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Ramsay, Allan (Scottish, b.1713, d.1784)
Sir Edward Kynaston of Hardwick
oil on canvas
1270 x 1020 mm stretcher size; 1465 x 1210 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1960 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
In 1980, the deputy director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Frank Dickinson, was appointed director. An Englishman, and a painter himself, Dickinson, who had previously worked at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, brought to the position connoisseurship and an understanding of European and especially British art. These elements are reflected in his elegant cataloguing of works such as this one, for which he wrote:
‘Allan Ramsay was born in Edinburgh, the son of an “uncultivated genius” the Scottish poet and bookseller, author of “The Gentle Shepherd”. He went to London to study under the Swedish portrait painter Hans Hysing and possibly attended the St. Martin’s Lane Academy then directed by Hogarth. After returning to Edinburgh, and possibly as a result of an appeal to the Lord Provost by his father, he went to Rome in 1736. There he worked with Francesco Fernandi, called Imperiale, who worked in the style of Maratta and whose Italian pupil Pompeo Batoni painted portraits of British visitors and must have influenced Ramsay. In Naples in summer 1737 he worked with the elderly Solimena who was by the 1720s a painter of international fame…
Back in England in 1738 Ramsay quickly established himself as a portrait painter in London and was the principal practitioner [of this genre] by 1740 with his tasteful adaptation of European Baroque. During the 1740s and 1750s his style reflected some French influence in the light cool colour and elegant poses. His portraits of this period could be playfully Rococo or austere yet rich like the present work with its silvery satin and Prussian blue velvet set against a plain umber-grey background, its warm flesh and splendid silhouette. Ramsay’s practice of making careful drawings of drapery, presumably for the guidance of the assistant or drapery painter, was exceptional amongst the British portrait painters of the time. It brought character and unity to his work.’

not on view

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