Russell appears to have sketched several members of the Glover family all of them appearing to be in the oval format. A portrait of a Mrs. Glover, has appeared on the art market twice, the first time in 1928, and a portrait of her daughter Miss Laura Glover several more times. By contrast this portrait of a Mr. Glover has only been seen on the market in more recent times. Both mother and daughter, when first offered for sale at auction in the 1920s, are noted as being in the collection of an R.Vyner, so it is likely, perhaps, that this present portrait was also as the Glover and Vyner families are related.
Probably Englands greatest pastellist, and certainly her most prolific, John Russell was apprenticed to the portraitist Francis Cotes and set up his own practice in 1767. In 1770 he entered the Royal Academy Schools in London, winning the silver medal for figure drawing. Exhibiting at the Society of Artists in 1768 and regularly at the Royal Academy from 1769 to 1806, he was elected ARA in 1772 and RA in 1788, when he became Crayon Painter to King George III and to George, Prince of Wales. He painted occasionally in oil but the main body of his work, hundreds of portraits and a large number of fancy pictures depicting children with animals, is in pastel. Given his royal patronage he attracted a large and fashionable following.
This portrait is typical of Russells clientele, the bulk of his work being for the wealthy middle classes rather than the landed aristocracy. His trademark use of blue is clearly apparent as is the subtle softness of form achieved by smudging outlines and highlighting elements such as the necktie and hair. He managed to capture such character and expression that though he was sincerely indebted to Francis Cotes, his work goes well beyond that of his master.
Exhibited: Statements of Self-Importance – The Portrait in Europe 1660-1950, Langston Gallery, London, 2009
Reference: Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, London, 2006; online edition, 2009 [http://www.pastellists.com]