Sold as a pair
John Raphael Smith was born in Derby, the son of the itinerant landscape painter Thomas Smith of Derby (fl.1745-1767). Apprenticed to a linen-draper he subsequently pursued the same business in London, adding to his income by producing miniatures and chalk-drawings, largely portraits of middle-class sitters. In 1769 he turned to engraving and executed his first plate eventually becoming the most celebrated producer of prints of the period. Upon the decline of his business as a print-seller he gave up engraving in 1802 to concentrate on his work as a portrait painter in chalk and crayon; his giving up engraving may well be connected with the strain on his eyes occasioned by the fineness of detail required in the work. Whatever the precise reason he went on to quickly develop a lucrative practice in pastel portraiture as a result with as many as forty sitters a week at two guineas a head. His patrons included some of the leading politicians of the day, such as the Whigs Charles james Fox and Lord Holland.
The pair of pastel portraits presented here are unusual for being smaller in scale than many of his other works. The distinct colours and confident flourishes of chalk are all hallmark Smith. Embarking on a tour through the north and midland counties of England, he produced many images of the rising commercial classes newly enriched by the industrial revolution in towns such as Newark, York Sheffield and Doncaster. Mr & Mrs. Burton, the sitters in these portraits are, no doubt, typical patrons of this type encountered during the journey.
With thanks to art historian Neil Jeffares for his opinions concerning attribution