The Armitt acquires rare George Romney portrait of historic Cumbrian landowner

The Armitt: Museum, Gallery, Library in Ambleside has acquired an important portrait of Sir Michael Le Fleming, 4th Baronet of Rydal Hall, painted by Cumbria’s own George Romney.

George Romney (1734-1802) was an English portrait painter, the most fashionable artist of his day, painting leading political and social figures.

Born in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, he began his career in Kendal, moving to London in 1762. Romney returned from a two-year visit to Rome in 1775, and his career thereafter went from strength to strength. Romney returned to Cumbria towards the end of his life.

He remains the most significant British artist to be associated with the Lake District.

The sitter of the portrait is Sir Michael le Fleming, owner of the Rydal Hall estate, two miles north of Ambleside. Le Fleming was MP for Westmorland from 1774 until his death in 1806 and is seen in the painting in the uniform of the Westmorland Militia. He sat for this portrait in 1779 and 1780, paying Romney’s 18-guinea fee in March 1781.

Manager & Curator for The Armitt, Faye Morrissey, said, “This work has an interesting story. It emerged in 2016 in a US private collection which allowed it to be identified as the rightful portrait of Le Fleming. Before this, in a recently published catalogue raisonée by Alex Kidson, another picture had been illustrated in its place. Now, the author acknowledges the error, and the work we have has been given the correct identification.”

Charles Nugent, Trustee of The Armitt adds: “We are delighted to have acquired this portrait of Sir Michael le Fleming, who was the local Member of Parliament from 1774-1806 and owner of Rydal Hall. It is wonderful that the portrait has now come back home and it can be placed in its proper context. We are very grateful to the Beecroft Bequest and to the Friends of the Armitt who have made this purchase possible.”

This new acquisition is on display at The Armitt in Ambleside and is the spotlight piece in the first gallery of the museum. The artwork is available to view throughout 2023.

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