As Francis was born this week in 1726 we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to take a quick look at his life and some of his wonderful paintings. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. The first one looks quite a modern pose in our opinion.
Francis was born in London, the son of an apothecary Robert Cotes and his wife Elizabeth née Lynn, on the 20th May 1726 and then baptized at St Mary-le-Strand on 29th June 1726. Although unfortunately, the image of this christening is quite poor we felt we had to include it.
He studied his craft as a pastelist under the watchful eye of the portrait painter George Knapton, after which he established his own business based in his father’s premises in London. As his father was an apothecary Francis learnt about chemistry and was able to use this knowledge to his advantage when making his pastels. Cotes was always regarded as being a serious rival to Gainsborough and Reynolds and was a founder member of the Royal Academy.
In 1762 the Register of Duties paid for Apprentices show that Francis took on a new trainee, one John Russell (1745-1806) who became renowned for his his portraits also and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.
Six years before his death Francis finally married, to Sarah Adderley. The couple married on the 3rd October 1764.
One amusing comment noted in The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale being:
‘Whose picture is that said I, and that Lady’s pray, who is as eminent for her ugliness methinks, as anyone here for her beauty, hold for God’s sake says Francis Cotes, in a fright, ’tis my own wife, it is indeed; and I have been married to her but a fortnight’.
Francis died on the Thursday afternoon, 19th July 1770, at Richmond, in Surrey, according to the Middlesex Journal, not on July 16th, 1770.
Our quick look at some of his paintings wouldn’t be complete with at least one courtesan, so here we have the infamous Kitty Fisher.
Thraliana: The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale (later Mrs Piozzi) 1776-1809, Volume 1
Lloyd’s Evening Post, July 23 1770 – July 25 1770
Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty July 21, 1770 – July 24, 1770
Detail from the portrait of Henry Cope, ‘The Green Man’, by Francis Cotes