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Allan Ramsay, 1713–1784

Head of a Young Woman

Materials & Techniques:
Black chalk and white chalk on medium, moderately textured, blue laid paper
Sheet: 12 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (31.8 x 26.7 cm)

Collector's mark: Thomas Esmond Lowinsky (Lugt 2420a)

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
hair | head | portrait | studies (visual works) | woman
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IIIF Manifest:

The Scottish painted and writer Allan Ramsey grew up in Edinburgh and attended the Academy of St. Luke, where his teaches included the engraver Richard Cooper (see cat. 5). After further studies in London and Rome Ramsay set up as a portrait painter in London in 1738; within a year he became "the most imployed in ye portrait way of any" and was particularly favored by the Scottish nobility. Ramsay was praised from early in his career for his "delicate and Genteel" portrayals of women. In his theoretical essay A Dialogue on Taste (1755) Ramsay identified "naturalness" as a highly desirable quality in art and his adoption in the mid _1750s of the more "natural" and refined style which he admired in the French pastellist Maurice Quentin de la Tour brought him further renown as a painter of women. As Horace Walpole noted in 1759, "Mr. Reynolds seldom succeeds in women: Mr. Ramsay is formed to paint them."
Ramsay drew extensively, unusually for a British portrait painter of this period; a large number of preparatory studies for paintings survive (see cat. 153), and he also produced some highly-finished and exquisite portrait drawings. Cat. 3 is one of a group of drawings by Ramsay on blue paper in the Center's collection which formerly belongs to British collector Thomas Lowinsky (1892-1947). It is not known to be related to a painting, and the sitter has not been identified, but the features are similar to those of Ramsay's second wife, Margaret Lindsay, whom he painted and drew on several occasions. The informality of this delicate sketch and the directness of the sitter's gaze imply that the sitter was someone close to Ramsay if not Margaret Lindsay herself.

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 18 cat. no. 3

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

John Baskett, English drawings and watercolors, 1550-1850, in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon , The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 1972, pp. 19-20, no. 24, NC228 B37+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 18, no. 3, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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