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Francis Willis

13 of 102 portraits by John Russell

Francis Willis, by John Russell, 1789 -NPG 2186 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Francis Willis

by John Russell
1789
23 1/4 in. x 17 1/2 in. (603 mm x 445 mm)
NPG 2186

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, bottom right: J Russell R.A. pt. 1789.1

1 The original backing had a contemporary ink inscription: Revd Francis Willis M. D. (now separately preserved).

This portraitback to top

A vigorous pastel of Willis in his hour of triumph. On 26 February 1789 the doctors’ report from Kew described ‘an entire cessation of his Majesty’s illness’ and on 10 March Parliament sent an address of congratulation to the King on his recovery. The RA exhibition, which opened on 27 April, included three portraits of Willis (NPG 2186, and miniatures by Nixon and Bowyer) and Willis meanwhile had commissioned a medal to celebrate his achievement.
A less lively version was sold Sotheby’s, 21 March 2002, lot 102 (possibly the copy or replica of NPG 2186 reported in a Canadian private collection in 1939). A half-length squared-up pencil copy by Henry Bone 1807, presumably preparatory for an untraced enamel, is in the NPG Bone albums. [1]
Willis owned Russell pastels of his wife and four sons all dated 1789 [2].

Footnotesback to top

1) R. Walker, 'Henry Bone's Pencil Drawings in the National Portrait Gallery', Wal. Soc., 1999, no.552, fig.159.
2) G. C. Williamson, John Russell, 1894, p 172; portraits of two of the sons, John and Robert, exhibited RA 1790.

Physical descriptionback to top

Blue-grey eyes, white hair, wearing a grey coat, a leather-bound book in his right hand.

Provenanceback to top

By descent from the sitter to Dr Francis Willis (d. 1906) of Braceborough, Lincs.;1 the Trustees of his Will, from whom purchased 1928.

1 Listed in his collection by G. C. Williamson, John Russell, 1894, p 171.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA 1789 (156).

Reproductionsback to top

J. Collyer (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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