George Romney, 1734-1802

This handsome catalogue, which accompanies a major international exhibition commemorating the bicentennial of George Romney's death, offers the first in-depth modern overview of a key figure in eighteenth-century British art. Romney was the main rival of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough - and for much of his career more fashionable than either. A century ago, collectors fought to buy the portraits he created with a distinctive mix of elegance, mannerism, and informality; especially popular were those of Emma Hart (later the notorious Lady Hamilton), who became his favorite model and muse. Romney's chief ambition, however, was to succeed as a history painter, and he made countless drawings for literary and mythological pictures that he never had time to paint. These drawings, executed with a spontaneity and dramatic expressiveness that have appealed to many modern artists, mark Romney as one of the first Romantics. Reproducing over two hundred works, this is the most generously illustrated volume on Romney to date. In a major departure from earlier treatments, the book devotes equal attention to his drawings and his paintings, persuasively demonstrating how interdependent the two media were in his art. Alex Kidson has written an invitingly personal, intriguingly speculative text, in which Romney emerges as one of the most brilliant and inventive artists of his time. From now on, any serious consideration of his work must begin with this book.