Richard Brompton trained as a painter in London, working in the studio of Benjamin Wilson. In 1757 he travelled to Rome where he lived and studied under Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79), the German history and portrait painter. This was to prove a formative experience both in terms of artistic development and self-advancement. His talents were quickly recognized particularly by Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton, who became his patron and protector and who introduced him to the Duke of York. Returning to London in 1763 with fellow artist Nathaniel Dance, he set up a portrait practice which enjoyed healthy aristocratic and royal patronage. He exhibited regularly between 1767 and 1777 with the Free Society of Artists, the Society of Artists, of which he became President and at the Royal Academy. Despite his engaging portrait style, financial success tended to elude him and in 1780 he was imprisoned for debt. However, Catherine II of Russia’s invitation to become her court portrait painter secured his release and he spent the final years of his life in Russia at St. Petersburg.
His time in Italy greatly influenced his style and technique, lending his portraits a gloss and grandeur that echoes not just his mentor Mengs but that of Pompeo Batoni and the spirit of the Grand Tour. This ability to capture the look that so many young gentlemen aspired to obviously led to his socially impressive patronage, however, it makes it all the more surprising that he was constantly dogged by debts throughout his life. As this portrait well demonstrates, his mastery of the brush to evoke rich materials and the subtle skin tones of youth is, at best, unsurpassed and in the words of Horace Walpole very “Genteel…(and)highly finished”.
In England examples of his work can be found in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen and the National Portrait Gallery, London.