This portrait of an English gentleman, aged 53 in 1782, is a fine example of the work of portrait painter Thomas Beach. Like many of his paintings it is framed by a feigned oval. The sitter appears florid in complexion and somewhat portly. His blue coat, trimmed in gold braid, suggests a link with the Navy.
Although the sitter’s identity is unknown, it is possible that he was resident in the West of England, as Beach was based in Bath and, from June to December each year, he travelled around Dorset and Somerset, painting portraits in the houses of the country nobility and gentry.
The Government Art Collection also includes an ‘autotype’ copy of this portrait (see GAC 665A).
Thomas Beach, portrait painter, was born in Abbey Milton in Dorset. He studied at St. Martin’s Lane Academy in London and, from 1760 to 1762, with Sir Joshua Reynolds. By 1772 he had moved to Bath, where his success was said to have driven his rival Joseph Wright of Derby from the town in 1777. Beach was noted for the strong likenesses of his portraits. His friend, the diarist Horace Walpole, wrote that they ‘never require the horrid question of - Pray whose is that Sir? - They always explain themselves’. Beach retired to Dorchester in Dorset, where he continued to paint until at least 1802. He died in Dorset in 1806.
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