There’s a fascinating exhibition on the early works of a favourite artist of mine just “opened” at the Holburne Museum in Bath. Thomas Lawrence Coming of Age concerns the pictures he produced in the first twenty-five years of his life. By his mid teenage years he was working in Bath on small pastel portraits, some of which are astonishingly confident works for someone so young – clear signs of genius that led to his fabulous portrait of actress Elizabeth Farren finished in 1790. It is an online only exhibition which is unfortunate, probably forced by the current restrictions, though given the timing I cannot completely understand this. Nothing beats looking properly at these works in person, though the digital images are brilliant.
Most works by Lawrence are recognised these days, so it is rare that any become “sleepers” and are bought for a steal of a price at auction. However, his early work is not so well understood or completely appreciated and so I was fortunate to acquire one at auction only the other day, unattributed. There is some possible discrepancy on who the sitter is but it is a very striking early work finished at Bath in the early 1780s when the artist was around thirteen years old and is illustrated here above.