Margaret Sarah Carpenter (circle) (1793-1872)

Margaret Carpenter (1793-1872) was born in Salisbury. As a child, Margaret was in demand for drawing portraits from families in the surrounding areas. Apart from some limited instructions, she developed her art on her own. She was self-taught and was admired for her outstanding skill. She was considered to be the most accomplished woman portrait painter of her time and was a member of an artistic dynasty: her father was the painter A.R. Geddes, and her children Jane Henrietta and William followed in her career.

Her earliest training lay in making copies from the collection of Lord Radnor at Longford Castle. In 1814 she moved to London and very swiftly established herself as a highly fashionable portrait painter, supplying 236 works for public exhibition at the Royal Academy, the British Institute and the Society of British Artists between 1814 and 1866. As this portrait demonstrates, her fluid and accomplished manner was most clearly influenced by the work of Sir Thomas Lawrence and she finished his portrait of Mrs Brandling. Our portrait is entirely characteristic of her charming portrayals of young children absorbed in their own pleasures. Her leading points were firmness of touch and brilliancy of colouring, be it in water or in oil colours. She sent pictures to the Society of Arts for three years continuously. She was acknowledged for her talent and industry. She was awarded gold a medal for “Study of Boy’s Head”.

Margaret’s determination and ambitious nature along with her talent helped her acquire a high and admirable position throughout her life. She was married to William Hookham Carpenter in 1817. He was the keeper of prints and drawings in the British Museum. In spite of marriage and several children, her professional output rarely flagged. As a woman, she could not call upon nobility and gentry, but despite that, her account list showed more than 600 clients from all walks of life. Carpenter had to support her poverty-stricken parents and her own family. This meant money was a crucial factor for her.

After the death of her husband in 1866, she received £100 as pension from Queen Victoria. This was due to her husband’s service as well as recognition for her artistic merits. She died on 13th November 1872 in London. She was in her 80s.
 
SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE (1769-1830)
Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA FRS was a leading English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy. Lawrence was a child prodigy. He was born in Bristol and began drawing in Devizes, where his father was an innkeeper. At the age of ten, having moved to Bath, he was supporting his family with his pastel portraits. At eighteen he went to London and soon established his reputation as a portrait painter in oils, receiving his first royal commission, a portrait of Queen Charlotte, in 1790. He stayed at the top of his profession until his death, aged 60, in 1830.