Princess Sophia, 1825 By Thomas Lawrence


The first exhibition in Britain since 1979 of the works of the great Regency painter Thomas Lawrence will open at the National Portrait Gallery in London in October. Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will showcase the most important British portrait painter of his generation and explore his development as one of the most celebrated and influential artists in Europe at the start of the nineteenth century.

The exhibition, which has been organized by the National Portrait Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, will travel to the United States of America, where it will be the first substantial examination of the artist's works. Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will introduce the artist's paintings in all their beauty and virtuosity to a new generation of museum visitors and will re-examine his work in the light of recent scholarship on the art of the Regency period.

It will include Lawrence's greatest paintings and drawings, many of which are rarely seen in public and which convey the power and originality of his work. Of the 54 portraits in the exhibition, many have been generously loaned from private collections including Charles William Lambton, the famous "Red Boy", as well as from public institutions such as the portrait of Elizabeth Farren from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Among loans from the Royal Collection are the three outstanding portraits of Pope Pius VII, Field Marshall Gebhardt von Blücher and Charles, Archduke of Austria, which are normally displayed in the grand Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle. Visitors will also be able to compare a drawing from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and a painting from the Art Institute of Chicago, portraying one of the artist's most striking sitters, Isabella Wolff.

Providing a fresh understanding of Lawrence and his career, the exhibition explores both his technical innovations as a draughtsman and painter and his unprecedented international reputation. It will also place him within the broader contexts of the aesthetic debates, networks of patronage and international politics of his day.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Thomas Lawrence was the artistic star of the Regency period. This exhibition now offers the best chance to understand why his work is so important.'

Amy Meyers, Director of Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, says: ‘A critic once wrote of Lawrence's work that, "The magic of his art is thrown around the representations of the most ordinary things." We are thrilled to be able to share this magic with visitors drawn to the show by the beauty of Lawrence's paintings, by interest in the period of the Napoleonic wars, and by the changing representations of gender roles in Lawrence's work.'

Beginning as a child prodigy working in pastels, Thomas Lawrence succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as Britain's greatest portrait painter. With the temperament and flair to capture the glamour of the age, Lawrence created the image of Regency high-society with dazzling brushwork and an innovative use of colour. His international reputation was ensured when the Prince Regent commissioned portraits of all the foreign leaders involved in the downfall of Napoleon. Lawrence was appointed President of the Royal Academy in 1820.

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance is curated by Dr Cassandra Albinson, Associate Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and Dr Peter Funnell, 19th Century Curator and Head of Research Programmes, and Dr Lucy Peltz, 18th Century Curator, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance
21 October 2010 - 23 January 2011
National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission £12
Concessions £10/£9

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, USA (24 February - 5 June 2011)

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major catalogue published by Yale University Press, priced £40. An introductory guide to Thomas Lawrence's portraits, with an essay by Richard Holmes, is published by the Gallery, priced £10.

An audio guide narrated by Simon Russell Beale with expert insights by the exhibition curators, video footage and period music, accompanies the exhibition.

A full programme of events including lectures, tours and lunchtime talks will accompany this landmark exhibition. A major conference Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will be held at the National Portrait Gallery and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 18-19 November. This will include talks, panel discussions and a keynote speech by Richard Holmes. Tickets (including lunch, refreshments and entry to the exhibition) £40/£20 concessions and Gallery Supporters. Please call 020 7580 0311 or email

For further press information, please contact: Neil Evans, Senior Press Officer, National Portrait Gallery: Tel. 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) / Email

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