A three-quarter-length portrait to left wearing flag officer's full-dress uniform, 1767–1783 and white wig.
In 1744 while a junior captain in the 'Jersey', 60 guns, Hardy was appointed Governor of Newfoundland and in 1755, while still a captain, he became Governor of New York. His promotion to flag-rank coincided with the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756 and he served as second-in-command to Admiral Holbourne in the abortive attempt to seize Louisbourg and Cape Breton from the French. By becoming Governor of Greenwich Hospital in 1771 and a Member of Parliament for Plymouth in 1774, he appeared to have ended his sea-going career. In the American Revolutionary War, however, Admiral Keppel's resignation during the crisis following the Battle of Ushant in 1778 left a vacancy for command of the Channel fleet. Hardy was brought out of retirement to fill the post and successively kept the fleet deployed, despite Franco-Spanish numerical superiority, until the threat of invasion had passed. Hardy sat for the portrait in February and March 1780 and died the same year, while still in command.
The artist was an important portrait painter of the late eighteenth century, generally ranked third after Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. In 1773 he moved to Italy for two years, where he became interested in history paintings in the elevated and élitist 'Grand Manner'. This developed into improving upon nature and the pursuit of perfect form. At its best his work demonstrated refinement, sensitivity and elegance, although it could also be repetitive and monotonous. As a society painter he typified late-eighteenth-century English artists who, compelled by the conditions of patronage to spend their time in producing portraits, could only aspire to imaginative and ideal painting. By 1780 Romney's portraits, according to Horace Walpole, were 'in great vogue' and he worked in an increasingly neo-classical style.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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