Thomas Hudson

Mrs Sarah Ingram


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Not on display

Thomas Hudson 1701–1779
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1270 × 1016 mm
frame: 1420 × 1175 × 80 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs E.M.E. Commeline 1961

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A label on the back of this picture suggests that it depicts Mrs Sarah Ingram of Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire. She wears a fashionable silk dress, reflecting her wealth and social status. Thomas Hudson was a successful portrait painter. A number of aspiring artists who would later be highly successful trained under him, including Joshua Reynolds and Joseph Wright of Derby. In a portrait such as this, it is likely Hudson painted little other than the face of the sitter. He would employ artists in his studio to paint other aspects of the portrait, including a specialist drapery painter for the dress.

Gallery label, November 2021

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Catalogue entry

T00401 Mrs Sarah Ingram c. 1750–5

Oil on canvas 1270×1015 (50×40)
Bequeathed by Mrs E.M.E. Commeline to the National Gallery 1960; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1971

PROVENANCE By family descent to the testator
LITERATURE Miles & Simon 1979, nos.29–31

A label on the back of the frame, presumably written by Colonel Charles Ernest Commeline, whose second wife was the testator, reads: ‘Mrs. Sarah Ingram of Bourton-on-the-Water, died abt. 1770, 5th Grandmother. C.E. Commeline’. At the time the portrait entered the collection, a cousin of Colonel Commeline, Mr D.A.F. Shute (correspondence in Gallery files), informed the compilers that the portrait had been brought into the family by Colonel Commeline's father's first wife Emily Charlotte Morrison, and that her grandmother was believed to have been an Ingram. ‘Bourton-on-the-Water’ is probably a mistake for ‘Bourton-on-the-Hill’, as there are no records of any Morrisons or Ingrams at the former, while the latter is near Longborough, Glos., the Commeline home, where A.C.H. Morrison, the father of Emily Charlotte, was vicar from 1846 to 1865.

The portrait is a good example of Hudson's work at the height of his popularity, when his by now somewhat old-fashioned style was about to be overtaken by the more modern and inventive approach of his former pupil Reynolds. Probably little but the face is by Hudson himself, as the glossy silks bear the stamp of a highly professional drapery painter, the best of whom at this period was Alexander Van Aken (1701–57). Typically, Hudson uses a pose of longstanding currency: it is a variant, in reverse, of one recorded as early as c. 1747 in the portrait of ‘Mrs Champernoune’ (Miles & Simon 1979, nos.29–31, repr.). Two drawings of that composition were made by the then chief drapery painter to Hudson, Joseph Van Aken (c. 1699–1749), presumably to serve as a model for later repetitions within the studio, with only minor alterations to allow for changes in fashion. A later close repetition of Mrs Ingram's pose, with only such minor variations as lie within the scope of a drapery painter, can be found in the portrait of ‘Mrs Anne Istead’, signed and dated 1756, now in the Vermont University collection, USA (repr. Waterhouse 1981, p.185).

The portrait was previously attributed to Highmore.

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

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