1742 - 1810
Portrait of Frances Abington

Pen and brown ink
Image size: 7 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Giltwood frame

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The actress Frances (Fanny) Barton, better known as Mrs. Abington, was one of the most popular stars of the London stage. She grew up in the slums near Drury Lane; sold flowers in Covent Garden (where she was called “Nosegay Fan”); worked for a French milliner in Cockspur Street, then for the cook and future comedian Robert Baddeley, who gave Fanny her first big break. She married James Abington, one of the King’s trumpeters, and became a star in the actor-manager David Garrick’s Drury Lane Company. She created the role of Lady Teazle in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal (1777).

The Artist
Ozias Humphry trained under miniaturist Samuel Collins in Bath before moving to London in 1764. He established himself as a successful miniature portraitist, exhibiting at the Society of Artists from 1765 to 1771. Humphry damaged his eyes in a horse riding accident in 1772, after which he found it hard to paint miniatures. He spent several years abroad: from 1773 to 1777 he was in Italy, learning to paint in oils, and from 1785 to 1787 he travelled in India, producing many miniatures and sketches. His failing eyesight caused him to take up pastels, and he become portrait painter in crayons to the king in 1792. Five years later, Humphry went blind and was forced to give up painting.