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Lawrence was largely self-taught. He painted this portrait, his first full-length, at the age of nineteen. It put him on the map when the sitter introduced him to her friend, Queen Charlotte, who then commissioned her own portrait. Lawrence turned this into a virtuoso performance. He became the leading British portrait painter, and President of the Royal Academy. His fluent, expressive style and powerful characterisation were admired throughout Europe.The 1st Viscountess Cremorne was a granddaughter of William Penn, founder of Philadelphia. The wild background landscape must refer to Ireland, her husband’s home, if not to the American wilderness.

May 2007