Admiral Sir Francis Geary, 1709/10-1796

A full-length portrait to right wearing flag officer's full-dress uniform, 1767-83, a tie wig and holding his hat and cane in his right hand. There is a pentimento which indicates the hat was originally on his head. A rear-admiral under Hawke in 1759, Geary had the misfortune to miss the Quiberon Bay action that November. In May 1780 he succeeded to the command of the Channel fleet on the death of Sir Charles Hardy, during a critical period of threatened French invasion, but was forced to give up the command for health reasons the following August. In this painting he stands on the battery at Portsmouth, with the fleet anchored in the left background including the 'Victory', 100 guns, as his flagship. Both the background and the ships are believed to be by Dominic Serres. There is a modern inscription in the left foreground.

The artist was an important portrait painter of the late-18th century, generally ranked third after Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. He was in Paris in 1764 and in 1773 moved to Italy for two years, where he became interested in history paintings in the elevated and élitist 'Grand Manner'. This developed into improving upon nature and the pursuit of perfect form. At its best his work demonstrated refinement, sensitivity and elegance, although it could also be repetitive and monotonous. As a society painter he typified late-18th-century English artists who, compelled by the conditions of patronage to spend their time in producing portraits, could only aspire to imaginative and ideal painting. By 1780 Romney's portraits, according to Horace Walpole, were 'in great vogue' and he worked in an increasingly neo-classical style.

Object Details

ID: BHC2707
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Romney, George
Date made: 1782-1783; 1782-83
People: Geary, Francis
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Painting: 2415 mm x 1475 mm; Frame: 2655 mm x 1738 mm x 110 mm

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