Artwork Detail

Portrait of the Honorable Francis North, 4th Earl of Guilford
1780
British, 1734–1802
Oil on canvas
50 1/2 x 40 3/8 "
University purchase, Parsons Fund, 1916
WU 2152
Highlights
George Romney was one of the most popular portrait painters in late eighteenth-century London, known for his flattering likenesses of British nobility and society figures. In this portrait of Francis North, a young aristocratic army officer at that time, Romney endows his figure with a commanding presence that conveys a sense of gravitas. North stands at ease, hat in hand, before a smoldering background that suggests a battlefield with cannon fire in the distance. While North’s figure is rendered in relatively loose strokes of paint, the face is given the greatest detail, attaining dimension through ruddy tones and the layering of delicate glazes. His face and red coat are further emphasized in contrast to the less defined background; the uniform also underscores North’s stature in the British army, to which he had recently been promoted captain. Romney’s ability to individuate his sitters, while also stressing their rank, made him especially in demand among the aristocracy, who commissioned such portraits to promote an idealizing image of their social and political status. [Permanent collection label, 2016]