Lot 41
  • 41

George Romney

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • George Romney
  • Portrait of Peter Woodhouse (b. 1745), full-length, wearing a red coat, with his black and white pointer, a gun and a brace of grey partridges, a view of Warton Crag, Lancaster, beyond
  • oil on canvas


Thomas Newby Wilson, Lakeside, Windermere;

Thence by inheritance to Rev. Lockhart Wilson Greenshields (1870–1961);

By whom posthumously sold, London, Christie's, 16 November 1962, lot 64, for 1,000 Guineas, to Agnew;

With Leggatt Bros., London;

Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Lady'), London, Christie's, 20 April 1990, lot 35, to Colnaghi;

With Richard Green Gallery, London;

Private collection, London;

From whom acquired by Axel Vervoordt;

From whom acquired by the present owner in 2000.


Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery; London, National Portrait Gallery; and San Marino, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, George Romney 1734–1802, 8 February – 1 December 2002, no. 18.


D.A. Cross, A striking likeness: the life of George Romney, Aldershot 2000, p. 33, reproduced p. 34, fig. 7;

A. Kidson, George Romney 1734–1802, exhibition catalogue, London 2002, cat. no. 18, pp. 64–65, reproduced in colour p. 65;

A. Kidson, George Romney. A complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London 2015, vol. II, pp. 645–46, cat. no. 1447, reproduced in colour p. 645.


The canvas has a fairly recent lining which has been sympathetically applied and which is stable. The paint surface has been quite recently cleaned and restored and no further attention is required. The paint surface is well preserved overall with very little in the way of wear or pigment degradation. There is a horizontal seam running through the centre and there are some retouchings along this seam. In the extreme lower left there is an r-shaped damage that extends to approx. 30cm in height along the vertical margin. In sky directly beneath seam there is a C-shaped restored tear approx. 20cm in height, a much smaller restored horizontal tear on the sitter's left calf and another small restoration on the dog. The figure himself is impeccably persevered with just some tiny spot retouchings on his face to left of his right eye and on his yellow britches. Some patches of the old varnish fluoresce under ultra-violet light. For a canvas of this size the painting is in a good state of preservation. Sold in a gilt frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This handsome portrait is considered to be Romney's very first full-length, and one of the finest works of his early career. Though unrecorded in scholarship on the artist until its re-appearance in the early 1960s, the painting is documented in Romney's list of north-western sitters in the notebook he used in the mid-1760s,1 and is recorded in a rapidly-sketched preparatory drawing (fig. 1).2 It is an ambitious work not only in its unprecedented scale, but in its encompassing of landscape, still-life and animal painting, the combination of which, in harmonious classical composition, would become fundamental to Romney's later portraits in the Grand Manner.

Romney travelled north to work in Lancaster in the second half of 1767. The reasons for this move appear to have been twofold: his portrait of Abraham Rawlinson, later MP for Lancaster, from that year is testament to the patronage Romney was receiving from the city's merchant class, and fulfilling such commissions would subsequently enable him to finance a larger studio on his return to London.3 The present portrait consequently assumes a highly significant place in the artist's career. Not only had Romney hitherto lacked space in his studios in Kendal and London to be able to paint a full-length portrait so as to compete with the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Francis Cotes, but Kidson also observes that his 'secretive temperament' may have resulted in a deliberate choice to execute such a work 'out of the London limelight', gaining more experience before returning to the capital to contend for sought-after metropolitan commissions.4

The canvas is made up of two standard half-length canvases (50 x 40 in.), joined horizontally along their longest sides. This may speak of a dirth of larger size canvases or stretchers in Lancaster, or may reflect Romney's lack of familiarity in painting on this scale. The portrait itself, however, by no means speaks of inexperience in its depiction of an assured young sportsman, his devoted dog by his side. Indeed, the pointer's attentiveness forms the base of the diagonal structure of the composition, so that all the young man's accoutrements are employed in the resulting focus on his face, likewise aided by the disposition of concentrated and diffuse areas of colour. It is notable that the dog is absent from the drawing, revealing Romney's reconsideration of the geometrical arrangement when working more to scale.

This portrait bears close stylistic comparison with the aforementioned likeness of Rawlinson, in the illumination of the sitters' features, the closely observed modelling of the drapery, and the variegated sky and landscape. It is an elegant and striking example of Romney's early intentions to elevate his career.

Little biographical information is known about Peter, thought to be the son of George Woodhouse, a merchant from Lancaster with property in Jamaica. Peter Woodhouse married Anne Crook in Lancaster on 26 July 1773, and is firmly placed in his home surroundings here with Warton Crag, a rocky outcrop outside Lancaster, visible in the distance beyond. Thomas Newby Wilson, the first recorded owner of the painting, was also from a Lancaster family. His forebears, of Dallam Tower and Abbot Hall, Westmorland, were painted by Romney in 1767.

1. MS L.1957.1455, National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

2. Inv. no. 1914,0117.9, British Museum, London.

3. See Kidson 2015, vol. II, p. 483, cat. no. 1078, reproduced in colour.

4. See Kidson 2002, p. 65.

5. See Kidson 2015, pp. 639–41, cat. nos 1428, 1429, 1431 and 1432, reproduced in colour.