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Thomas Hudson









Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), portrait-painter, a native of Devonshire, perhaps of Bideford, was born in 1701. He was a pupil of Jonathan Richardson the elder and there is an interesting portrait of Hudson, drawn by Richardson while Hudson was studying with him, in the print room at the British Museum.


Adopting the profession of a portrait-painter, he attained so much success that he succeeded Jervas and Richardson as the most fashionable portrait-painter of the day. He painted innumerable portraits of the gentry and celebrities of his time.


As a portrait-painter Hudson fully deserved his eminence, though the uninteresting character of costume and pose then in vogue has prevented full justice being done to his work. He showed firmness and solidity in his drawing, was pleasing in his colour, and true and faithful in his likenesses, but he was without the necessary touch of genius to secure permanent fame.


His portraits have often been noted for the excellence shown in the painting of white satin and other portions of the drapery, though this is perhaps due to the skill of Joseph Van Haecken who with his brother was largely employed by Hudson, Ramsay, and others to add the draperies in their portraits.


In 1740 Hudson, who was a frequent visitor at Bideford, came across the youthful Joshua Reynolds. The latter was shortly afterwards apprenticed by his parents to Hudson, whose studio he entered as assistant and pupil. Hudson's tuition could hardly have failed to be of lasting benefit to Reynolds, but the superior genius of the latter soon showed itself. After two years he left or was dismissed by Hudson through some slight disagreement.


With the rise of Reynolds to fame and prosperity Hudson's supremacy came to an end, and he eventually retired contentedly, remaining on good terms with Reynolds for the remainder of his life. Hudson lived for many years in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields; in later life he built for himself a villa at Twickenham, near Pope's Villa, and made a second marriage with Mrs. Fiennes, a widow with a good fortune.


In 1748 Hudson accompanied Hogarth, Hayman, and others, on a tour on the continent. Hudson and some of the party visited the great artists and famous collections in Flanders and Holland. Hudson's best work is the family group of Charles, duke of Marlborough, at Blenheim Palace, 'executed in a most refined manner, highly finished, and in a very delicate silvery tone'.


In the National Portrait Gallery there are portraits by him of Handel, Sir John Willes, George II, and Matthew Prior (the latter a copy after Richardson). Other portraits by Hudson of Handel are in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and in the collection of Earl Howe at Gopsall, Leicestershire. A good portrait by Hudson of Samuel Scott the marine painter is in the National Gallery. Another well-known picture by Hudson is the so called 'Benn's Club of Aldermen' in Goldsmiths' Hall.


Hudson exhibited with the Society of Artists in 1761, and on the division of societies joined the Incorporated Society of Artists.


Hudson died at Twickenham on the 26th of January 1779, and his collections were dispersed by auction in March following.


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