1646 - 1723
Portrait of a Young Woman

Oil on canvas
Image size: 30 1/4 x 25 inches (77 x 63 cm)
Original hand carved gilt frame

Private Estate, England

Please scroll down for more information and a framed image.

This is a very fine example of Kneller’s work in the early 18th century. Here, the emphasis is placed directly on the sitter’s alluring femininity, with this being enhanced by the falling hair around her shoulder. This looseness of focus is created with a free fluidity of brushstrokes. He has used a Rembrandt-esque technique of subtle tones in the face, and we can see how Kneller often allowed the bluer ground layer to show through when suggesting the darker flesh tones.The painterly technique seen here is an excellent demonstration of Kneller’s style.

The bold handling of the flesh tones is Kneller at his most emphatic, while the sizeable areas of dark grey ground we see are indicative of his method of painting quickly, developed by this stage in his career to cope with the many demands of a large circle of patrons. The same effect is used for the shadows in the face: rather than paint darker colours on top of the pink flesh tones, as most artists would have done, Kneller instead painted in the reverse order, using the ground layer for his dark shadows, and then painting the lighter colours on top. Often he worked with an almost dry brush in strong firm strokes. Here the flesh tones have been rapidly, almost roughly painted, with bold areas of impasto giving way to areas where almost no paint has been applied at all, a trick that allowed Kneller to use the blue-grey ground layer to show darker flesh tones.



Godfrey Kneller

German-born painter who settled in England and became the leading portraitist there in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He studied in Amsterdam under Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt, and later in Italy, before moving to England, probably in the mid-1670s. The opportune death of serious rivals (notably Lely in 1680) and his own arrogant self-assurance enabled him to establish himself as the dominant court and society painter by the beginning of the reign of James II (1685).

Following the accession of William III and Mary II in 1689 he was appointed their principal painter jointly with John Riley (becoming sole bearer of the title when Riley died in 1691), in 1692 he was knighted, and in 1715 he was created a baronet by George I, an unprecedented honour for a painter.

Kneller built Kneller Hall a mansion in Whitton, it is reputedly built by Sir Christopher Wren. It is now a training centre for musicians in the British Army.