THE WRETCHED LOVE LIFE OF SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE Part Two – Jo Manning

As to the mystery of his debts, critics have laid Lawrence’s money problems to the demands of his large family, whom he supported. He’d supported them for a very long time, beginning at the age of 10. (He was 13 when the ad put in by his father in the Bath Chronicle ran.) His Royal Academy colleague Joseph Farington, the painter famous for his rich gossipy diary of the Georgian art world covering the years 1793 until his death in 1821, supports this widely-documented view. (Note: Yale University recently updated and enlarged the standard 1923 edition of the Farington Diary.)

Lawrence, R.A., allows his Father for the support of his family near £300 a year. He pays for his own lodgings in Bond-street 200 guineas a year. His price for his portraits is 40 guineas for a three-quarter, 80 guineas for a half-length, and 160 guineas for a whole-length. –October 28, 1793

Bear in mind that in today’s currency, we are talking some 70 to 80 times that £300. In today’s values, it’s almost $50,000+ a year, an enormous, enormous amount for those times. (A guinea = one pound and one shilling.) Lawrence’s family would have lived high off the hog indeed!

A further comment on Farington and his diaries is appropriate here. Joseph Farington (1747-1821) was an inveterate gossip and social climber who made much of his marriage to a cousin of the prestigious Walpole family. Although purporting to be a friend of many of his RA colleagues he was envious of most of them and often nasty when commenting about them in the diary he kept for many years. He played politics and was a major manipulator of the other RA members and not to be trusted. (He was, frankly, a snake.) The diary only surfaced a hundred years after his death, in 1921, when the volumes were auctioned off by his family. None of his long-deceased colleagues and those whom he called friends was privy to the intimate details in these pages.

Lawrence’s father was a failure in every business he’d attempted and, as we can see, had lived off his son’s earnings as a young artist from the time he was a mere child. But, even with having to support this family of parasites, it’s hard to imagine, with the prices Lawrence charged for a painting, that he could ever have fallen into such deep debt. On what else could he squander so much money? He lived in well-appointed homes, yet there’s no report he lived extravagantly, kept expensive mistresses, or that he gambled (the latter the downfall of many a Regency gentleman). So, on what, then, could he have spent his money?

One possibility was his ever-growing collection of Old Master paintings and sculptures. He did amass a very large collection – some 4,000 works! — as did his fellow artists Reynolds and Romney, among others, but not to the extent of his. (The collection was auctioned off at his death to pay off debts.) The possibility that intrigued me, though, was that perhaps someone was blackmailing him to keep his clandestine activities – such as a double life in London’s gay underworld — quiet.

Although there’s is no hard proof, the critic Richard Holmes, in his essay for Thomas Lawrence Portraits for the National Gallery, does suggest he was quite possibly bisexual. I do believe Lawrence was super-charged, sexually – some might say over-sexed – and if he were indeed bisexual it could explain his personality and his inability to commit to one person. His so-called friend, Farington, who called him “a male coquet,” noted he was overly intimate with his female sitters, subjecting them to long, close sittings that might not have been necessary; could he have been thus with male sitters as well? That, however, seems not to have attracted notice.

James Northcote, the pupil of Reynolds and his first biographer, made another interesting remark about Lawrence that is cited in David Piper’s The English Face (1957). Piper says, “Northcote called him ‘a sort of man-milliner painter – a meteor of fashion’.” The term “man-milliner” is 18th century slang for homosexual, and Piper goes on to say, “Northcote was biased and extremely jealous, but his criticism is not entirely unjust.”

Indeed, Lawrence’s sexuality, his possible gender confusion, could have been a destabilizing force that went on to affect all facets of his personality and may well have been connected to his monetary woes.

 

Mary Darby Robinson, by Hoppner

Leaving these speculations aside for the time being, the other references I found of note concerned the deep, often bitter rivalry between John Hoppner and Lawrence. Hoppner was a successful artist with great ambition, but he was too soon eclipsed professionally by the younger man and it did not sit well with him. (Though Hoppner was a skilled portraitist, his heart was not in painting portraits but in landscape painting. In the late Georgian era, however, painting portraits paid the bills.)

Hoppner’s most well-known portrait is probably that of Mary Robinson aka Perdita, first mistress of King George IV when he was the Prince of Wales. (The painting is now owned by the Chawton House Library.) Hoppner, whose parents were German and whose mother was in service to Queen Charlotte, had nursed the ambition of being named court painter — perhaps counting on these German connections to be appointed — but it never happened.

Farington noted that the rivalry would often revolve around petty incidents but was not the less vicious for all that. In the spring of 1801, the two artists squabbled over the placement of canvases at an RA exhibit, which resulted in Lawrence’s portrait of the Princess of Wales not being shown.

Hoppner will not exhibit on account of Lawrence monopolizing a center place by sending canvasses & figures of an uncommon size. —April 6, 1801

A dispute brought to trial in Sheriffs Court over a payment owing to Stubbs, the era’s most renowned painter of horses, from one of his patrons had Lawrence as witness on Stubbs’s side and Hoppner on the other. Farington remarked that Hoppner “was very violent against the claim of Stubbs,” but that a full judgment was made in Stubbs’s favor over his testimony. It appeared that nothing was too small over which they locked horns, such was their rabid dislike one for the other.

One almost has to feel sorry for Hoppner, for no other artist really had much of a chance against Lawrence, who, in addition to being immensely talented and personally charming, became a favorite of the royal family. The charm was innate; it was said that he had a seductive voice which he used to great effect and that he spoke in a “low, soft whisper…calculated to please.” Nancy Frazier, in the Penguin Concise Dictionary of Art History (2000), on those who were not so taken with Lawrence’s charm and even less with his talent, commented that: To some critics, he never seems to have gone beyond virtuoso flattery and an ability to give pleasure…[and that he was obsessed with] …charming his way through cosmopolitan society.

But charm worked for him. Though early in his career he’d painted a portrait of Queen Charlotte that King George III was said not to have cared much for, his son the Prince of Wales – popularly known as Prinny and later King George IV –championed him. (That George did not get along with his father also probably helped his relationship with Thomas Lawrence.)

The artist also squeaked by with another possible problem that might have affected his relation
ship with the royals. As Richard Holmes writes, “[In 1806] Lawrence is implicated in the ‘Delicate Investigation’ into alleged impropriety with the Princess of Wales [Prinny’s wife, Caroline] and has to give testimony defending his name against imputations of improper behavior.” The allegations grew out of malicious gossip from a former page at Montague House, according to the biographer Flora Fraser, during the time that Lawrence was painting Princess Caroline’s portrait.

Given his seductive approach to his sitters, however, and the natural flirtatiousness of the Princess Caroline, it’s not difficult to see how his attentions could have been misread and misunderstood. He could not, however, have been so foolish as to hit on Prinny’s wife, even given that gentleman’s abhorrence of her. He would have been signing his own death sentence.

 

Detail from a Thomas Lawrence portrait of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the rejected wife of the Prince of Wales

 

To quote Fraser, “Lawrence stayed several nights at Montague House in the winter of 1800, so as to lose no time when Princess Charlotte [the daughter of the Prince and Princess who also sat for him] came from Shrewsbury House in the morning.” In his defense when he was accused of improper behavior, along with another man, a Captain Manby, Fraser says:

“Perceval had shown to Mr. Thomas Lawrence and to Captain Manby the examinations which incriminated them as possibly guilty of high treason. Manby and Lawrence made depositions indignantly countering the charges against them… Lawrence rebutted…testimony that he had stayed behind a locked door with the Princess. [He declared that] ‘nothing passed between her Royal Highness and myself which I could have had the least objection for all the world to have seen and heard.’ “

(Note: Perceval was Spencer Perceval, at that time attorney general, later chancellor of the exchequer, and then prime minister, who holds the not-so-wonderful distinction of having been the only prime minister ever assassinated. He was murdered in 1812; Princess Caroline underwent the humiliation of a public trial in the summer of 1820, sans Perceval.)

 

Part Three Coming Soon!

THE WRETCHED LOVE LIFE OF SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE

On this day, the anniversary of the death of artist Sir Thomas Lawrence RA in 1830,  we begin a series by guest blogger Jo Manning that originally appeared in 2010 entitlted –

The Wretched Love Life of Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), extraordinary painter, elusive personality…

 

Master Lawrence takes very striking likenesses of ladies and gentlemen

for a charge of one guinea for an oval crayon. —Bath Chronicle, 1782

There is an exhibition currently at the National Portrait Gallery in London: Thomas Lawrence, Regency Power and Brilliance. Only 54 paintings, but they are choice. Most of his work is held privately and several of the paintings in this exhibition are lent by owners who prefer to remain anonymous. (I met such an owner – his painting is not in this show – when researching My Lady Scandalous; he kindly allowed me to use a Lawrence painting on the condition that I not identify him.)

Actress Sarah Siddons by J. Dickinson

I came across the name of Thomas Lawrence for the second time when I was researching the life of Anna Foldsone (sometimes spelled Foldstone or Foltson, but later known as Anne Mee), a talented miniaturist, for a possible collective biography (tentatively titled Artists In Love) of six 18th century female artists. (That project, alas, is currently hanging fire.)

Lawrence, a friend of Anna’s journeyman painter father Joseph Foldsone, was cited as one of her teachers, and, later, after the death of her father when she was a teenager, as her fiancé. Apparently, nothing happened – as nothing seemed to happen with any of Lawrence’s relationships with women – he never married — and I could find little more on the subject of him and this very lovely artist.

Anna Foldsone, shortly after what did or did not happen with Lawrence, married an Irish barrister named Joseph Mee; it was not a happy marriage and she could have been on the rebound from Lawrence. Here’s a self-portrait of her below; she was known for her glorious, thick, curly blonde hair.

Anne Mee, by Anne Mee
There was, however, a good deal of speculation on his relationships with the Siddons women, Sarah, the mother, arguably the most famous actress of the time, and her two daughters, Sally and Maria. What exactly transpired is unknown, but there was enough gossip at the time to indicate he behaved like an utter cad, first wooing Sally and then dumping her for Maria; then he dumped Maria and went back to Sally! There was also speculation he was involved with their mother Sarah. Tragically, both sisters died young, probably of consumption, Maria in 1798 and Sally in 1803. Around 1904, Oswald Knapp exploited this scandal in his biography of Lawrence, An Artist’s Love Story. For the most part, biographers of Lawrence have tended to ignore his love life, which is readily understandable because it was such a mess, but it seems to me that the time seems ripe for a full-blown, warts-and-all biography of this talented, complicated man.

What’s so interesting in this sordid story of the Siddons daughters is that Sarah Siddons reportedly stayed friendly with the artist, who went on to paint a number of portraits of her, despite his questionable behavior with the two girls. Many years later, the writer Andre Maurois weighed in on this in a novel, remarking that it was the mother Lawrence was “in thrall” to, that she, not Sally, not Maria, was the object of his heated pursuits.

After the females in the Siddons family, Lawrence’s name was most closely linked with Isabella Wolff, with whom he might have fathered a son – though I doubt it — but more about that later, when I discuss the paintings in this current exhibition.

In addition to the great mystery of his love life there was the mystery of where all his money went; he had great financial problems despite his very successful career and his estate at his death was mired in debt. The first mystery leads me to wonder if the problem was that he may have been attracted to his own gender but felt he had to play the game of pursuing women. He was unable to commit to any one woman, yet he was an odd kind of womanizer; he appeared to show great, passionate, intense interest … and then it more or less fizzled out. His behavior was strange, erratic, immature, confused. I’ve yet to find any speculation – much less evidence — that Lawrence might have been gay, but closeted gay men were not that uncommon in Georgian England. Sodomy was punishable by hanging, however, so overt behavior carried the threat of death. One painting in particular in this exhibition set me onto this course of thought.

Part Two Coming Soon!

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

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: Who Wants to be (or look at) a Horse's Behind?

by Victoria Hinshaw

On our post-Wellington tour jaunt around London, Kristine and I found another copy of the painting discussed below as appearing in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice film as it hangs in Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, depicting George, the Prince of Wales, and his horse’s behind.  It hangs in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.


An engraving of the painting also appears in “What Jane Saw,”  a digital recreation of an exhibition at he British Institution in Pall all in 1813.  Click here to see the website and click again on the picture itself to read the description.

Originally published April 2010

In May of 2009, my husband and I visited Brocket Hall, formerly the home of Lord Melbourne, now part of a golf complex. The house, in excellent condition, serves as a venue for corporate events and weddings. Brocket is located near Hertford and Hatfield just north of London. Part of the original land of the adjacent country homes of the London wealthy has been developed into Welwyn Garden City.

The ballroom in Brocket was used for the interiors of Netherfield, the home rented by Mr. Bingley, in the 1995 BBC version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the picture above, you see Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth leading the country dance. In the far background, you can barely make out a portrait of George, Prince of Wales, standing beside the rump of his horse. The painting, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was presented to Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne (mother of the Prime Minister), who reputedly was the mistress of the Prince for a time.

Here is another view of the painting behind Mr. Darcy.

I laughed when I saw this painting, a copy of which I have been unable to locate on any website pertaining either to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) or Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The pose reminded me of a famous view of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. A version of this painting hung in the Elgin Academy Art Gallery where I played at my piano teacher’s annual recital for her students and their parents. There are other versions of the Stuart portrait, chiefly belonging to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I have always wondered how many of my fellow performers looked up in the middle of their playing to be faced with that horse’s . . . ah . . .tail.

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Since those youthful days, the question has arisen in my mind — why paint the rear end of the horse so prominently? In my search of the web for a copy of the Reynolds portrait above, I found some discussions of this exact point. But no one had a definitive answer. Someone suggested that the rear of the horse was a comment by the artist on the character of the subject. One writer said Stuart was not good at painting horses. Another said that men were so portrayed because they were prepared to jump on the horse and take off — being in a position on the horse’s left easily to reach the stirrup. Anyone have any views on this world-shattering question?
The Marquis of Granby, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Above is another example. This is General John Manners, Marquis of Granby, who was painted by Reynolds in about 1765. He died before he succeeded to the title of Duke of Rutland. This painting hangs in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The General was a popular figure, hence many pubs in England named The Marquis of Granby.

Above, another painting by Gilbert Stuart. The subject is Louis-Marie, the vicomte de Noailles (1756-1804), who fought with the Americans during the Revolution. He returned to France but was driven out after their revolution and moved to Philadelphia in 1793. He was a banker and a friend of Washington, neither of which explains why he is standing next to his horse’s rump.

Here is my final example, a portrait of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. It hangs at the country home of the Duke, Stratfield Saye.

I welcome any comments, clues, or links to additional poses of generals (or anyone) with their horses’ rumps.

GEORGIAN ART FROM THE NEW MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM

SOME GEORGIAN ART FROM

THE NEW MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM

Following a major renovation and rehanging of the entire collections, it was time to celebrate…at one of several Opening Parties, we met for cocktails and canapes in the Calatrava addition (completed 2001). After the  official ribbon-cutting, we proceeded into the Older but newly renovated sections to view the entire collection in a new format.

MAM notice!
The Milwaukee Art Museum website is here.
Victoria here. As a long-time member, docent, volunteer, and staffer at the MAM, I was eager to see old friends in a new setting…and to enjoy the refreshed facilities, from the building itself, the HVAC system, lighting, and re-organisation of the collection. 
European Galleries

One (or three?) of those old friends: 
Triple Profile Portrait, C. 1560-80
French, School of Fontainebleau
Most of the galleries were closed for several years to complete the 6-year, $34 million for the renovation and expansion.  Special exhibitions went on in the Calatrava Wing, but we were very happy to see some of our favorites on display again.

The Age of Enlightenment–Immanuel Kant, 2008
by Yinka Shonibare, English, b. 1962
mixed media, purchase by the Contemporary Art Society

The MAM has a particularly fine presentation of American furniture, much from the Chipstone Foundation, as well as the Layton Art Collection. Read about the Chipstone Foundation here

Another of my personal favorites: London Visitors, 1874, by  James Tissot
French (1836-1902) A view on the steps of the National Gallery with the the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in the background.

And now to some promised Art from the Georgian Period, in both Britain and the U.S., her  colonies during much of the period 1714-1837

Miss Frances Lee, 1769
Francis Cotes (English, 1726–1770)
Portrait of Jane Emma Orde, ca. 1806
John Hoppner (English, 1758–1810)
    Puzzle Jug, ca. 1820
    Sunderland or New Castle, England
    Attributed to John Barry (British, active 1784–1827)
    Landscape, n.d.
    John Constable (English, 1776–1837)
    Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769–1830)
    Frederick, Duke of York, n.d.
    William Blake (English, 1757–1827)
    Portrait of a Terrier, The Property of Owen Williams, ESQ., M.P. (Jocko with a Hedgehog), 1828  Edwin Landseer    (English, 1802–1873)
    Charles Willson Peale (American, 1741–1827)
    Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828)
    Philadelphia, High Chest of Drawers, 1760-75
    John James Audubon (American, b. Santo Domingo [now Haiti], 1785–1851). Entrapped Otter (Canada Otter), ca. 1827–30. 
    John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815)
    Alice Hooper, ca. 1763

     Also on view until May 31, 2016 are two more portraits by Copley.  The MAM states, “For the inaugural exhibition in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing’s Focus Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Museum will show two rare paintings never before exhibited in the United States: a pair of pendant portraits of American colonists Anne and Duncan Stewart by the country’s first old master, John Singleton Copley. Painted by Copley in 1767, the portraits show the Scottish couple who were prominent in Boston and Connecticut politics until the American War of Independence, when t
    hey took the loyalist side. In honor of their support, the English king restored their estates confiscated during the Jacobite Uprising, and the couple returned to Scotland, taking the portraits with them. Now owned by Edinburgh’s Stewart society—descendents of the sitters—the works will be returning to the United States for the first time in almost 250 years.

    Duncan Stewart of Ardsheal, d. 1793
    by John S. Copley, 1767

    Anne Erving, Mrs. Duncan Stewart (1740-after 1802)
    by John S. Copley

    I hope I didn’t miss too much — I am delighted to say there will be many return visits to the newly re-hung galleries!

      For now, just a few pictures of the magnificent building in three parts:
    A view of the first War Memorial Center from the south) by Eero Saarinen, opened in 1957, which included the Milwaukee Art Center
    The recently expanded and renovated Kahler Wing (1975 and 2015)
    from the east
    Two views of the Calatrava Wing and the two other sections;
    looking north from Lake Michigan