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John Donaldson, 1737–1801
Richard Cooper the Elder
Additional Title(s):
Portrait of Richard Cooper, Sr. (d.1764)
Materials & Techniques:
Graphite on vellum
Sheet: 10 1/4 x 8 3/8 inches (26 x 21.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
books | elderly | man | portrait
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IIIF Manifest:

John Donaldson's portrait of the Endinburgh engraver Richard Cooper (d. 1764) is if the kind of monochrome miniature drawing first introduced to England from the Continent in the seventeenth century. The graphite drawing on vellum, or plumbago, as it became known, was developed as a cheaper alternative to the miniature and could also be used readily as a model for engraving. The plumbago was popular throughout the first half of the eighteenth century, and as Donaldson's miniature shows, this rather austere form of drawing was capable of considerable refinement and tonal subtlety in the hands of a skilled practitioner. Jonathan Richardson's portrait of Sir Hans Sloane (cat. 1) is another example of this genre, though the drawing is less highly finished than Donaldson's. The little-known miniaturist John Donaldson was born in Edinburgh; he showed early promise and, after being awarded premiums by the Edinburgh Society of Arts in 1757 and 1758, moved to London to develop his career. Donaldson exhibited portrait miniatures of Richard Cooper in London at the Free Society and the Society of Artists in 1762 and 1764, and cat. 5 may have been exhibited on one or both occasions. The drawing presumably was made in Edinburgh before Donaldson's departure for London. Cooper, who studied art in Italy in his youth and was an accomplished draftsman, is depicted, pencil in hand, pausing in the act of making a figure study rather than in his professional capacity as an engraver.

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. 20 cat. no. 5

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]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 20, no. 5, , NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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