Anonymous sale ('From a Private Collection'), New York, Christie's, 15 January 1988, lot 46;
There acquired by the present owner.
The leading Irish landscape painter of the eighteenth century and an artist of exceptional talent, Thomas Roberts was born in Waterford. The eldest son of the architect John Roberts, his maternal grandfather was a French army Major who had served under William III in Ireland. Roberts entered the Dublin schools in 1763, where he was taught by James Mannin, before being apprenticed to the landscape painter George Mullins. Mullins also ran a pub in Dublin and it is reported by Pasquin that Roberts earned his keep painting over the black eyes and scars of those proprietors of his master tap-room who had been brawling the evening before. An artist of great talent, he was also a pupil of John Butts, and tempered the style of Vernet with Dutch elements.
A victim of tuberculosis for most of his adult life, between 1766 and 1773 Roberts exhibited fifty-six works at the Society of Artist, gaining a reputation almost immediately as the most brilliant landscape painter of his era in Ireland. His career was tragically cut short, however, when, in 1778, he travelled to Lisbon in an effort to assuage his condition and died there the same year at the age of just twenty-eight.
During his short-lived but prolific career Roberts was patronised by many of the leading figures of the Irish establishment, including the Duke of Leinster, the Earl of Ross, Viscount Cremorne and the Veseys of Lucan. Possibly his most influential patron, however, was Simon, 1st Earl Harcourt, who served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1772 and 1777. A leading aesthete, Harcourt had founded the Society of Dilettanti with Sir Francis Dashwood in 1734, and was the first major patron of Paul Sandby, the leading English landscape painter of the same generation. The Earl commissioned at least two landscapes from Roberts, which are among the artists most exceptional works, and it is believed that it may well have been through Harcourt that he was introduced to English patronage.
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