William Windham (1750-1810) politician

  • About the work
    Country: Japan
    City: Tokyo
    Place: British Embassy

    Although the sitter’s identity has been questioned, this work is thought to represent 'William Windham MP' (1750-1810), who served as Secretary at War (1794-1801) and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (1806-07). Previously attributed to painter Thomas Gainsborough, it is now considered a work by Gainsborough’s pupil and nephew, Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797).

    The portrait is set in a painted oval frame, a fashionable device in portraits throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The oval gives an impression of depth by making the sitter seem as though he is looking through a window at the spectator. Dupont was a skilled imitator of his master’s light, feathery brush strokes, particularly evident in his treatment of the sitter’s wig and neckerchief in this portrait. Windham’s bright, alert gaze and trace of a smile is also typical of Gainsborough’s style. 

  • About the artist
    Gainsborough Dupont was born in Suffolk, the son of a carpenter. He was the nephew of Thomas Gainsborough and was apprenticed to his uncle in Bath. In 1775 Gainsborough and Dupont relocated to London, where Dupont enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. He made mezzotints and small-scale copies after his uncle’s paintings. After Gainsborough’s death in 1788, Dupont continued to work from his uncle’s studio. The similarity of his work to that of Gainsborough has caused problems of attribution. Dupont worked in the manner of his uncle into the 1790s, but also made original portraits in a more personal style and, from 1790, exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1793 he moved his studio to Grafton Street. He died at about the age of 42.
  • Explore
  • Details
    William Windham (1750-1810) politician
    Oil on canvas
    height: 76.00 cm, width: 63.00 cm
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 12 March 1986
    Collection of Miss Spedding; sold through Sotheby's, London, 'British Paintings 1500-1850' sale, on 12 March 1986 (Lot 52), as 'Portrait of William Windham M. P. (1750-1810), of Felbrigg, Norfolk'; from which sale purchased by the Government Art Collection
    GAC number