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Hugh Douglas Hamilton

(1736—1808) portrait and subject painter


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(b Dublin, 1736; d Dublin, 10 Feb. 1808). Irish painter, mainly of portraits, active for much of his career in England and Italy. He worked in London 1764–79, then in Italy 1779–91 (mainly Rome and Florence), before returning in 1792 to Dublin, where he became the leading portraitist of the day. Early in his career he worked mainly in pastel and it was in this medium that he produced his masterpiece, Antonio Canova in his Studio (c.1789, V&A, London), which shows the celebrated sculptor with Henry Tresham (?1751–1814), an Irish painter, art dealer, and writer; in front of them is a full-size plaster model for Canova's Cupid and Psyche. The picture is unusually large and ambitious for a pastel (it is a metre (3 ft) wide), and it is the work with which Hamilton relaunched his career in Britain, at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1791, after his long residence in Italy. Dignified in composition and masterly in its richness of technique, it is regarded as the greatest pastel ever produced by an artist from the British Isles.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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