Lucy Worsley TV - The Complete Works online - Biography online -
In 2011 I visited the first exhibition of [Thomas] Lawrence’s work in thirty years at the National Portrait Gallery. He’s long been a neglected artist, but in his own he was the world’s top portrait painter. Lawrence produced the visual record of the vanishing world of Regency society. Dr Lucy Worsley, Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency 1/3, BBC 2011
He was born in Bristol. His father was an innkeeper, first at Bristol and afterwards at Devizes, and at the age of six Lawrence was already being shown off to the guests of the Bear as an infant prodigy who could sketch their likenesses and declaim speeches from Milton. In 1779 the elder Lawrence had to leave Devizes, having failed in business and Thomas’s precocious talent began to be the main source of the family’s income; he had gained a reputation along the Bath road. His debut as a crayon portrait painter was made at Oxford, where he was well patronized, and in 1782 the family settled in Bath, where the young artist soon found himself fully employed in taking crayon likenesses of fashionable people at a guinea or a guinea and a half a head. In 1784 he gained the prize and silver-gilt palette of the Society of Arts for a crayon drawing after Raphael’s Transfiguration, and presently beginning to paint in oil. The Complete Works online
At the age of 17 Lawrence began to paint in oil, all his previous work having been in pastel. In 1787 the family moved to London, and by 1789 he was challenging Reynolds. When Reynolds died in 1792, Lawrence was appointed to the lucrative post of painter in ordinary to the king. He soon became the foremost portrait painter in England, a position he maintained until his death. His portraits of women are models of beauty and elegance, whether the sitter be a tragic actress like Mrs Siddons, a social figure like the Princess de Lieven, or a personal friend.
At the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Lawrence was knighted and commissioned to paint the leading sovereigns and statesmen of Europe. When he returned to England in 1820, he was elected president of the Royal Academy; he handled the affairs of his office with tact and urbanity. He died on January 7 1830. Biography online