John Singer Sargent – The British Portraits

 

John Singer Sargent, the son of an American doctor, was born in Florence in 1856. He studied painting in Italy and France and in 1884 caused a sensation at the Paris Salon with his painting of Madame Gautreau. Exhibited as Madame X, people complained that the painting was provocatively erotic.

The scandal persuaded Sargent to move to England and over the next few years established himself as the country’s leading portrait painter. Sargent had no assistants; he handled all the tasks, such as preparing his canvases, varnishing the painting, arranging for photography, shipping, and documentation. He commanded about $5,000 per portrait, or about $130,000 in current dollars. Following are portraits representative of Sargent’s prolific, and much prized, portraiture featurning British subjects.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
1892-93
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
In late 1892, Sargent began work on the portrait of Lady Agnew, commissioned by Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway. The sitter was his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932).

 

Hon. Victoria Stanley – 1899
Winifred, Duchess of Portland (Winifred Dallas-Yorke) – 1902

Countess of Warwick and Son (Frances Evelyn ‘Daisy’ Maynard) – 1905

 

The Countess of Essex – 1906

 

Theresa (‘Nellie’) Marchioness of Londonderry – 1912

 

Sibyl Sasson-Countess of Rocksavage  (later Marchioness of Cholmondeley)  – 1913

 

Sir Philip Sassoon – 1923 (Sybil’s brother)
Tate Gallery, London

 

Mrs. George Nathaniel Curzon (Grace Elvina, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston) – 1925

 

The Hon. Lilian Maud Glen Coats, later Duchess of Wellington
For a complete online catalogue of the works of John Singer Sargent, click here.

HELLO, HANDSOME – COURTESY OF SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Recently, I was Googling portraits of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (as one does) and the search returned images that were decidedly not Wellington. And I must say, some of the sitters were exceedingly handsome, and some of them were portraits I hadn’t seen before. So I Googled some more and you’ll find the results of my search below. Enjoy!

Portrait of Frederic Lock of Norbury Park, Surrey. Youngest child of William Lock, a London art critic. 
 
 
William Lock the Younger, elder brother to Frederic, above. 
 
From Yale Center for British ArtIt has been suggested that Lawrence’s sensitive portrait of the younger William Lock may be a study for an untraced portrait of the sitter exhibited as the royal Academy in 1791. Lock’s attire and hairstyle indicate a later dating however, and Lawrence did not usually make preliminary drawings for his paintings, preferring to prepare them by drawing directly on the canvas with chalk. . . . The sitter was the son of the connoisseur William Lock (1732-1810), was one of Lawrence’s first sitter and a close friend of the artist. The younger Lock (1767-1847) was a keen patron of the arts and an aspiring artist, but after viewing Rome he lost faith in his talent and gave up painting, though he continued to draw. 
 
Arthur Atherley MP 1772 – 1844
 
This portrait was painted by Lawrence when Atherley was an Eatonian. Afterwards, he went to Trinity College and went on to stand as MP for Southampton for four terms. He was a founding member of the Fox Club. He also served as a justice of the peace in Sussex and died at Tower House, Brighton. 
 
 
The finished portrait now hangs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but an unfinished sketch of the same subject, above, was recently purchased from a private owner by the Holburne Museum, Bath. You can read more about that here
 
 
John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield 1802 – 1879
 
Astonishingly, Wikipedia tells me that Bloomfield was privately educated and became an attache to Vienna at the age of sixteen. This may have been due, at least in part, to the position of his father, the 1st Baron Bloomfield, about whom Wikipedia says: “He was an Aide-de-Camp, then Chief Equerry and Clerk Marshal to the Prince of Wales and finally was Private Secretary to the King, Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall from 1817 to 1822. One of issues that Bloomfield had to contend with a Private Secretary was King’s extravagant spending.” However, things did not end well for the elder Baron Bloomfield. You’ll find the story here.  
 
 
Richard Hart Davis Jr. 1791 – 1854
 
 
Charles William Bell
 
French video on Lawrence’s painting technique
 
 
Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux 1778 – 1868
 
Anti-slavery campaigner, attorney to Queen Caroline and one of the first Englishmen to fall in love with Cannes and make it into a popular resort. Like Wellington, Brougham was named by Harriet Wilson in her Memoirs. Unlike Wellington, he caved and paid the hush money her publisher demanded to keep his name out of the book. Brougham’s name is still familiar to us, as a style of coach was named for a vehicle he designed, which was carried on until recent memory as a style of automobile. Find his full biographical story here.
 
And finally . . . . .
 
Sir Thomas Lawrence, unfinished self portrait, circa 1825
 

 

The Queen’s Masterpieces on Exhibit

by Victoria Hinshaw

Opening December 4, 2020, sixty-five of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection will hang in the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace until January, 2022. That gives us a year to get to London and binge on the Real Thing, usually seen only inside the Palace where the very nice but firm guards keep the crowd moving right along.

Recently, as part of the program to renovate the Palace and update its outmoded systems, the Picture Gallery was vacated and the contents put into storage, except for the masterpieces chosen to be exhibited for the next thirteen months while this portion of the building undergoes its share  of the Reservicing Program,  a ten-year period of repairs.

Rembrandt’s portrait of Agatha Bas, 1641

The Picture Gallery was added to the Palace in the 1820’s by George IV to house his art collection. Architect John Nash, the King’s favorite, designed the room, also used for state receptions. It has been updated several times most recently in the 1950’s.

Vermeer, Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, early 1660s

One of only 34 known Vermeer paintings, this canvas was acquired by George III in 1762.  The relative simplicity of the scene concentrates the observer’s view on the figures and perhaps invites speculation on the relationship of the two. The delicacy of the light is a signature quality of Vermeer’s style and composition.

Claude Lorrain, Harbour Scene at Sunset, 1643

According to the description of the painting, “Claude was captivated by the effect of light in the landscape…we are transported directly into the scene.” This painting was probably acquired by Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.

Guido Reni, Cleopatra with the Asp, 1628

The description states “Reni dramatically conveys the foreboding of her passage from life to death…a shift from flesh and blood to cold marble.”

Titian, Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, c. 1535-40

This painting was presented to Charles II in 1660 by the States of Holland and West Friesland upon his restoration to the throne. Titan stands as a giant of Italian painting for his realism, use of color and dramatic structure.

Canaletto. The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c. 1733-34

Canaletto is a favorite of the English, for both his Italian and his English scenes, all grand in scope but intricately detailed.  George III acquired this painting in 1762 as part of the collection of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice. It portrays a celebration of the city’s Marriage with the Sea.

The Queen’s Gallery

All these masterworks and more will be on view in the Queen’s Gallery long enough for us to get there, I hope! Once they are rehung inside the Palace Picture Gallery, more exhibitions from the Royal Collection will be mounted in the Queen’s Gallery. I have visited displays of Fabergé items, Leonardo drawings and artifacts, the Art and Love of Victoria and Albert, treasures from the courts of the first two Georges, and many more.  All together they represent only a fraction of the total Royal Collection of 7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints, and 30,000 watercolors and drawings, plus sculptures, jewels, ceramics, photos, and manuscripts valued at well over $13 billion, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Hope I meet you there!

The Sculptor Chantrey

by Victoria Hinshaw

For those of us who love to poke around in British palaces, castles, stately homes, museums and all sorts of historical sites (that’s probably all of us), with a special interest in the Georgian and Victorian periods (most of us??), sooner or later we will begin to notice the recurring name of Francis Chantrey, a sculptor whose works are simply all over the place.

 

Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey, by Thomas Phillips, 1818 (NPG)

Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey (1781-1841) was not only a renowned and prolific artist, but also a philanthropist who left a bequest for the purchase of artwork for the nation.  The income from investing the £105,000 from his legacy has been used to purchase hundreds of artworks by British artists for the nation’s museums and continues to this day.

 

Chantrey self portrait, 1810, Tate Britain

 

The UK’s National Portrait Gallery has hundreds of works by Chantrey himself, from sketches executed as preparation for his sculptures, to marble busts of leading men of his generation.

Drawings Chantrey made of Sir John Soane, preparatory work for the bust Chantrey sculpted which today can be seen in Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, below.

Close-up of the bust of Sir John Soane
Last year, at the Yale Center for British Art, Diane Gaston, a well-known Regency author, and Victoria posed with a Chantrey bust of George IV.
As so often in Georgian-era portraits, the subject is wearing a Roman-style toga.  And without being unrealistic, somehow the expression on the King’s face seems to me quite representative of his character.  Unlike the overly flattering pictures by others, particularly Sir Thomas Lawrence, this Chantrey bust gives us a hint of the dichotomy in George IV: one the one hand selfish, narcissistic and extravagant — but on the other hand, a great builder and  connoisseur of the arts.
This Chantrey bust is one of several similar versions he and his studio produced, dated 1827.
Chantrey’s equestrian statue of George IV
George IV and the royal family were frequent patrons of Chantrey.  His bronze state of Geogbe IV on horseback can be found in Trafalgar Square, as above. Below is George IV in the center of the Grand Vestibule of Windsor Castle’s State Rooms, flanked by mounted knights.
The magnificent statue of the mounted Duke of Wellington by Chantrey stands outside the Royal Exchange in the City of London.

Below, a sketch of the pedestal made by Chantrey for the Wellington statue.

 

 

Chantrey’s sketch of the Duke of Wellington for a bust.

 

Born near Sheffield, Francis Chantrey was the son of a carpenter and became an apprentice to a woodcarver.  His skill and talentset him apart, and he was given lessons in painting.  He was a able to earn enough as a portrait painter to move to London, where by 1804, he was included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy
Chantrey Self-Portrait, NPG
 In a few years, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture.  He married in 1807, and soon was doing commissions for naval officers and the Greenwich Hospital.  He visited Italy in 1819 and associated with the leading artists of his day.  He was knighted in 1835 by William IV.  When he died, he was buried in a tomb he had constructed for himself in St. James Church, near Sheffield.

Above, the Marble Hall at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, the estate of the earls of Leicester.   On either side of the staircase (on the right behind the piano) are two busts by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey.

Reproduction of a marble bust of Coke of Norfolk (1754-1842), by Chantrey, from 1829, which can be purchased from the estate at their website: http://www.holkhamsculpturereproductions.co.uk/
Coke of Norfolk, a great agricultural innovator, was the great nephew of Thomas Coke, and Coke of Norfolk was named 1st Earl of Leicester of the Seventh Creation in 1837.

Below, the reproduction of Chantrey’s marble copy of a bust of Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester (1697-1759) of the Sixth Creation. created by Louis Francoise Roubilliac (1705-1762).  Both busts were sculpted to stand among the large collection of classical busts acquired by Thomas Coke and displayed at Holkham.

 

Above, Sir Joseph Banks in the British Museum, Botanist, Trustee and Benefactor, by Sir Francis Chantey, dated 1826.

Also displayed in the British Museum, Chantrey’s bust of his collaborator and mentor, the famous 18th c. sculptor Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823).

Besides the dozens of busts Chantrey sculpted, which were highly prized and sought after, he did some touching works which displayed his skill in composition as well as compassion.

The Sleeping Children, 1817, above, in the Litchfield Cathedral, was commissioned by the widowed mother of the two dead girls, Mrs. Ellen-Jane Woodhouse Robinson.  Most observers find it the finest of Chantrey’s works.

The Royal Collection

The lovely portrayal of Dorothea Jordan was commissioned  from Chantrey by King William IV and completed in 1834. It has been displayed in Buckingham Palace since 1980.  Mrs. Jordan, a leading actress of her day, was the long-time mistress of William IV when he was Duke of Clarence and bore him ten children, known by the surname FitzClarence.

Bridgeman

This drawing of the anteroom of Chantrey’s sculpture gallery (30 Belgrave Place) shows its design by Sir John Soane for his friend, the sculptor.

 

Pen, Brush and Chisel: The Studio of Sir Francis Chantrey by artist Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-73), Royal Collection

This charming portrait of Mustard, Chantrey’s terrier, and his sculpting tools was presented to Queen Victoria by Lady Chantrey in 1842. According to the description in the Royal Collection, “The painting was commissioned in April 1835 by Chantrey, who sent Landseer a humorous letter, supposedly from Mustard. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 when it was admired by Queen Victoria.”  After Chantrey’s death, his widow presented the painting to the Queen.

 

Queen Victoria, marble, 1841, by Sir Francis Chantrey, Royal Collection
Chantrey created portraits of four British sovereigns.  Above, his last work, a bust of Queen Victoria,  was Prince Albert’s  favorite portrayal of his wife

Also in the Royal Collection is this watercolour on ivory by Andrew Robertson (1777-1845), dated 1800. Purchased  by Queen Victoria in 1880, it portrays Chantrey “Half-length, standing, facing slightly to the right, wearing a grey studio coat and dark blue waistcoat and holding a hammer, chisel and yellow dustcloth, beside his bust of George IV; grey-blue eyes, grey-brown hair; red curtains background.”

The painting above is The Burial of Sir Frances Chantrey  by artist Henry Perlee Parker, 1841. It was  badly damaged in a flood in 2007 at the Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, and had to be dried for more than a year before it was conserved.  Chantrey is buried in St. James Church, Sheffield, near the village of his birth.

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION: MADAME TUSSAUD

The Duke of Wellington visiting the Effigy and Personal Relics of Napoleon
at Madame Tussaud’s by James Scott, after Sir George Hayter – National Portrait Gallery

Generally speaking, when one thinks about the Duke of Wellington, one seldom thinks of him in connection with trivial amusements. Rather, the formidable soldier and stern politician come to mind. However, the Duke was occasionally up for a jolly time and he had a great interest in new inventions and various amusements of the day. When the Great Exhibition of 1851 opened, the Duke went to see it nearly every day.

In Struggles and Triumphs: or, Forty Years’ Recollections of P. T. Barnum by Phineas Taylor Barnum (1871), Mr. Barnum relates the following anecdote about the Duke:

“On my first return visit to America from Europe, I engaged Mr. Faber, an elderly and ingenious German, who had constructed an automaton speaker. It was of life-size, and when worked with keys similar to those of a piano, it really articulated words and sentences with surprising distinctness. My agent exhibited it for several months in Egyptian Hall, London, and also in the provinces. This was a marvellous piece of mechanism, though for some unaccountable reason it did not prove a success. The Duke of Wellington visited it several times, and at first he thought that the `voice’ proceeded from the exhibitor, whom he assumed to be a skillful ventriloquist. He was asked to touch the keys with his own fingers, and after some instruction in the method of operating, he was able to make the machine speak, not only in English but also in German, with which language the Duke seemed familiar. Thereafter, he entered his name on the exhibitor’s autograph book, and certified that the `Automaton Speaker’ was an extraordinary production of mechanical genius.”

The Duke of Wellington was also a great fan of Madame Tussaud’s and visited her waxworks often to see the exhibits and/or to take tea with Madame herself. He left standing instructions that he was to be told whenever a new addition to the rooms was installed.  As executor of the will of George IV, Wellington was responsible for giving Madame Tussaud the monarch’s coronation robes for her exhibit. Surprisingly, the Duke’s favorite exhibit at the Wax Work was that of Napoleon. From a contemporary book titled The Curiosities of London, we learn that Madame Tussaud’s Napoleon exhibit contained the following:

“Napoleon Relics. — The camp-bedstead on which Napoleon died; the counterpane stained with his blood. Cloak worn at Marengo. Three eagles taken at Waterloo. Cradle of the King of Rome. Bronze posthumous cast of Napoleon, and hat worn by him. Whole-length portrait of the Emperor, from Fontainebleau; Marie Louis and Josephine, and other portraits of the Bonaparte family. Bust of Napoleon, by Canon. Isabey’s portrait Table of the Marshals. Napoleon’s three carriages: two from Waterloo, and a landau from St. Helena. His garden chair and drawing-room chair. “The flag of Elba.” Napoleon’s sword, diamond, tooth-brush, and table-knife; dessert knife, fork, and spoons; coffee-cup; a piece of willow-tree from St. Helena; shoe-sock and handkerchiefs, shirt, &c. Model figure of Napoleon in the clothes he wore at Longwood; and porcelain dessert-service used by him. Napoleon’s hair and tooth, etc.”

As to Wellington’s visits to the Exhibit, we have the following passage from The History Of Madame Tussaud’s ( Originally Published 1920 ) –
Early one morning, soon after the Exhibition had been opened for the day, Joseph, Madame Tussaud’s son, who had been wandering through the rooms, as was his habit, perceived an elderly gentleman in front of the tableau representing the lying-in-state of Napoleon I. The model of the dead exile rested—as it does down to this very day—on the camp bedstead used by Napoleon at St. Helena, and was dressed in the favourite green uniform, the cloak worn at Marengo (bequeathed by Napoleon to his son) lying across the feet. In the hands, crossed upon the chest, was a crucifix. In those days it was the custom to lower at night the curtains that enclosed the bed, in order to exclude the dust, whereas now the whole scene is encased in glass.
Observing that the visitor was desirous of seeing the effigy, and no attendant being at hand, Joseph Tussaud raised the hangings, whereupon the visitor removed his hat, and, to his great surprise, Joseph saw that he was face to face with none other than the great Duke of Wellington himself.
There stood his Grace, contemplating with feelings of mixed emotions the strange and suggestive scene before him. On the camp bed lay the mere presentment of the man who, seven-and-thirty years before, had given him so much trouble to subdue. No feeling of triumph passed through the conqueror’s mind as he looked upon the poor waxen image, too true in its aspect of death; he rather thought upon the vanity of earthly triumphs, of the levelling hand of time, and how soon he, like his great contemporary, might be stretched upon his own bier.

Mr. Joseph Tussaud used frequently to recall this dramatic meeting between the Iron Duke and the effigy of his erstwhile foe, and to imagine the feelings of the old General as he gazed upon the couch. It was probably the first of the Duke’s many visits to the Exhibition.

A few days after this most interesting visit Mr. Tussaud, who was an old friend of Sir George Hayter, related the incident to that artist. Hayter was immediately struck with the potential value of the event for the production of a painting of the historic scene, and the Tussaud brothers at once commissioned him to execute the work for them. Sir George thereupon communicated the idea to the Duke, who readily responded, and offered to give the necessary sittings. We have the sketches made by Hayter in preparation for the work, and among them appears a drawing of Joseph Tussaud himself, although he does not enter the actual picture. Hearing that the artist was making progress with the painting, the Duke visited his studio, and, having expressed himself warmly in appreciation of the picture (the figures had been but lightly limned in at the time), said: “Well, I suppose you’ll want me to sit for my picture here?”
Hayter has given us a most characteristic portrait of Wellington as he then appeared. He is dressed in his usual blue frock-coat, white trousers, and white cravat, fastened with the familiar steel buckle. He stoops a little as was his wont, his head is lightly covered with snow-white hair, and his manly features are marked with an expression of mingled curiosity and sadness as, hat in hand, he looks upon the recumbent Napoleon. The picture was completed early in December, 1852, and has been on view in the Napoleon Rooms at the Exhibition ever since.

The engravings of the picture have been circulated in thousands throughout the world, and, strange to say, they are exceedingly popular in Austria. It is an interesting fact that the painting in question was the last portrait for which the Duke ever sat. When the Duke himself died, Madame Tussaud’s advertised “A full length model of the Great Duke, taken from Life during his frequent visits to the Napoleon Relics.”

Wellington himself would have been least surprised to learn that Madame Tussaud had added his likeness to her collection upon his death. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find an engraving of the Duke’s tableaux, but we do have the following description found in Our Young Folks: An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, Volume 8 (1872) By John Townsend Trowbridge:

“In a side room adjoining the long gallery lies the great Duke of Wellington in state. An awful feeling came over me, as if I were in the presence of the dead, as I looked upon that noble form, lying still and cold, with all the “pride of heraldry and pomp of power” around him, insensible alike to both. As he lay there on his tented couch of velvet and gold, it seemed as if that must be the “Great Duke,” and not a waxen image only, that never lived nor spoke. Among the numerous portraits which adorn the walls is a very fine one of the duke visiting the relics of Napoleon, which are shown in another room.”

Many a person has recorded his or her feelings about the Duke of Wellington’s funeral carriage, above, a great monstrosity of a thing weighing 18 tons and made from the French guns taken in battle and designed by Prince Albert himself in a misguided attempt to pay a fitting tribute to the Duke. All agree that it was pretty much a hideous object. Charles Dickens wrote, “For form of ugliness, horrible combination of colour, hideous motion, and general failure, there never was such a work achieved as the Car.” After the funeral, there was a general debate as to what to do with the thing. The question even made its way to Parliament, as mentioned in a book called Stray Papers, published in 1876 –

During a Parliamentary debate, Mr. Layard said, that there was a hideous piece of upholstery under cover opposite Marlborough House at the disposal of anybody who would take it; but, as nobody would take it, they were now asked to vote £840 for its removal to St. Paul’s, where it would be placed beneath one of the crypts. He alluded to the car used at the funeral of the late Duke of Wellington, and that which nothing more hideous had ever been invented. The best thing would be to give it to Madame Tussaud, or, if she would not take it, to burn it.

The carriage now rests at Stratfield Saye. But, the same book goes on to tell us that:

Several years ago, a figure of the late Duke of Wellington stood under one of the skylights in the principal room (at Madame Tussaud’s.) By some unaccountable oversight, the attendant omitted to draw the blinds on one occasion when shutting up for the night, and next morning the hot rays of a July sun fell on the Duke’s countenance with such fervour that his Grace’s nose began to run, and, by the time the doors were opened, had disappeared completely. So much of the figure being destroyed, restoration to its original form was found to be impossible.

There used to be a figure of the Duke of Wellington, and Napoleon, on display at Madame Tussaud’s in London, but when I was there recently I didn’t see it. Then again, the place was so crowded I might have missed it. It’s good to think that the Duke is still around, even in storage, and might be brought out again soon.

Since this post was originally published several years ago, Geri Walton has written an excellent blog post on Madame Tussaud’s Napoleon Relics. You’ll find it here.