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Study for the Portrait of Admiral Thomas Smith
National Galleries of Scotland / Photography by Antonia Reeve. William Findlay Watson Bequest 1881
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Study for the Portrait of Admiral Thomas Smith
c.1744
Black chalk and stump heightened with white on blue paper, inlaid
383 x 270 mm
14 11/16 x 10 5/8 in.
D 3221
D1
Portrait of Admiral Thomas Smith, appointed Commander-in-Chief of Ships in Scotland in 1744
Leicester October 1952, Old Master Drawings (47); Glasgow 1953-4, English Drawings (2); London RA 1956-7, Exhibition of British Portraits; Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art 1975, English Portraits (118); National Gallery of Scotland, Drawings from the Bequest of W.F. Watson 1881-1981, Edinburgh 1981 (36); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (3)
[?] John Richards, R.A.; W. Esdaile sale, Christie's 21 March 1838, bt Vaughan; W.F. Watson, an Edinburgh bookseller; bequest of W.F. Watson, 1881
Inscribed, lower right, in black ink: R.W
As noted by Solkin, the drawing is very much in the tradition of Kneller and the older Richardson and is especially like comparable works by Allan Ramsay, whom Wilson no doubt met through the St Martin's Lane Academy.
Admiral Thomas Smith (1707-1762), illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, began a naval career as a junior lieutenant in 1728 and rose through the ranks to his appontment as Commander-in-Chief of Ships in Scotland in 1744.
P9 Hagley Hall, Worcestershire
P9A National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
E.K. Waterhouse identified this drawing as a study of Smith by Wilson (Ford 1951, p.15, n.1). It was part of his preparation for two portraits in oil, P9 (collection of Viscount Cobham, Hagley Hall) and P9A (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). Ford and Baker correctly note that it is slightly closer to the Greenwich version (see Bibliography), for example in the arrangement of the curls of the wig. The portraits were painted in 1744, when the sitter was appointed commodore, and are the artist's earliest works in this genre. The drawing bears out Edward Edwards's comments that Wilson 'drew a head equal to any of the portrait painters of his time.' (Edwards 1808. p.80.)
Edwards 1808, p. 80; Ford 1951, p.51, pl.1B; WGC, p. 151, pl. 2c; Baker 2011, pp. 413-14; Solkin 1982, p. 145