This volume, the first catalogue ever published of the Metropolitan Museum's British paintings, contains 140 works by English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish artists as well as by a few others who were foreign-born but who worked primarily in England. Most of the paintings were acquired as gifts and bequests from prominent collections formed in the United States before World War II, including those of Jules Bache, Robert Lehman, Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Catharine Lorillard Wolfe. The preponderance are portraits, although there are also genre scenes, landscapes, and subjects drawn from the Bible and mythology. Ranging in date from 1572 to 1868, the portraits offer a particularly intriguing look at English society during the eighteenth century. All the world-renowned British portraitists—Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Sir Thomas Lawrence—are represented, along with such additional masters of the genre as Robert Peake the Elder, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Henry Raeburn, and John Hoppner. Among the many other notable paintings in the collection are an early conversation piece by William Hogarth, a study of a horse by George Stubbs, a whaling scene and a Venetian cityscape by J. M. W. Turner, two landscapes and a portrait by John Constable, and important works by the Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.
Brief biographies of the artists are followed by full-page color illustrations of the paintings, each of which is completely documented with provenance, major exhibitions, and significant published sources. The entry texts discuss the subject of the painting as well as the life of the sitter if a portrait; the extant records pertaining to its execution; relevant scholarly opinions (including issues of attribution); and its current physical condition. In addition, Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of Paintings Conservation at the Museum, has contributed comprehensive technical notes on his recent restoration of Reynolds's monumental portrait of Henry Fane and two companions. The catalogued works, almost all newly photographed for this publication, are supplemented by an unusually generous selection of comparative illustrations. These 220 images—pendants, other related paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and X-radiographs—have been carefully chosen to illuminate and augment the text. Particularly crucial to the study of English portraiture are the many reproductions of variants and replicas.
British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875 joins previous catalogues of the Metropolitan's collections as an essential scholarly resource documenting the rich holdings of the Museum.