John Smart – A Genius Magnified, Philip Mould & Company, 29 Dover Street, London W1, 25th November – 9th December 2014
This exhibition provides a great opportunity to buy a portrait by an artist considered to be the greatest miniature painter of his era.
Thanks to diligent research by the gallery’s Emma Rutherford and researcher Lawrence Hendra we now know more about the life of John Smart (1741-1811). Although thought to have come from Norfolk they have discovered that he was a Londoner, from Soho.
His sitters were mainly drawn from the wealthy merchant classes and this in 1785 led to him to India where he remained for the next ten years. Sitters from this time can be easily identified by the fact that he added the letter I to his signature and also the faces of the Caucasian sitters portrayed show signs of sunburn or are flushed from the heat. He also did some sketches of Indian subjects while he was in Madras.
He returned to London in December 1795 and moved into 20 Grafton Street (just a stone’s throw from the gallery) where he again flourished. Patrons paid 25 guineas for a miniature which is a similar amount to that paid to rent a London town house for a year.
The collection comprises of forty-five works and has been accrued over a period of nearly three decades by a European collector who loves the skill and precision of Smart’s painting. It is the first time that the collection has been publicly exhibited.
A rare opportunity to admire and to acquire a work by this man of whom Philip Mould says “Smart’s peers were Gainsborough and Reynolds and although his works are diminutive in size, in his own medium he was their artistic equal. This is the chance we have been waiting for to give this often eclipsed virtuoso the stage he magnificently deserves. This body of work spans his career, two continents, and incorporates the full range of Smart’s artistry. As a feat of collecting from the late 1980s through to the mid 2000s it is remarkable. The opportunity to do the same with Smart’s equals on the scale of life such as Gainsborough, Lawrence or Reynolds passed long ago.”