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Thomas Phillips

Thomas Phillips, by Thomas Phillips, circa 1802-1803 - NPG 1601 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Thomas Phillips

by Thomas Phillips
oil on canvas, circa 1802-1803
29 in. x 24 in. (737 mm x 610 mm)
Purchased, 1911
Primary Collection
NPG 1601

Sitterback to top

  • Thomas Phillips (1770-1845), Portrait painter. Sitter in 4 portraits, Artist associated with 215 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Thomas Phillips (1770-1845), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 215 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This self-portrait, brushes and palette in hand, in a neo-classical frame typical of the period, gives an insight into how the artist viewed his occupation and status, a visionary in tune with the individual men of genius of the time.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 493
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 69, 167 Read entry

    Gilt compo on pine, mitred and keyed, the back of the frame with a chamfered outer edge; the rebate enlarged at the bottom, cutting into the keys (since the rebate is too large for the picture, the enlargement probably indicates that the frame was intended for another picture initially). 5 inches wide.

    During his long career as a portrait painter Thomas Phillips used a limited range of frame types. Although close parallels can be drawn with Thomas Lawrence's frames, Phillips's own styles are quite distinctive and the frame on this self-portrait is more finely detailed than Lawrence's nearest equivalent (NPG 891). Very similar frames can be found on Phillips's Lord Thurlow, 1807 (Palace of Westminster), and on his 2nd Duke of Northumberland, 1800 (Petworth), the latter with heavier corners in the Lawrence style. In one guise or another Phillips continued to use this type of frame for his portraits until the early 1810s.

    Documentation relating to Phillips and framing is scarce but a letter of Lord Erskine's, instructing the artist to match the frames on portraits of Thurlow and Northumberland, versions of the portraits mentioned above, shows how one of Phillips's better patrons expected the artist to deal with matters of framing.1

    1 A transcript of the Erskine letter, made by George Scharf, is in the National Portrait Gallery Archive.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 389

Events of 1802back to top

Current affairs

After returning from Naples, Nelson tours England with the diplomat and antiquarian Sir William Hamilton and his wife Emma, with whom he was having an affair. With Nelson's status confirmed as a national hero, their reception outrivals that of the King.
Extensive strikes in government shipyards led by John Gast.

Art and science

Francis Jeffrey, MP and arbiter of literary taste, co-founds the Edinburgh Review, the influential Whig quarterly which voiced strong criticism of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.
The Exchange, where stocks were traded, is rebuilt to cope with an increase in business during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

International

Peace of Amiens; Britain finally agrees to unpopular peace, leaving France the chief power in Europe and returning recent British colonial acquisitions.
Napoleon is declared First Consul of the French Empire for life.
English flock to see the international war plunder now on display at the Louvre in Paris.

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