Artist biography

MARCELLUS LAROON 1679–1772

Painter and draughtsman (chiefly in pen and ink) of conversation pieces, musical assemblies and stage scenes, fancy, low-life and near-caricature subjects; few of these are specifically identifiable people or scenes (though a few portraits are known), many are of a somewhat ambiguous nature and all of them are free from moralising pretensions. His rather thin oil-painting technique is distinctive, giving an effect which Waterhouse (1981, p.218) likens to ‘stained tapestry’.

Born Chiswick 2 April 1679, son of the Dutch-influenced portrait and genre painter Marcellus Lauron (sometimes called ‘Old Laroon’; born 1648/9 in the Hague, son of a French-born artist; came to England when young; for a time drapery assistant to Kneller; member of Painter-Stainers' Company 1674; died London 1701/2). Trained by his father, inheriting Dutch influences and later absorbing French influences, e.g. from Watteau engravings. Earliest dated work (drawings) 1707. Spent some time in Kneller's studio c. 1712. Had meanwhile travelled as a page from 1698 and seen some military service. Served in the Army 1704, 1707–12, 1715–18 and from 1723/4 until his retirement with the rank of Captain, apparently on full pay, in 1732. For the remainder of his long life, painted and drew ‘for diversitions’ (Vertue), his Army pay and bachelor status freeing him to work mainly for pleasure and to choose his own subjects. By nature gregarious and clubbable, consorting much with artists, actors and musicians. Most active in 1730s and 1740s, but continued to work until his death at the age of ninety-three, his latest work showing neither loss of gusto nor any marked deterioration in an habitually rather tremulous line. Had moved, probably in late 1750s or early 1760s, to Oxford, where he died 1 June 1772.

LITERATURE Robert Raines, Marcellus Laroon, 1966

EXHIBITIONS Marcellus Laroon, Festival Hall Gallery, Aldeburgh, and Tate Gallery 1967


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988