Thomas Lawrence Holburne Museum of Art, Bath Thomas Lawrence was just 22 when he painted this lively preparatory study for a portrait of Arthur Atherley, the son of a banker and future MP for Southampton.

The finished portrait, commissioned to mark Atherley’s graduation from Eton College, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1792. Lawrence was a celebrated prodigy. In 1780 the novelist Fanny Burney met him and described him as ‘a most lovely boy of 10 years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of his family, but of the times for his astonishing skill in drawing’. The same year his family moved to Bath, where the Bath Chronicle reported that Master Lawrence ‘takes striking sketches of likenesses’ for 10s 6d. At 17, Lawrence moved to London and spent four months studying at the Royal Academy Schools. He soon established himself as one of the capital’s most fashionable portrait painters, a reputation he held until his death in 1830. This study for a portrait of Arthur Atherley now joins two pencil drawings by Lawrence in the Holburne Museum to become the first oil painting by the local artist in this prominent Bath collection.


Andrew Coventry, 1860; by family descent to 2013

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