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Pen and ink with grey wash over graphite on paper
Given by Felder Fine Art, 2001
Kerrich was a clergyman, a distinguished antiquarian and a gifted amateur artist. After graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1771, he travelled to Europe on the Grand Tour, and was awarded a silver medal for drawing by the academy in Antwerp. In 1797 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and in the same year was appointed Cambridge University Librarian. A significant part of Kerrich's own collection of paintings, drawings, and - especially - prints came to enrich the collections of the Fitzwilliam through the bequest of his son, Richard Edward Kerrich in 1873; other parts of his collection were left to the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries.
As a draughtsman, Kerrich worked mainly as a portraitist, and he made a special study of Gothic architecture and sepulchral monuments. He was one of the first artists to work in lithography, and to take an interest in atmospheric sky effects and cloud formations, anticipating by several decades that of artists such as John Constable (the donors of this drawings also gave three examples of Kerrich's chalk sky studies as part of their gift). This self-portrait was probably drawn when Kerrich was in Italy in the mid-1770s; another, equally eccentrically posed version (now in the National Portrait Gallery) is dated 1774. Both portraits have a quirky, fantasy element that recalls the work of the Swiss artist Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) who was also in Italy in these years, and was part of the same international circle of artists as John Brown, whose portrait of Captain Wood(s) is another recent acquisition.