OIL PAINTING: Queen Charlotte, 1789
Lawrence, a draughtsman of extreme precision, worked very hard at the 'appearance of facility'. His dazzling brushwork, inspired by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Titian, enabled him to enjoy painting draperies, unlike his ageing 'rival' Reynolds, who often left them to assistants. But there is more to admire here beside the rustling shimmer of the queen's silks, gauzes and laces. Queen Charlotte had been shocked and saddened by the onset of George III's illness shortly before the portrait was painted. X-rays show that Lawrence modified the careworn expression which he had first observed. Yet even in the final portrait, so formal in conception, so grand in execution, something of the queen's malaise remains touchingly evident.
The landscape background shows a view of Eton College as seen from Windsor Castle. The trees are turning red - as they might well have been in late September when the queen posed for Lawrence, but also so that the colour contrasts of carpet and dress may be echoed in the russet foliage against a blue sky. Although she cannot see the view behind her, the direction of the queen's glance draws our own eyes to these vivid yet melancholy harbingers of winter.