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Francis Cotes ( 1726 - 1770 )  Category ( Painters ) [suggest a correction]
 

Francis Cotes was an eighteenth-century English painter and a founding member of the Royal Academy. He is most famous for his pioneering work in pastel painting, which had a broad appeal during the Rococo period of the mid-eighteenth century. Cotes was born in London to a family in the apothecary business. The family originally came from Lancashire. He demonstrated an aptitude for art at an early age, and his parents encouraged his interest and talent. He had a younger brother who was also interested in art and later became a painter of miniatures. He trained under portrait painter George Knapton and eventually established his own studio, located inside his father's business in London's Cork Street.

As the son of an apothecary, Cotes was well acquainted with the discipline of chemistry. It was through that early, consistent experience that he began to develop his theories and ideas about painting in pastels and crayons. In fact, he improved the quality of pastels, which helped to popularize the medium with other artists. Cotes focused much of his work in that very medium. Some of his works were so popular that they were made into engravings and sold as prints. Later in his career he took up oils, though he never achieved the fame he experienced in pastels and crayon. He married in 1760.

By the early 1760s, Cotes achieved a level of success that allowed him to purchase a large home in fashionable Cavendish Square. The house was later home to artist George Romney. Cotes became one of the most popular and fashionable of London portraitists. He painted the portraits of many members of the nobility and even the royal family. He was regarded by artist and satirist William Hogarth as second only to Sir Joshua Reynolds in portrait painting. Cotes style is highly reminiscent of Thomas Gainsborough and Reynolds. Part of the reason for this may have to do with the fact that all three artists hired the same background painter to create backdrops, scenery, and drapery, with the portrait artist completing the painting with the human figure or figures. He helped to create the Society of Artists and served for a time as its director. He died at the young age of forty-four, in Richmond, England, possibly as a result of severe kidney stones, from which he was known to suffer for much of his life.


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