The biography of Johann Zoffany (1733 - 1810)

Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) was a German-born neoclassical portrait painter, active mainly in England. His works appear in many prominent British national galleries such as the The National Gallery, London and the Tate Gallery.

Zoffany was born in Frankfurt March 13, 1733. After studying in Germany and Italy, he came to Britain to enjoy the patronage of the royal family. Following the lead of William Hogarth, he painted scenes from London’s theatrical productions. His portraits were popular with British King George III (and Queen Charlotte) who became his patron and for whom he painted Queen Charlotte with her children in charmingly informal scenes, including “Queen Charlotte and Her Two Eldest Children” the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York (1764).

He was also noted for his portraits of prominent actors and actress in the roles they played, as in his “Garrick as Hamlet” and “Garrick as King Lear”. This genre is sometimes known as the “theatrical conversation piece”, a sub-set of the “conversation piece” genre that rose with the middle class in the eighteenth century. The conversation piece painting was a relatively small—and therefore inexpensive—informal group portrait, often of a family or a circle of friends.

In 1772 Zoffany went to Italy with the king’s financial help and became especially noted for producing huge paintings with large casts of people and objects d'art, all readily recognizable. There, during a seven-year stay, he executed The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1780) for the royal family. This celebrated work shows a group of connoisseurs admiring paintings and sculptures in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

He worked as a portraitist in India from 1783 to 1789, and when he returned to England he painted such notable portraits as Charles Towneley among His Marbles (1790). Zoffany was a founder-member of the Royal Academy (1768).

Johann Zoffany was known for being very arrogant with his art. He had been known to have an outstanding argument with many artists; he would often draw caricatures of other artists he did not like in his art.

He remained in Britain and died at Strand-on-the-Green, November 11, 1810.