William Hogarth

Portrait of George Osborne, later John Ranby Jnr


Not on display
William Hogarth 1697–1764
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 630 x 565 mm
frame: 800 x 738 x 65 mm
Presented by Mrs Gilbert Cousland 1996 to celebrate the Tate Gallery Centenary and the Hogarth Tercentenary 1997


George Osborne (1743-1820) was the natural son of John Ranby F.R.S. (1703-73), Principal Sargeant Surgeon to George II and to the Chelsea Hospital. Ranby was a friend and neighbour of the Hogarths at Chiswick. The identity of George's mother is unknown. He was brought up as Ranby's heir and changed his name to John Ranby by royal licence in 1756. He went to Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and was admitted to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1762. Ranby junior was the author of a number of pamphlets, including Doubts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1791) and Short Hints on a French Invasion (1794). He married Mary Goate. Ranby died at Bury St Edmunds.

This portrait is a pair to Hogarth's Hannah, Daughter of John Ranby, Tate Gallery no.T07122. Both have elaborate painted stone surrounds. In Hannah's portrait the surround overlies a more simple oval one, whereas in her brother's the surround was always as we see it today. This suggests that Hogarth reworked Hannah's portrait so that its surround matched the one in the boy's portrait, and therefore that Hannah's portrait was painted first.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Einberg, Manners & Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery 1987, pp.204-5, reproduced in colour p.205
Elizabeth Einberg, Hogarth the Painter, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery 1997, p.49, reproduced in colour

Leslie Parris
June 1997

Display caption

Hannah and George Osborne, aged here about nine and six respectively, were the natural children of Dr John Ranby, physician to the royal household and a friend and neighbour of Hogarth in Chiswick. George was brought up as Ranby’s heir and changed his name to John Ranby by royal license in 1756. Although he was childless, Hogarth had a deep sympathy for children, especially those disadvantaged by poverty or the circumstances of their birth. In 1740 he became a leading light in London’s Foundling Hospital, which cared for orphaned children: he and his wife also acted as foster parents.

Gallery label, May 2007

Technique and condition

Like the pendant portrait of Hannah, this is on plain-woven, linen canvas with a grey ground. The technique of oil painting, however, is different. While the x-radiograph suggests that some underpainting is present, it appears to be a sketchy lay-out of the figure and background rather than a full dead colouring and it was not left visible to play a part in the final painting. The face we see is painted wet-in-wet, more or less in one layer. Instead of recessive colours being used for receding areas of the face, we find a direct use of local, much brighter colour to describe the form. For instance the half-shadows around the eyes were made with bright blue, green or ochre mixed into a little basic flesh colour on the palette and then worked quickly into the wet face so that the effect of local colour is retained.

Selected further reading:
Rica Jones, 'The Artist's Training and Techniques', in Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, October to January 1987 - 1988, pp.19-28

Rica Jones
June 1997


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