Portrait of Albinia Bertie
Oil on canvas: 53.6(h) x 44.1(w) in /
136.2(h) x 112.1(w) cm
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Devon 1701 – 1779 Twickenham
Portrait of Albinia Bertie (1738-1816), later Countess of Buckinghamshire
Oil on canvas: 53 5/8 x 44 1/8 in / 136.2 x 112.1 cm
Frame size: 64 x 54 in / 162.6 x 137.2 cm
In a carved and gilt English rococo frame
Painted circa 1748
Bequeathed by the sitter to her daughter Lady Henrietta Anne Barbara Hobart (1763-1828), who married the Rt. Hon. John Sullivan, MP;
their daughter Harriet Margaret Sullivan (1795-1873), who married Vice Admiral Sir George Tyler, Governor of St Vincent;
Lt. Cdr. George Tyler, by 1929;
George Edward Tyler;
by descent in the Tyler family
Albinia Cust, The Albinia Book, London 1929, illus. opposite p.45
Devon-born, like his famous pupil Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Hudson was one of the most fashionable portrait painters in London by the 1740s. He bought himself an impressive house in Great Queen Street, painted such worthies as the Duke of Cumberland and George Frederic Handel, and campaigned to raise the status of artists as a member of the St Martin’s Lane group. Hudson visited France and the Low Countries with his friend William Hogarth in 1748, exposing him to the sensuous handling of Flemish painting, as well as elements of the French rococo.
This portrait of Albinia Bertie, with its airy, sylvan setting and waft of innocence, is an exceptional example of English rococo portraiture, enhanced by an exquisitely delicate English rococo carved and gilt frame with a leaf motif. Albinia’s silver dress is trimmed with pink ribbons; she wears a straw hat and carries two doves in a basket, underlining her air of bucolic, but well-bred, ease. Gainsborough was famously to use similar clothing and a country setting in his portrait of an adult sitter, Mary, Countess Howe, c.1764 (Kenwood House, London).
Albinia Bertie proved to be one of the most vivid characters of the eighteenth century. Descended from King Edward III, she was the daughter of Lord Vere Bertie (second son of the 1st Duke of Ancaster) and his wife Anne Casey, daughter of Sir Cecil Wray. She probably grew up at her mother’s property, Branston in Lincolnshire, not far from the Bertie seat, Grimsthorpe Castle. In 1757 she married the Hon. George Hobart, who became 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire in 1793. The young couple lived at Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire.
In between producing five sons and four daughters, Albinia became a celebrated society hostess, noted for her fashion sense and love of dancing. She maintained her agility – and her flamboyant dress sense – as she grew ever stouter, being described by one wag as a ‘spangled pudding’ and attracting the attention of the caricaturists Rowlandson and Gillray. Albinia flung herself into campaigning for the notorious Parliamentary Election of 1784, where Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire kissed babies and shook the hands of voters on behalf of the Whig Charles James Fox, and Albinia supported her cousin, the Tory candidate Sir Cecil Wray. Like Georgiana, she was a high-stakes gambler, running an illegal table at her own home, as the most serious gaming took place in clubs such as Brooks’s, to which women were not admitted as members. Albinia continued to enjoy life and entertain her friends almost to the end, but spent her last years in the lovely countryside of Nocton, in the ‘amiable society’ of the Rector, her son Henry.
James Gillray, A sphere, projecting against a plane, 1792: William Pitt the Younger and Albinia.
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; Tate Britain, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London and many English country house collections.
 A lively biography of Albinia is provided in Albinia Cust’s The Albinia Book, pp.45-82.