William (Thomas) Beckford
- Extended Catalogue Entry
William (Thomas) Beckford
by Sir Joshua Reynolds
oil on canvas, 1782
28 5/8 in. x 23 in. (727 mm x 584 mm)
Sitterback to top
- William (Thomas) Beckford (1760-1844), Writer and slave owner. Sitter in 3 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Painter and first President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 1415 portraits, Sitter associated with 39 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Beckford sat to Reynolds in February 1782, soon after his return from the Grand Tour and the year that Vathek was published. The portrait was exhibited that year at the Royal Academy and remained in Beckford's possession until his death. Before it was engraved in 1835, the background was repainted. This overpaint was only discovered when the portrait was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1980. Cleaning revealed the sitter's flamboyant pose and the sky. It was said to be Beckford's favourite image of himself.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Smartify image discovery app
- Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 45
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 103
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 103 Read entry
Young, rich and vain, William Beckford sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds in February 1782, soon after his return from the Grand Tour and when he had already written his great Gothic novel, Vathek. The portrait remained in Beckford's possession until his death and before it was engraved in 1835, the background was repainted, making him look much less of a dandy. This was discovered only when the portrait was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1980 and cleaned, revealing the swashbuckling pose and the sky. It was said to be Beckford's favourite image of himself.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 44
Events of 1782back to top
Current affairsFrederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford resigns as Prime Minister over recent setbacks in America and is succeeded by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham who takes office for the second time. Rockingham dies on 1 July and is succeeded by William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne.
Repeal of Poynings Law and Declaratory Act of 1720 gives virtual legislative autonomy to Ireland.
Art and scienceAfter a poor reception in the mid 1770s, actress Sarah Siddons makes a triumphant return to the Drury Lane Theatre, London in the title role of Isabella, or, The Fatal Marriage. She will become the century's best known tragic actress.
Clergyman and artist William Gilpin publishes Observations on the River Wye; a central text in the formulation of the concept of the picturesque.
InternationalAmerican War of Independence: Siege of Gibraltar reaches a climax in the Grand Assault but French and Spanish forces are unsuccessful. Britain loses Minorca prompting the Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, to open peace talks with the Americans. Thomas Grenville is sent to Paris to negotiate with Benjamin Franklin.
Paper manufacturer Joseph Montgolfier sends a hot-air balloon 1000 meters into the air, in front of a crowd in the Ardèche in France.
Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.
William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.
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