Portrait painter Francis Cotes was born in London; the son of a pharmacist and elder brother of the miniaturist Samuel Cotes. He was probably the most accomplished 18th-century British artist in the medium of pastels. From about 1757 he began to produce more work in oils. The drapery in his oil portraits was often painted by Peter Toms, who also worked for Sir Joshua Reynolds. Cotes became a founder member of the Royal Academy of Arts and exhibited 18 portraits at the Academy’s first two exhibitions of 1769 and 1770. However, by 1770 he was suffering from either kidney stones or gallstones. In the hope of dissolving them, Cotes drank a soap-based potion, which led to his death, by poisoning, on 19 July 1770.
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