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David Garrick

9 of 262 portraits by Thomas Gainsborough

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

David Garrick

by Thomas Gainsborough
1770
29 3/4 in. x 24 7/8 in. (756 mm x 632 mm)
NPG 5054

This portraitback to top

This intimate characterisation within a half-length format may be compared with Gainsborough's contemporary portraits of J. C. Bach, NPG 5557, and John Henderson, NPG 980. When exhibited at the RA in 1770, Horace Walpole remarked that NPG 5054 was ‘Very like’, [1] although Gainsborough, like other artists, did not find Garrick an easy sitter. According to his obituarist in the Morning Chronicle,

'when he was sketching the eyebrows and thought he had hit upon the precise situation and then looked a second time at the model he found the eyebrows lifted up to the middle of the forehead, and when he looked a third time they were dropped like a curtain, close over the eye. So flexible and universal was the countenance of this great player that it was as impossible to catch his likeness as it is to catch the form of a passing cloud.' [2]
On 22 June 1772 Gainsborough told Garrick his portrait was to go from Bath to London 'on Wednesday next' and asked pardon for having kept the picture so long from Mrs Garrick:

'It has indeed been of great service in keeping me going, but my chief reason for detaining it so long was the hopes of getting one copy like, to hang in my own Parlour, not as a show Picture, but for my own enjoyment, to look when I please at a Great Man, who has thought me worthy of some little notice; but not one copy can I make which does not as much resemble Mr Garrick's Brother as Himself - so I have bestow'd a drop of excellent Varnish to keep you out, instead of a falling tear at parting and have only to beg of Dear Mrs Garrick to hang it in the best light she can find out, and to continue puffing for me in the manner Mr Keate informs me She does - That you may long Continue to delight & surprise the World with your Original Face whilst I hobble after with my Copy.' [3]

It is assumed that NPG 5054 was the portrait sent to Mrs Garrick. [4] Gainsborough's own copy remains unidentified. A second copy was made for Garrick’s business adviser, James Clutterbuck; [5] in a second undated letter Gainsborough told Garrick 'I will never consent that any body makes a present of your Face to Clutterbuck but myself, because I always intended a Copy (by my own hand) for Him' adding 'and for the Original, it was to be my present to Mrs Garrick'. [6]
In 1859 Scharf noted that NPG 5054 was superior to a version in the Schomberg collection (sold by Paul Mellon, Sotheby’s, 11 November 1981, lot 184); [7] other versions were formerly at Tockenham Manor; [8] sold Robinson and Fisher, 16 May 1928, lot 162, and on the London art market in 1969.
A miniature copy by William Essex was sold Christie’s, 18 December 1973, lot 62, and enamel copies by him were exhibited at the RA 1857 (656), Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street, London, 1858 (816) and RA 1860 (856).[9]

Footnotesback to top

1) A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts, A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904, RA, III, p 191
2) W. T. Whitley, Thomas Gainsborough, 1915, p 45.
3) J. Hayes ed., Gainsborough Letters, 2001, pp 105-06.
4) Mrs Garrick lived twenty-two years longer than Wallis, and why she should give such a portrait away is not at all clear; in her sale, Christie's, 23 June 1823 (L.10483), there was no Gainsborough portrait of her husband, but in an Appendix to the sale an unattributed portrait of him fetched the high price of 45 gns. Wallis, according to his unsympathetic obituary (Gentleman's Magazine, LXX, 1800, II, pp 908-9), had 'paid his addresses to [Garrick's] relict' and raised Garrick's monument in Westminster Abbey.
5) English private collection; E. K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958, no.306.
6) J. Hayes ed., Gainsborough Letters, 2001, p 85.
7) Sir George Scharf's Trustees' Sketch Books, 2/91A, 92. See E. K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958, no.307.
8) Prince Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, II, p 420, no.46.
9) A letter from Essex to George Scharf, 14 May 1860 (NPG archives), confirmed that the enamel exhibited in 1860 was taken from the portrait belonging to the Wilson family, i.e. NPG 5054.

Referenceback to top

Waterhouse 1953
E. K. Waterhouse, ‘Preliminary Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough’, Wal. Soc., XXXIII, 1953, p 9.

Waterhouse 1958
E. K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958, no.305.

Physical descriptionback to top

Deep brown eyes, grey powdered wig, wearing a pale grey coat and green waistcoat trimmed with gold; a red-stone ring on his right little finger; a purple drape to the left.

Provenanceback to top

[Mrs Garrick, see below]; Albany Wallis (1713?-1800, Garrick’s executor); bequeater to Lady Ann Bayly; her son, Gen. Bayley Wallis (c.1766-1848); through his adopted daughter to her husband, Sir Belford Hinton Wilson KB; by descent to R. Bayly Wallis Wilson; his (anon) sale Christie’s, 16 June 1900, lot 1051, bought Agnew for the 1st Baron Masham, by descent to the 1st Earl of Swinton; purchased from the Trustees of the Swinton Settled Estates 1975.

1 For this provenance see also D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1816 (Reynold's potrait of Albany Wallis). The Wilson sale in 1990 also included lot 106, a Mrs Garrick by Gainsborough, see Mrs Garrick under Doubtful Portraits.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1770 (86); British Institution 1814 (64) lent Gen. Wallis; Art Treasures, Manchester 1857 (BPG 284) lent Sir Belford Wilson; Yorkshire Loan Exhibition, York, 1934 (9); Masterpieces from Yorkshire and Durham, Leeds, 1936 (25); Gainsborough, 45 Park Lane, London, 1936 (12); Garrick, Buxton, 1981; Evenings of English Music, Pushkin State Museum, 1983; Johnson, Arts Council, 1984 (72); Gainsborough's Circle at Bath, Bath, 1988 (14).

Reproductionsback to top

Joseph Collyer 1776, oval.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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