George Frederic Handel

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)

by Thomas Hudson 

One of the greatest of the baroque composers, Handel was born in Germany, but spent several years composing operas and sacred music in Italy before settling in London in 1712. There his career flourished, and he became a naturalised British subject in 1727.
His compositions spanned all contemporary musical forms - operatic, orchestral, choral and instrumental - and he produced the first English language oratorio, Esther. Handel conducted the first performance of his later oratorio, Athalia, in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre, and in 1741 he composed his best-known oratorio, Messiah.

Although he frequently plagiarised his own work and that of others, his contemporary William Boyce remarked that 'he takes other men's pebbles and polishes them into diamonds'.

The other great German baroque composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, was born in the same year as Handel, although they never met. Like Bach, in his final years Handel suffered at the hands of the London surgeon, John Taylor, in an unsuccessful attempt to improve his deteriorating eyesight. He died a wealthy man, and was buried in Westminster Abbey with full state honours.

Both portraits are by followers of the leading 18th century portraitist, Thomas Hudson, who like Handel was also a governor of the Foundling Hospital, a London children's home.