Portrait of Hugh Montgomerie, Later Twelfth Earl of Eglinton

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Portrait of Hugh Montgomerie, Later Twelfth Earl of Eglinton

United States, 1780
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 94 1/2 × 59 3/4 in. (240.03 × 151.77 cm) Frame: 106 1/2 × 69 1/2 × 6 in. (176.53 × 15.24 cm)
Gift of Andrew Norman Foundation and Museum Acquisition Fund (M.68.74)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Hugh Montgomerie was born in 1739, the son of Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield, Ayrshire, Scotland....
Hugh Montgomerie was born in 1739, the son of Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield, Ayrshire, Scotland. He entered the army in 1756 and was a lieutenant when the Seventy-seventh Regiment, or Montgomerie’s Highlanders, was raised and commissioned by his kinsman Archibald Montgomerie (later eleventh earl of Eglinton). The regiment saw action in the French and Indian War at Fort Duquesne, Ticonderoga, and other places and in 1760 and 1761 against the Cherokees, defeating them in battles at Etchocy and War-Women’s Creek. Hugh Montgomerie had risen to the rank of major by 1780, when Copley painted his portrait, and had been elected member of Parliament for Ayrshire. He succeeded to the title of twelfth earl of Eglinton in 1796. In 1780 Montgomerie’s bright political career yet lay before him. He was still active in the army, rising to the rank of colonel in 1793, so it would have been natural for him to have himself portrayed as a soldier. The decision to paint him leading a battle fought twenty years earlier probably was the artist’s. The portrait belongs to the tradition of grand-manner portraiture, as promulgated by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), president of the Royal Academy. The concept was to raise the artistic value of a portrait by ennobling mere representation with elements of higher art. Copley’s portrait meets these objectives by incorporating elements of history painting, considered to be the highest genre. It has a color and drama not to be found in simple portraiture, depicting the subject as a man of energy and importance. Another elevating feature, which serves to further flatter the subject, results from Copley’s decision to follow Reynolds’s example by posing Montgomerie in the striding stance of the Apollo Belvedere (Vatican Museum, Rome), then considered the greatest ancient sculpture. Comparison with the museum’s Portrait of a Lady shows how quickly after his arrival in England Copley had mastered the heightened palette and bravura technique of the best of the English school.
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About The Era

Although the thirteen colonies that would constitute the United States of America were founded by several different nations, by 1763 (the end of the French and Indian Wars), the British controlled mos...
Although the thirteen colonies that would constitute the United States of America were founded by several different nations, by 1763 (the end of the French and Indian Wars), the British controlled most of North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. In many respects the American colonies functioned like an English province. Culturally they were largely British; from interior design and dress to painted portraits, wealthy colonists emulated the London fashions of the period. However, there was often a time lag, as examples of the finest British furniture, household goods, and decorative items such as paintings had to be transported across the ocean.

At first the only trained artists and artisans in the colonies were emigrants from London who thought fame would be easier to achieve in the less competitive atmosphere of Boston or Philadelphia. By the end of the eighteenth century, this traffic had reversed somewhat, as American artists went to London for their training. Portraits were the most popular genre, since British citizens everywhere wanted visual records of their families and heroes. Historical and literary subjects, such as those by Benjamin West, were usually only painted in London; their appreciation required a more educated audience than was the case with many colonists. The pervasive influence of Britain would continue to affect the development of culture in the United States long after the Revolutionary War had severed the Crown’s political authority.
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Label

Exhibition Label, 1997 ...
Exhibition Label, 1997 This portrait of a Scottish officer who fought in the French and Indian Wars brilliantly evokes the internationalism of 18th-century British life and culture. Copley was already the foremost portraitist in the American colonies before he moved to England in 1775. He abandoned the New World for political reasons; however, the move enabled him to paint more elevated themes than the American portrait trade had afforded him. In London he demonstrated his virtuosity by abandoning his tight, linear brushwork for the greater bravura and flair of fashionable London portrait painters such as Sir Thomas Lawrence. Copley’s depiction of Hugh Montgomerie also demonstrates the artist’s success in the new field of contemporary history painting. Montgomerie served in the 77th Regiment of Highlanders, who fought at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and Fort Duquesne in present-day Pittsburgh. Copley presented Montgomerie on the heroic scale of grand-manner portraits and posed him after one of the most famous statues of antiquity, the Apollo Belvedere. The palette of deep greens, reds, and blacks and the threatening clouds enhance the drama of the gruesome scene in the lower left.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era. LACMA collections online. Retrieved on 12/30/2009 from http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/aa/abouttheera/early_american_paintings_abouttheera.asp
  • Donahue, Kenneth.  X, a Decade of Collecting:  1965-1975.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975.
  • About the Era. LACMA collections online. Retrieved on 12/30/2009 from http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/aa/abouttheera/early_american_paintings_abouttheera.asp
  • Donahue, Kenneth.  X, a Decade of Collecting:  1965-1975.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975.
  • Donahue, Kenneth. Los Angeles County Museum of Art Handbook. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750-1950: Pintura Estadounidense Del Museo De Arte Del Condado De Los Angeles. Mexico, D.F.: Museo Nacional de Arte, 2006.
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