Admiral the Honourable Samuel Barrington, 1729-1800

A half-length portrait to left, wearing flag officer's full-dress uniform 1767-83, with wide lapels faced with white and embroidered with gold braid. He wears a grey wig or powdered hair and there is a background of sky. The sitter was third son of John Shute Barrington, 1st Viscount Barrington. He sat for Reynolds twice and at least six other copies were made by the artist from this portrait, for the officers who served in Barrington's flagship, 'Prince of Wales', 74 guns, at the taking of St Lucia in 1778.

This portrait was painted for Samuel's oldest brother William Wildman, 2nd Viscount Barrington, and was presented to Greenwich Hospital in 1824 by their youngest brother, Shute Barrington, Bishop of Durham, together with three pairs of paintings of Samuel's naval actions by Dominic Serres. Two of these pairs commemorated single-ship actions (see BHC0370, BHC0390), the third his celebrated capture of the West Indian island of St Lucia from the French in 1778, during the War of American Independence (BHC0422 and ZBA2204). Barrington then acted as second-in-command at Byron's disastrous action with d'Estaing off Grenada in 1779. He refused command of the Channel fleet during the courts martial following the Battle of Ushant but served as second-in-command to Howe at the relief of Gibraltar in 1782. This portrait was returned to Reynolds within months as the blue sky turned green, owing to the painter's inadvertent use of a defective colour sold to him as genuine ultramarine, and it had to be repainted.

In 1740 Reynolds was apprenticed to the portrait painter Thomas Hudson (1701-90) and after early work in his native Devon travelled to Italy in 1749. In 1753 he set up in London and rapidly began to make a name as portrait painter, profoundly influenced by his time in Italy. He became the first President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was knighted in 1769. He was the most influential figure of the century in elevating British painting and portraiture. Reynolds borrowed poses from the old masters and by 1759 he had created social portraits in a new style that were deemed fresh and modern, and yet dignified the status of the sitter.

Object Details

ID: BHC2534
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Reynolds, Joshua
Date made: 1779
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Greenwich Hospital Collection
People: Barrington, Samuel
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Painting: 760 mm x 635 mm; Frame: 960 mm x 835 mm x 95 mm

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