John Smart (1742-1811)
In this portrait, we see the artist on the verge of discovering the exactness of line and assertive palette that would become his hallmark technique in a career spanning over fifty years...
This portrait miniature joins a small group of extant works by the artist John Smart from the mid-1760s. In this portrait, we see the artist on the verge of discovering the exactness of line and assertive palette that would become his hallmark technique in a career spanning over fifty years. Still painted with a little hesitation, this portrait bridges the artist’s earliest known portraits dating to 1760 and his fully-fledged style which came into being during 1767.
Smart appears to have set up as an independent artist around 1762, when he rented a studio on Dean Street in London’s Soho and possibly severed his apprenticeship with an established miniature painter, most likely Gervase Spencer (c.1715-1763). By this date, he was exhibiting at the newly established Society of Artists and rapidly gaining clientele despite not being aligned to more established exhibiting spaces.
Smart continued to achieve fame and admiration for his miniatures, moving to India in 1785 to secure new, wealthy clients. He returned to London in 1795 and quickly re-established himself as one of the most talented miniaturists in the country, exhibiting many works at the Royal Academy. He died after a short illness at his home in Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, London on the 1st May 1811.
 In her book ‘John Smart; the Man and his Miniatures’, Daphne Foskett lists only half a dozen works by Smart from his date, including the copy after Francis Cotes in the Victoria and Albert Museum of the Hon. Eliza Booth [P.13-1984].
 Smart’s portrait of an unknown man in a lilac-lined pink coat shows the successful technique which endured throughout his career, with minor adaptations (see Ed. B. Pappe/ J. Schmieglitz-Otten, Portrait Miniatures; Artists, Functions and Collections, Petersberg, 2018, p.225, plate 2).