This unsigned portrait has recently been attributed to William Doughty; the young artist sitter remains unidentified, and the work is believed to be a self-portrait.

Yet the significance of this painting to the Hunterian Art Gallery isn’t in the artist or the sitter, but in the small figure at the bottom right of the canvas: a bronze cast of an anatomical model, depicted with the skin removed to reveal the underlying muscle structures. The figure was made by Dr William Hunter, founder of the Hunterian Museum. In the age of Neoclassical art, in which the human figure was paramount, Hunter’s teaching helped educate a generation of artists in human anatomy through his demonstrations at the Royal Academy, using a larger version of the model shown in Doughty’s portrait. Hunter’s role at the Academy wasn’t purely scientific: during his tenure as Professor of Anatomy, when he was required to provide ‘annually six public lectures in the schools, adapted to the Arts of Design’, Hunter amassed a significant art collection of his own, acquiring works by established contemporary artists including Stubbs and Reynolds. Portrait of an Artist provides a vivid illustration of the role Hunter’s influence had on students of painting and sculpture in the 1770s and beyond. It has been acquired ahead of Hunter’s tercentenary in 2018, which will be marked by an exhibition exploring the key role he played in bridging art and anatomy. The portrait will go on display in the museum’s Main Gallery alongside a bronze cast of the model depicted in the painting.


Sold Christie's, New York, 1996, where acquired by Katz Gallery; Philip Mould. An Art Loss Register search will be carried out.

Back to top