Devon 1701 - 1779 Twickenham
Born in Devon of tradesman stock, Thomas Hudson was apprenticed to the London portrait painter Jonathan Richardson, whose daughter he had married by 1725. Hudson inherited Richardson’s conservative, crisp style and in 1740, upon the older man’s retirement, many of his clients.
From 1733-39 Hudson divided his time between London, the West Country and portrait commissions elsewhere in England. In 1739-40 he painted the 29 members of Barnstaple town corporation. The 1742 departure of the fashionable French portrait painter Jean-Baptiste van Loo left the field clear for Hudson to become the most sought-after portrait painter of his day, inhabiting an impressive Great Queen Street house and portraying such worthies as the Duke of Cumberland and G.F. Handel (1747-8). He modified his severe style with rococo influence and baroque elements taken from the portraits of Van Dyck and Rubens, whose drawings he collected. Hudson was part of the St Martin’s Lane group of artists who lobbied for greater status for their profession, and he was also a Governor of the Foundling Hospital. His pupils included Joseph Wright of Derby, Joshua Reynolds and John Hamilton Mortimer.
In 1748 Hudson visited France and the Low Countries with his drapery painters Joseph and Alexander van Aken, and William Hogarth (who was caught sketching in Paris and put in the Bastille for ‘spying’). In 1752 Hudson visited Rome with the sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac. In the 1750s Hudson’s portrait style became looser and richer in tone. In this decade he painted several very fine group portraits, for example The Courtenay Family (Powderham Castle). In 1755 Hudson acquired a villa on the Thames at Twickenham, which he filled with his extensive art collection. From 1761 he was semi-retired, ceasing to paint in 1767. In 1770 he married a wealthy widow, Mary Fynes, and died at Twickenham in 1779.
The work of Thomas Hudson is represented in the British Royal Collection; the Tate Gallery, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London and many English country house collections.