Drawings from a sketchbook belonging to the portrait painter John Partridge (1789-1872) will be shown for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery
starting today. The sketchbook, from Partridge's tour of Italy, will form part of a new display highlighting a dynamic group of British artists and sculptors who lived and worked in Rome during the 1820s.
John Partridge lived in Italy between 1823 and 1827 to advance his training and reputation by prolonged study of Old Master paintings. Upon reaching Rome he mixed with a like-minded group of ambitious British artists. Both Partridge and these artists recorded their responses to the art and culture of Italy in his sketchbook. These drawings offer an insight to the group's male friendships, shared experience and mutual artistic endeavours in Italy during the mid-1820s.
The display will contain six pencil portrait drawings of the group of artists, several Italian scenes and portraits of local characters from the Partridge sketchbook, purchased by the Gallery in 1955. These will be shown alongside prints and drawings of the key figures of the art establishment in London, including the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), the subject of a major exhibition opening at the Gallery in October 2010.
Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 had brought the British war with France to an end and after almost two decades of isolation from European art and culture, the Continent was once again accessible to British travellers. The mix of classical ruins, neoclassical architecture, Old Master paintings and contemporary art were all compelling reasons for aspiring artists to travel to Italy. Rome was particularly appealing as an environment to advance an artist's training and repute. The display will examine the artistic interaction between Rome and Britain at this time including the attempt to found a British academy in Rome, the nature of this group's artistic ambition, and the effect of the Italian experience on their subsequent careers.