There are two wonderful sidebars to this painting. First, the girls shown here, Emily (1818-1906) and Laura Anne (1820-1894) Calmady, who were aged five and three, respectively, at the time Lawrence painted this charming portrait, both grew up painting and sketching (as their parents did). You might say that art was in their blood, although it could be one of those circular "nature vs. nurture" arguments.
The second behind-the-scenes story here is that Thomas Lawrence *loved* this piece. It is rare that an artist is satisfied with anything he or she does, let alone "loves" it, but Lawrence was quite taken with these young sisters. He even lowered his normal commission in order to convince Mrs. Calmady (who was also named Emily) that the family could afford to have this portrait made. After the fact, Lawrence was quoted, "This is my best picture. I have no hesitation in saying so--my best picture of the kind, quite--one of the few I should wish here-after to be known by."
About the Show:
The Changing Face of Childhood: British Children's Portraits and their Influence in Europe traces the evolution of European children's portraiture from the early 17th century, through the Age of Enlightenment and to the mid-19th century, as seen by artists from Sir Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, active in England, 1599-1641) to Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873).
This focus exhibition is dedicated to paintings of children in landscape, unaccompanied by adults, and affords us a chronology of artists' changing styles--styles that changed roughly in sync with patron-parents' shifting awareness of their children's autonomy and the modern concept of childhood.
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main: April 20-July 15, 2007
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London: August 1-November 4, 2007