In the eighteen century the most fashionable portrait painter was George Romney. He was on the level with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. While exploring the Lake District I drove out to Dalton-In-Furness to find his grave. Itís immediately behind the church; you canít miss it as itís set away from all the others. George is Dalton-In-Furnessís bit of fame; in his era anyone of fame or noteworthiness was captured by his brushstrokes.
He was born in this area, the third son of eleven children and then raised in a cottage. He was apprenticed to cabinet-making under his dad. He started drawing and painting when he was fifteen when a local watchmaker taught him how to draw. He was a gifted sketcher and aged 21 left for Kendal on a four-year art course. Aged 22 he married Mary Abbot and they had a son and a daughter but aged 28 he left them to seek his fortune in London. Success flooded in though for some reason he never joined the Royal Academy of Arts, losing valuable patronage from the royals. He didnít care: he said talent overarched everything else. Though he was talented and painted famous people of the time he remained poor.
Despite being in debt he travelled and lived in Paris and Italy to study the old masters. Returning to London the Duke of Richmond improved his fortunes by offering commissions. He painted lots of the dukeís friends and acquaintances. He was especially adroit at painting women and now there are over a thousand canvasses in public and private collections across the world.
There was no romantic interest and he sometimes travelled back to the Lake District to see his wife Mary. He became obsessed with a lady called Emma Hart and painted her about sixty times (she would become Lady Hamilton and then Nelsonís mistress.) Aged 65 his health suddenly worsened and he knew the end wasnít far away. Oddly he returned to his wife Mary in the Lake District after nearly four decades of living apart. For two years she nursed him to his death.
He left the world with 2000 paintings and 5000 drawings. Iíve seen some in art galleries but theyíre too dreamy for my liking.
Iíve never see headstones arranged so orderly beforeÖ