John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) lawyer, judge and politician
Mezzotintpublished 27 July 1801
About the work
This mezzotint print was engraved by John Raphael Smith after an original work by Sir Thomas Lawrence. An oil portrait of Curran by Lawrence is in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. However, although similar to this work, it does not appear to be the portrait Smith’s mezzotint is based on, as it shows the sitter in a slightly different pose and looking directly at the viewer.
About the artist
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.
Printmaker and publisher John Raphael Smith is best known for his mezzotints. He was born in Derby and apprenticed to a linen draper. He began his artistic career painting miniatures and engraved his first mezzotint in 1769. In 1784 he became Mezzotint Engraver to the Prince of Wales. Smith produced thousands of prints during his career, which he distributed throughout the UK and to St Petersburg, Milan and Paris. However, after the French Revolution caused a decline in exports, he opened the Morland Gallery in King Street, Covent Garden, initially producing 36 prints after works by George Morland. Smith spent his final years travelling throughout Yorkshire, in response to commissions for pastel portraits. He died in Doncaster, aged c.61.