Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Johann Zoffany

The Family of Sir William Young
oil on canvas
114.5 x 167.5 cm
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) was a German neoclassical painter, active mainly in England. He was a Freemason, and was known primarily as a painter of portraits, conversation pieces and theatrical subjects. His works appear in many prominent British national galleries such as the National Gallery, London, the Tate Gallery and in the Royal Collection.

He was born Johannes Josephus Zauffaly, in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. The son of an architect and court cabinet maker, he was brought up at the court of Alexander Ferdinand, Prince von Thurn und Taxis, and enjoyed court patronage throughout his career. He arrived in England around 1760 but, hindered in part by his poor English, initially was obliged to take work for a clockmaker, painting scenes for clock-faces, and as a drapery painter. His career in England was established when an actor-manager became his first major English patron. He painted numerous theatrical pictures which brought him to the attention of the public and, more importantly, Queen Charlotte, who became his patron. He was nominated by George III for membership in the Royal Academy in 1769. In the later part of his life, he was especially noted for producing huge paintings with large casts of people and works of art, all readily recognizable to their contemporaries. He died at his home at Strand-on-the-Green and is buried in the churchyard of St Anne's Church, Kew. The painter Thomas Gainsborough was, by that artist's own request, later buried nearby.