Sir Godfrey Kneller

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Sir Godfrey Kneller (nĕl´ər) or Gottfried von Kniller (gôt´frēt fən knĬl´ər), 1646–1723, English portrait painter, b. Germany. After study in Amsterdam, Rome, and Venice, he settled in England in 1675, achieving success in fashionable circles and at court, where he was named principal painter in 1688. Serving under the monarchs from Charles II to George I, Kneller and the factory of painters in his employ mass-produced such works as Ten Beauties of the Court (Hampton Court), The Duchess of Portsmouth (Goodwood, Sussex), and Charles Beauclerk (Metropolitan Mus.). From 1702 to 1717 he executed 42 portraits of the members of the Kit-Cat Club (National Portrait Gall., London), which are among his best works. His facile and standardized paintings are sometimes careless of execution. Kneller became the director, in 1711, of the first Academy of Painting in London and strongly influenced the subsequent generation of English portraitists.

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Kneller, Sir Godfrey (c.1646–1723). A native of Lübeck who had studied under Rembrandt, Kneller came to England c.1676. He became court portraitist to William and Mary, Anne, and George I, enjoying a reputation which evidently eclipsed Van Dyck's. In fact, like all portraitists he was at his best with sitters to whom he warmed; otherwise a stereotyped baroque grandiloquence and a thronged studio obscured his real talents as a designer and handler of paint. In high favour with William III, Kneller was knighted in 1692 (created a baronet by George I), and was integrally of the ‘protestant establishment’. Kneller's more notable works include the eight ‘Hampton Court Beauties’ commissioned by Mary II, and his ‘Kit Kat Club’ portraits, executed between 1697 and 1721. There are at least 40 of these, all painted to a standard size and often revelatory of the versatile men who comprised this Whig dining club.

David Denis Aldridge

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Kneller, Sir Godfrey (1646–1723) Painter, b. Germany, who settled in London (1674). His best-known works include 48 portraits, known as the Kit Cat Series. He founded the first English Academy of Painting (1711).;

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