Harlow was born in London where he was brought up and, according to Redgrave, spoiled by his mother. His father, a merchant residing in Canton, died before George’s birth. George received instruction from Henry de Cort, Samuel Drummond and then, for eighteen months, from Sir Thomas Lawrence. Dissatisfied with the treatment he received from Lawrence, he left, or was required to leave, and was from then on obliged to make his own way. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 27, in 1805, and continued to show portraits there until 1818 when he left for Italy. Early the following year he was back in England, where he died of the mumps, aged 31. Harlow’s group portrait of four different characters, all played by Charles Mathews and with Mathews looking on, was engraved by Meyer.