Caught Pouting

John Donaldson


Painted in the 1780s, this portrait shows a gentleman with a steady gaze, pouting rosebud lips and flushed cheeks wearing a powdered wig neatly tied at the back with ribbon.

The portrait is set within a foiled blue glass surround in a gold frame, the reverse with a glazed aperture filled with plaited brown hair. Apart from a couple of short scratches to the glass, the miniature is in fine condition.

Writing in The Connoisseur in 1907, Dr George Williamson described the artist John Donaldson as ‘surely one of the oddest painters that ever lived’. From humble beginnings (his father made gloves) Donaldson drifted from painting china into portraiture winning early recognition and important prizes from the Society of Arts. After only a few years, however, he developed a fascination for chemistry and wasted his money on failed experiments. He also published a volume of poetry that flopped. Indeed, ‘his eccentricities were most extraordinary’ and his politics most radical that he ‘made enemies in all directions’ and ‘gradually sank into deep poverty’.

And yet this well-painted portrait is testament to a talent that, if only he hadn’t mixed business with politics but had concentrated his efforts in this direction only, would surely have guaranteed him a steady clientele and given him an excellent living.
APHA Registered

Item Ref. 9065M

Size: framed, 77 x 65mm

Provenance: Christie's 1968; Bonhams 2002; Private UK Collection