Tuesday Art ATTACK- Godfrey Kneller "Portrait of John Locke"

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By Christian Franzen

Sir Godfrey Kneller was born in Lubeck located in the Holy Roman Empire in the year 1646. His father, Zacharias, was an established portrait painter and began to teach his son how to paint at a young age. Kneller began to show promise as a young portrait painter and in his later teens was taken by Rembrandt van Rijn as an apprentice. After the conclusion of his apprenticeship, Kneller and his brother took a grand tour of Europe. They studied the old master throughout Italy and eventually settled in England in 1676.

In England, Kneller became the main portrait painter for the Duke of Monmouth. While working for the Duke, Kneller met and painted a portrait of King Charles II. Kneller was swiftly appointed to Principal Painter to the King. Kneller spent his days painting portraits of the King and the members of his court. During this time he also painted many prominent philosophers including both John Locke and Isaac Newton.

The need for Kneller to produce numerous portraits at the same time in a speedy manor lead to the founding of his own portrait studio. In the studio several different artists worked on the same portrait from sketches they had done of the subject. Kneller and his assistants relied heavily on formulaic models of the human figure so that they did not require the subject to sit for the duration of the portrait. Kneller’s portraits were in high demand by the royal courts of Great Britain until his death in 1723.

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