This mezzotint print, made after a portrait by Thomas Lawrence, shows former Prime Minister George Canning. Canning held various appointments under Pitt the Younger’s administration, including Foreign Secretary from 1807 to 1809 and again from 1822 to 1827 and Prime Minister for four months in 1827, the last year of his life.
The original portrait on which this print is based was commissioned by Thomas Hamilton, ninth Earl of Haddington (1780-1858) in 1817. However, Lawrence’s work on the portrait may not have begun until after the artist’s return from the Continent in 1820 and it has been suggested that this is the portrait of Canning that Lawrence exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, in 1825.
Lawrence made four portraits of Canning in total between 1809 and 1826. The artist seems to have been on good terms with Canning, to whom he also shared a close physical resemblance.
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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