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George Romney

British, 1734-1802

George Romney was born in Nr. Dalton-in-Furness, Lancs., December 26, 1734 and died in Kendal, Cumbria, November 15, 1802.

Romney came to his profession rather late, having worked for his father, a cabinet-maker and joiner, until the age of twenty-one. Thereafter, he assisted the itinerant portraitist Christopher Steele, but, despairing of the provincial market for portraiture, he left his wife and child in 1762 and journeyed to London. In the spring of 1763 Romney won a premium for a history painting shown at the Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Sciences, and the following year he won first prize for a religious subject. That summer he spent six weeks in Paris and in 1773 he embarked on a two-year tour of Italy. Returning to London at the age of forty-one, Romney set himself up as a fashionable portraitist in competition with Joshua Reynolds, whose prices he undercut. Like Reynolds, Romney aspired to the grand manner, and experimented with dramatic scenes from literature and theater. Naturally suspicious and circumspect (so much so that he kept his marriage secret), Romney refused to exhibit publicly or to seek acceptance at the Royal Academy. He was nevertheless highly popular and commanded an enormous market.