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Francis Cotes R.A 1726 - 1770
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Francis Cotes R.A 1726 - 1770

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Portrait of a lady in a blue dress trimmed with fur

 

Oil painting on canvas 30 x 25 inches (76 x 64cm). Contained in a carved and gilded Georgian swept frame

 

Signed and dated 1765

 

Provenance: .............(sale) Christies, 27th June 1980 (lot 133) £2,2000 to Arnold Machin O.B.E, R.A.(30 September 1911 – 9 March 1999); his son, Francis (1949-2007)

 

Francis Cotes was the son of a pharmacist, and the eldest brother of the miniaturist Samuel Cotes. He was apprenticed to the portrait painter George Knapton in the 1740's, and was at first confined to pastels, in which medium he is certainly the greatest English exponent of the 18th century. His first oil paintings dates from as late as 1753, and he did not seriously take up the medium until four years later. From 1765 he took a large house and studio at 32 Cavendish Square, and established himself as the first serious fashionable rival to Reynolds and Gainsborough. He was prominent in the Society of Artists and was a Foundation Member of the Royal Academy. He was perhaps the greatest rival to Sir Joshua Reynolds in London during the 1760's and enjoyed a great critical success:

 

How happy Cotes ? Thy skill shall shine,

Unrivall'd in the class, almost divine.........

 

Thus the critic of The London Chronicle extolling the (admittedly splendid) virtues of Cotes's portrait of Queen Charlotte: the King had chosen Cotes above Reynolds (whom he roundly loathed) to be patronised and to have a Royal portrait exhibited at the Academy, a severe blow to the President's amour-propre.

 

The present painting dates from the period of Cotes maturation into a fully developed portrait painter in oils (his earliest successes had been in pastel), and illustrates amply the artist's clarity of conception, vigorous free brushwork and clarity and intensity of tone. It would have been executed at Cotes' new house in Cavendish Square. In 1765 Cotes was working for a distinguished clientele which included the Earl of Fife, full length in his Coronation robes (Soc. Artists 1765, no 17), “Emma, the nut-brown maid” and Lady Cunliffe as his career burgeoned.

 

 


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