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 Thomas Bardwell  (1704 - 1767)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: Portrait and landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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Thomas Bardwell (1704-1767)

Born, probably at Worlingworth, Suffolk, in 1704, son of John Bardwell, a farmer at Worlingworth, his brother John (1705-1780), an innkeeper at Reydon Quay, was the great-grandfather of William Henry Bardwell; it has also been said that he is connected to the Bardwells of Woodton Hall in Norfolk, but there are also claims for the Bardwells of Southwold in Suffolk.  Thomas established himself as a decorative painter at Bungay, and by 1732 had a thriving business, employing at least one apprentice, a business that he handed over to his younger brother Robert, to concentrate of portrait painting.  His first known dated painting is a conversation piece from 1736, the Brewster Family of Wrentham, Suffolk.  Thereafter he established a good local clientele and may also have worked in London as in 1740–41 he produced the portraits John Campbell, Duke of Argyll, and David Garrick, newly acclaimed as Richard III at Goodman's Fields.  In 1752 he journeyed to Scotland, via Yorkshire, painting a number of portraits and some decorative work. He was back in the south by the end of 1753 and from 1759 to the end of his life thrived as a portraitist in Norwich.  

Bardwell was probably self-taught as an artist, stylistically his work is in the manner of Thomas Hudson, London's most successful portraitist during the 1740s, but there are also compositional references to Van Dyck.  In addition, many sitters wear the shiny ‘Van Dyck’ costume which was fashionable for portraiture at the time.  Formats range from portrait busts to life-size full lengths.  He might be little known as a painter, had it not been for his book The Practice of Painting and Perspective Made Easy (London 1756) resulting from a study of seventeenth-century paintings in East Anglian collections. The book went into two pirated editions in 1795 and 1840.

Bardwell died a widower on 9 September 1767 and buried two days later, in the churchyard of St Mary at Bungay, aged 63.  His daughter Elizabeth is commemorated in the tablet for Thomas in Bungay St Mary church - 1771, aged 19.

Information provided by Tony Copsey, researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England

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