Godfrey Kneller

England 1646-1723
Portrait of Sir William Hume 59.0992

It is believed that this sitter, William Hume of Humewood, belonged to the Irish branch of the Hume family that held peerages in Scotland, England, and Ireland. Sir William was granted Irish estates in the county of Wicklow in 1704 from his father Thomas Hume, who had been persuaded in 1668 to come over from Scotland and inherit the family estates from a childless uncle. Sir William's date of birth is unknown; however, he died in 1752. This portrait was likely painted in the year William reached the age of majority and may coincide with the date that estates were settled on him in 1704. In 1691, the German-born artist Godfrey Kneller, who had studied with one of Rembrandt's pupils in Amsterdam, was appointed by their Majesties William and Mary to the office of "Principal Painter." Upon his appointment, Kneller was knighted, and with the accession of King George I in 1715, he was created a baronet, elevating him to a position unequalled by an official court painter until the 19th century. Kneller was the dominant artistic presence of his age in England. His relentless objectivity in depicting the fashionable courts of three sovereigns reveals his sharp eye for character. He was one of the first artists to concentrate on the portrait as a document concerned with the likeness of a personality. Best known for his Hampton Court Beauties and his Kit Cat series - forty-two portraits of the members of the social-political organization, the Kit Cat Club (Christopher Cat Club) - Kneller set the tone for British portraiture that was to prevail well into the 18th century. To this day, a canvas of the dimensions (36 x 28") Kneller used for the Kit Cat series is called the Kit Cat size.




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