Captain Alexander Hood, 1726-1814

A three-quarter-length portrait to right, in captain's undress uniform (over three years) 1748–67, and wearing his own hair. Rocks are positioned in the foreground, and he leans with his left forearm against a rock while his right hand is on his sword. Foliage trails down from the rock above the sitter's head. The sea is shown in the background with an action from 1761, depicting Hood recapturing the British ship, 'Warwick', from the French in the Mediterranean. Reynolds may have employed the marine painter, Richard Wright, to paint the naval action in the background of the portrait. The setting contributes to the artist's intention to show the sitter retaining his elevated status and aristocratic bearing even in the midst of war. This depiction of Hood states the authority and confidence of the sitter, combining classical repose with contemporary naval dress. Created 1st Viscount Bridport in 1800, the sitter was the younger brother of Samuel, 1st Viscount Hood, and commanded the frigate Minerva, 32 guns, at Quiberon Bay in 1759. In 1778 he commanded the 'Robust', 74 guns, in Palliser's division of the fleet at Ushant and took his side in the subsequent courts martial known as 'the Keppel affair'. Hood commanded a division of Howe's fleet at the relief of Gibraltar in 1782 and was his third-in-command at the Battle of the First of June, 1794. In 1795, while commanding the Channel fleet, he fought a partial action with the French fleet off the Ile de Groix. This is the second portrait that Hood commissioned from Reynolds, following an earlier portrait painted by the artist in 1758–61 (private collection). Reynolds trained as a portrait painter under Thomas Hudson in the early 1740s and, after working for a time 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. In 1825 the sitter's widow, Viscountess Bridport, presented this portrait to Greenwich Hospital, of which Bridport had also been Treasurer. It is signed and dated 'J Reynolds Pinxt 1764'. (Updated April 2019.)

Object Details

ID: BHC2573
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Reynolds, Joshua
Date made: 1763
People: Hood, Alexander
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1543 x 1285 x 135 mm;Overall: 47.4 kg;Painting: 1270 x 1016 mm

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