Portrait of a Woman, watercolour, oval shaped composition, wearing a black shawl, by Frederic William Burton, 1849.


Portrait of a Woman, watercolour, oval shaped composition, wearing a black shawl, by Frederic William Burton, 1849. Oval-shaped composition, colour, of an unknown sitter wearing a black shawl, fine facial features, dark brown eyes, unflinching gaze, lace bonnet edged in white highlights, signed and dated FWB 1849.

Sir Frederic William Burton RHA (8 April 1816 in Wicklow – 16 March 1900 in London) was an Irish painter who was born in Co. Wicklow on 8 April 1816 and was taken by his parents to live in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland at the age of six. He was the third son of Samuel Frederick Burton and his wife Hanna Mallett.

The old Burton seat was Clifden House, Corofin, Co.Clare, which was built around the middle of the eighteenth century. The artist’s grandparents were Major Edward William Burton, Clifden, who was High Sheriff of Clare in 1799, and his wife, Jane Blood of nearby Roxton, Co. Clare. Sir Frederic was the third director of the National Gallery, London.

Portrait of a Woman dates to 1849, by which time Burton was an accomplished painter of portraits, landscapes and genre pictures. It is an oval-shaped composition of an unknown sitter wearing a black shawl.

Attention is focused on the woman’s fine features, in which dark brown eyes hold the viewer’s attention with a direct unflinching gaze.

A skilfully painted lace bonnet edged in white highlights provides a decorative element.

Burton uses minute overlapping brushstrokes to enhance the soft colour of the face and sensitive mouth, all of which combine to capture the sitter’s unselfish character. The work is signed and dated in monogram F.W.B 1849.

A note on paper lining the painting, ‘ 2 Salem Place’, refers to Burton’s address on Adelaide Road, that he used when submitting work the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Academy, London in 1849. The 1849 issue of the Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland has both Burton and his mother Hannah resident at this address that year. Could the unnamed subject of this portrait be his mother?

1849 was a busy year for the artist, who was a trustee of the RHA, a member of the Royal Irish Academy, Committee of Antiquities, and elected to the Council of the Royal Zoological Society. – Dr Marie Bourke

Collection: Sir Frederic William Burton

Category: Visual Representation

2019.0176 (5595)