This is an ‘autotype’ copy of an oil painting in the Government Art Collection. Such copies were made by the Autotype Company, based in Brixton from 1868. It is thought that the process, used to mass produce images, involved making a carbon print (a form of photograph which achieved tone through the use of differing thicknesses of darkened gelatine). The image was printed onto a primed canvas and oil paint and varnish were added to make it look as close to the original as possible. The fact that this particular portrait by Thomas Beach was copied in this way may indicate that the sitter was of some standing.
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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