This striking painting by one of the 18th century’s leading portraitists, Allan Ramsay, is a new face greeting visitors to the Barber this autumn.
Ramsay’s portrait of Rosamund Sargent, painted in 1749, is on loan from Bath’s Holburne Museum, and is exchange partner for the Barber’s iconic The Blue Bower by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The Ramsay portrait is the latest in a series of high-profile swaps in recent years, with major paintings by Monet, Picasso, Paul Klee and Francis Bacon among iconic works lent by collections in the UK and abroad to the gallery. They have come as swaps for paintings from the Barber’s own stellar collection, requested as loans for exhibitions at galleries as far afield as Paris, Chicago and Yokohama. The Blue Bower is set to star in the Holburne exhibition, Rossetti’s Portraits (24 September – 9 January).
Ramsay was born in Edinburgh, the son of a poet and writer. After studying in Italy, he settled in London, where his polished, yet intimate, style of portraiture was very popular. In 1749 Ramsay made a pair of portraits to celebrate the marriage of his friends John Sargent and Rosamund Chambers. This portrait of Rosamund – wearing a beautifully painted, sumptuous red silk dress, gauzy cape and delicate white lace bonnet – is unusual for the bold directness of the sitter’s gaze and the strong lighting from the left.
At the Barber, the picture is being displayed in the Beige Gallery, next to Maria Marow Gideon and her Brother William, 1786/7, the Barber’s magnificent late double portrait by Ramsay’s contemporary, Sir Joshua Reynolds, co-founder and first President of the Royal Academy.
Horace Walpole, 18th-century novelist, writer, art historian and man of letters, is often quoted as having said, in 1759: “Mr Reynolds seldom succeeds in women; Mr Ramsay is formed to paint them”. Visitors to the Barber will be invited to make their own minds up!
Rosamund Chambers is on display from 7 September until 9 January. More star loans are to arrive at the Barber Institute in November – watch this space…