Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) chemist and inventor

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Scotland Office, Dover House, Whitehall

    Scientist Sir Humphry Davy stands in a relaxed pose, leaning on a table, with his left hand on his hip. Behind him is a classical column and a great swathe of red fabric. On the table by his side, a scientific instrument represents his professions of chemist and inventor.~

    This painting is a copy of a portrait of Davy by Sir Thomas Lawrence, painted some eight years after the sitter’s death. It was commissioned by the Marquess of Lansdowne in 1837 and was first displayed at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London. Lawrence’s original work of 1821 is in the collection of the Royal Society. Another copy by portrait painter Henry William Pickersgill is at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

  • About the artist
    John Linnell studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the patronage of the artist Benjamin West and was a pupil of John Varley. He is best known for his rural landscapes but turned his attention to portraiture after his marriage in 1817. He was a friend and patron of William Blake and father-in-law to Samuel Palmer. Linnell’s eccentricities and radical political and religious views led to a number of rifts with both individual artists, including Palmer and John Constable, and the artistic establishment, perhaps explaining his failure to be elected as a Royal Academician.
    Sir Thomas Lawrence was born in Bristol; the son of a supervisor of excise. In 1773 the family moved to Wiltshire to run a coaching inn but financial difficulties led them to move again to Bath, where Lawrence first worked as a portraitist. He may have had lessons from William Hoare, before enrolling at the Royal Academy schools in 1787. Aged 20, he received a royal commission for portraits of Queen Charlotte (1789-90) and Princess Amelia (1789). At 23 he replaced Reynolds as Painter-in-Ordinary and at 25, became a Royal Academician. Despite such success, he never escaped crippling debt. In 1815 he was knighted and commissioned to paint the Waterloo Chamber series of portraits. He replaced West as President of the Royal Academy in 1820.
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  • Details
    Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) chemist and inventor
    Oil on canvas
    height: 45.50 cm, width: 35.00 cm
    Purchased from Timothy Hobart Fine Art, April 1981
    Commissioned by the Marquess of Lansdowne in 1837 and at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, in c.1844-55; sold through Christie’s, London, on 7 March 1930 (Lot 23); sold through Phillips, London, on 20 May 1980 (Lot 101); with Timothy Hobart; from whom purchased by the Government Art Collection in April 1981
    GAC number