39)

Hudson's portraits on this scale are really rather rare, as are his portraits of children, though the present paintings compare closely with a pair of portraits of two sisters, one signed, which were with Lane Fine Art in 2004:

Comparative pictures

 

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Thomas Hudson: Portraits of two little girls dressed in blue. Oil paintings on canvas 20 x 14 inches. One signed and dated 1761. Datable to the same period as the present pair of paintings (Private Collection, London)

 

1. For a biography and iconography of this interesting woman see the essay by Neil Jerfaries at: http://www.pastellists.com/essays/liotard_somerset_hawke.pdf