19/06/2018 PRESS RELEASE: From Romney to Ronaldo

19 June 2018

From Romney to Ronaldo

George Romney redisplay and revelations at Abbot Hall

One of the world’s greatest portrait painters is honoured in his home town with a new exhibition and fresh appraisal of his work.

George Romney (1734-1802), of Kendal, Cumbria, became one of the most celebrated and fashionable portraitists of his age.

Now 15 of his works have gone on show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, alongside contemporary portraiture of all forms.

This includes Philip Eglin’s La Nuova Religione ceramic ‘bucket’ featuring footballer Cristiano Ronaldo who is currently starring at the Russia World Cup.

This is the first significant re-hang of Romney works at Abbot Hall in more than two decades. The Romney display also features three sketchbooks by the artist - thought to be on show for the very first time.

Romney was a young cabinet maker who created portraits of local Cumbrian gentry. He then adventured to the bright lights of London to fulfil his ambition to become a professional artist. Life in the city was good. And through his paintings of affluent socialites, Romney’s reputation rocketed.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery has re-displayed Romney works along with a revealing narrative on the inspiration behind some of the portraits.

The move follows a-month-long research posting to Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, USA by Lakeland Arts’ Kerri Offord. Head of Curatorial Kerri studied Romney’s work, motivations, techniques and even his accounting books to get a better understanding of his life. She found:

  • Romney was a frustrated portrait painter. Sketchbooks reveal his ultimate desire to create historical paintings with narratives of Shakespearian and classical subjects. A desire that was never fully achieved.
  • Workaholic Romney was churning out one portrait a day during the height of his success (1790s).
  • Romney made his fortune from portraits and liked to spend it on shoes and fine wine.
  • Romney looked after his family in Cumbria but his financial support was often irregular and erratic.

Kerri said: “We are thrilled to show off some of Romney’s finest works at Abbot Hall. His sketchbooks go on display for the first time in two decades. They give an intimate insight into his work and an unfulfilled direction for his painting.

“This re-display of his work has enabled us to take a fresh look at Romney and look at the motivations and stories behind some of his paintings.

“Portraits by Romney are also set alongside modern and contemporary portraiture by the likes of LS Lowry, Victor Pasmore and Philip Eglin’s La Nuova Religione which features icons of today including Cristiano Ronaldo.”


Notes to Editors:

Images to download: Romney redisplay and Philip Eglin’s La Nuova Religione

Contact: For further information contact Kate Clegg kclegg@lakelandarts.org.uk or Dickie Felton dfelton@lakelandarts.org.uk.

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