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The poet Byron was famous for his swaggering good looks and his brilliant, reckless personality. The publication of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812) made him famous overnight. He was also a scathing critic and his Don Juan (1819–1824) is the ultimate satire of Regency society. He lived abroad from 1816 in self-imposed exile and became an attraction for English tourists. A lifelong supporter of liberal causes, he joined the Greeks in their fight against Ottoman rule but died of fever in Missolonghi in 1824. Byron sat to Phillips in 1813 wearing the Albanian costume which he had bought four years earlier; the costume is now at Bowood in Wiltshire. The finished portrait met with a mixed reception but the essayist and poet Leigh Hunt thought it 'by far the best that has appeared; I mean the best of him at his best time of life, and the most like him in features as well as expression'.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
oil on canvas
H 76.5 x W 63.9 cm