Francis Cotes

1726 - 1770

The son of an apothecary, Francis Cotes trained in the 1740s as a portraitist in pastels and oils. An early pastel portrait gained him recognition and even inspired a love poem, "Address to Celia's picture." By the 1760s, he had achieved wide-reaching success as the pre-eminent pastel painter in England. Cotes helped found the Society of Artists and became its director in 1765. Three years later he became a founding member of the Royal Academy. In his last decade, Cotes began to paint more in oil, a medium less labor intensive and more profitable than pastel. However, he remained renowned as a pastelist: John Russell wrote his famous 1772 treatise, The Elements of Painting with Crayon, as an explanation of Cotes's pastel technique, and Cotes was referred to as "the Rosalba Carriera of England." His inventive compositions, dramatic use of saturated color, bold handling of line, and informal naturalism contributed to Cotes's fame. Tragically, his premature death at age forty-four cut short his career.