Thomas Lawrence was born in April 1769, in the city of Bristol. His parents had sixteen children, but only five of them survived beyond infancy, Thomas Lawrence was the youngest. Although having a poor formal education, between his eight to six years old, Lawrence was a prodigy child, showing precocious talent towards drawing and reciting poetry. He was also proficient in billiards, boxing, and fencing. With only ten years old, he already achieved relative notoriety, being mentioned by Daines Barrington in one of his texts.
After his father`s bankruptcy, Thomas left with his family to the city of Bath, where young Lawrence settled as a portraitist in pastels to support his family. Among his subjects were prominent figures like Sarah Siddons, Warren Hastings, Sir Elijah Impey, and the Duchess of Devonshire. Lawrence was popular, and the people of Bath were very fond of him, wealthy people even allowed him to their artwork collection.
By 18 years old, Lawrence and his family moved to London, promptly making acquaintances with distinguished English artist Joshua Reynolds, who advised young Lawrence to study nature instead of the Old Masters.
Soon, Lawrence became a Royal Academy student and showed several works at their annual exhibition in 1787. He left the institution shortly after. He became focused mainly on his portraiture and abandoned the drawing of classical sculptures. From that year until his death, the artist participated in the Royal Academy annual exhibitions almost every edition, thus achieving considerable recognition.
In 1792, the artist was elected as a Royal Academy Associate. Following Sir Joshua Reynolds’ death, Lawrence was appointed by King George IV as his Painter-in-Ordinary.
In 1794, he became a full Royal Academician. Now the artist would begin to have his studio assistants and pupils.
Despite his success, the artist endured constant financial problems due to mismanagement and a lifestyle that surpassed his income. Lawrence was also an avid collector, which contributed to his monetary struggles.
In 1814, Lawrence received a significant commission to paint allied generals and head of state for what became the Windsor Castle’s Waterloo Chamber. The artist was knighted in the following year.
Sir Thomas Lawrence died on January 20, 1830, in London.