MASON, WILLIAM (1724-1797)
PORTRAIT AFTER SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS P.R.A. (1723-1792) AND ATTRIBUTED TO WILLIAM DOUGHTY (1757-1782), oil on canvas, en grisaille, half length, holding rolled papers in his left hand, size of image 26 ½ x 20 inches (66 x 51 cm), frame 34 x 26 inches (87 x 66 cm) [before 1782]
Mason, a poet, artist and divine, Canon of York, friend and biographer of Thomas Gray, told Christopher Alderson on 23 June 1774 that his friend Richard Stonehower 'has made me sit for my picture to Sr. Joshua Reynolds. He has taken a great deal of pains with it and says it is the very best head he ever painted.' Mason paid Reynolds 35 guineas for the portrait; he also gave Reynolds an easel.
William Doughty made an engraving of Reynolds's portrait of Mason in mezzotint and it may be that the present portrait, being en grisaille, was the one from which he worked. There is another portrait of Mason by Doughty in the National Portrait Gallery.
It was Mason who had written to Reynolds proposing Doughty as a pupil; he remained with Reynolds for three years during which time Mason offered to send him to Rome when he wanted to go. In 1780 Doughty married Margaret Joy, Reynolds's serving maid. Reynolds thought Doughty would 'become of the first Painters of the Age'.
PROVENANCE: Miss Kitty Jagger; C.J. Doyle Esq.; The Art Institute of Chicago.
REFERENCES: Bernard Barr and John Ingamells, A Candidate for Praise, 1973; Cambridge Portraits from Lely to Hockney, 1978; David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue, 2000.