Lawrence was the leading British portrait painter of the early 19th century, portraying most of the important personalities of the day in his polished and flattering style. He was a child prodigy and largely self-taught; at the age of 10 he was making accomplished portraits in crayon. He was influenced by Sir Joshua Reynolds during his youth; his style developed very little throughout his life. Lawrence was born in Bristol, moved with his family to Devizes and then to Bath. He took to painting in 1786 and became a pupil at the Royal Academy school in 1787; in the following year, at the age of 19, he exhibited his first portrait. In 1794 he became a member of the Academy and Painter-in-Ordinary to the King (George III) on the death of Reynolds in 1792. He was knighted in 1815 and became President of the Academy five years later. He was very successful in commercial terms, and made (and spent) a great deal of money. He was also a collector and formed one of the finest collections of Old Master drawings ever known. In 1818-20 he was in Aachen, Vienna and Rome on behalf of the Prince Regent, making full-length portraits of the allied sovereigns who had contributed to the defeat of Napoleon; these were for the prince’s Waterloo Gallery at Windsor.
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