Like his Renaissance predecessors Raphael, Michelangelo and Dürer, the young Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) was considered to be a boy genius. This survey of Lawrence's first twenty-five years tells the story of an exceptional artist growing up at the end of the century when Britain created its own unique artistic voice. It accompanies a major exhibition at the Holburne Museum in Bath and includes previously unpublished works as well as some of Lawrence's most brilliant masterpieces.
Lawrence first came to public attention when he was cited in a scientific paper on 'early genius in children'; shortly afterwards his family moved to Bath where the eleven-year-old was kept busy making likenesses of the spa town's fashionable visitors. By 1790, his spectacular portraits were the most applauded works in the Royal Academy's annual exhibition, which opened days before his twenty-first birthday. This book considers the young artist's self-image as a prodigy, the impact of Bath's rich cultural life on his formation, the rapid development of his painting technique following his move to London, and his use of celebrity, print media and the Royal Academy to grow his reputation. Particular attention is given to Lawrence's perceptive depictions of old age and bold celebrations of youthful energy. His portraits from this time present a fascinating glimpse of British high society at the turn of a memorable century: they include celebrities such as the Duchess of Devonshire, Emma Hamilton and actresses Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Farren, as well as political leaders, members of the Bluestocking circle and the Royal Family.