The sitter was the eldest son of George Binstead and Margaret Farrant, daughter and heiress of Godfrey Farrant, an extensive and wealthy landowner. The inheritance of these family estates resulted in the adoption of the Farrant name over that of Binstead. Sir George Farrant, in turn, is recorded as owning property and land in Kent and Lincolnshire; a Barrister and Deputy Lieutenant and Magistrate for the County of Middlesex, he lived mostly at Upper Brook Street in Mayfair, London. A wealthy and industrious man Sir George had constructed an Egyptian styled vault at Kensall Green Cemetery in 1844 and died in the December of that year. He must have known the artist Wyatt quite well as he was painted twice by him, this portrait being the first to be shown at the Royal Academy in the winter of 1831.
Henry Wyatt was greatly admired by his contemporaries, particularly Sir Thomas Lawrence, whom he studied under. In fact as a portraitist he tended to continue Lawrence’s style for another decade after the great man’s death until his own career was prematurely cut short by failing health. His early works remained true to his master combining a dashing brilliance of brushwork with a “gravity of tone and temper”. It has been suggested that his best work dates from the early 1830’s and certainly this portrait of Sir George Farrant displays well the slightly controlled yet vigorously expressed freedom of the brush which led some to state that he was a better painter than Sir Martin Archer Shee who replaced Lawrence as president of the Royal Academy.
He established a successful practice and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and elsewhere throughout his active life. He perhaps favoured painting portraits on this smaller scale as many are recorded in this format; maybe he found the size more appropriate and the board support more suitable to his increasingly liquid technique which seemed to capture the intimate details of character and pose so well.
Exhibited: Royal Academy 1831, no. 352
Literature: Brian Stewart & Mervyn Cutten: “The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain” p.498, ACC 1997; John Martin Robinson: “The Wyatts – An Architectural Dynasty” p236, OUP 1979