John Hoppner (English, 1758–1810),
Portrait of Lady Redesdale (Nee Frances Perceval), 1767–1817
oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 28 3/8 in.; 92.06 x 72.07 cm
Gift of Jay A. Cherniack and Helen Wessel Cherniack, 1995.25
Hoppner was a follower of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who dominated eighteenth-century British art, and a formidable rival to Sir Thomas Lawrence, England’s leading early Romantic portraitist. In this painting, the artist plays with the concepts of formal and informal portraiture. The traditional pose, setting, and lighting suggest a formal representation, suitable for prominent display in the main rooms of a house. Conversely, the fluid brushwork, painterly style, and the subject’s frank, engaging gaze produce an air of informal naturalness. Replacing Baroque grandeur and Rococo lightheartedness, simplicity and candid artlessness were prized qualities in late-eighteenth-century Europe.