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Lawrence, Thomas PRA (Sir)

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Lawrence, born in Bristol, the fourteenth of sixteen children, was a child prodigy, drawing from the age of five and producing excellent portrait likenesses at ten. In 1779 Fanny Burney stayed at the Black Bear, an inn in Devizes, of which Lawrence’s father was then landlord, and declared his son to be ‘a most lovely boy of ten years of age who seems to be not only the wonder of the family, but of the times for his astonishing skill in drawing.’ By 1780 the family were living in Bath. Lawrence came to London in 1786 and briefly attended the Royal Academy Schools. In 1790, at the age of 21, as Waterhouse aptly puts it, he ‘burst on the world’ with his full-length portraits of Queen Charlotte (National Gallery) and Miss Farren (Frick Collection, New York). Two years later he was made Painter in Ordinary to the King in succession to Reynolds. Some of the finest of his portraits were made when the Prince Regent commissioned him to paint the principal leaders who had formed the alliance against Napoleon. This series hangs together in the ‘Waterloo Chamber’ at Windsor Castle. Lawrence exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1787 until the year of his death. He was elected RA in 1794 and PRA in 1820. He was knighted by the Prince Regent in 1815. Like Richardson, Hudson and Reynolds, Lawrence formed a very distinguished collection of Old Master Drawings.
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