George Henry Harlow was born in London, the son of a merchant based in China, who died four months before the birth of his only son. From a young age Harlow was apprenticed to Flemish painter Hendrik Frans de Cort. At 15 he became apprenticed to Thomas Lawrence, but stayed for only a year. He is reputed to have been vain and to have worn extreme fashions and walked with a deliberate swagger, earning him the nickname Clarissa Harlowe. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1806. In 1819, he returned from a trip to Italy complaining of a sore throat. An entry in Farington’s diary reveals that an external swelling was visible on his throat and was ‘supposed to be mumps’. His condition deteriorated and he died at his home in Soho, aged just 31.
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