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Posts Tagged ‘Sir George Beaumont 7th Baronet’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Seguier
9 November 1772 – 5 November 1843

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William Seguier

William Seguier was born in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, the descendant of French Huguenot refugees.

Many of his relatives were involved in the arts on a professional level, from his father David, a picture dealer, to his uncle on the paternal side, the sculptor Peter Seguier.

Initially Seguier worked as an artist; he may have been taught by George Morland and perhaps even William Blake. However, his marriage to Anne Magdalene Clowden (a fellow Huguenot), gave him the independent means to establish a dealership, and he largely gave up painting thereafter. The business, in which his brother also worked, also offered picture-cleaning and restoring services, a useful way of getting to know collectors.

From 1806, when Lord Grosvenor consulted him on the purchase of the Agar collection, Seguier’s clientele became ever more aristocratic and well-connected, including such names as Sir George Beaumont, Sir Abraham Hume, Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington.

Beaumont and Grosvenor were also members of a group of connoisseurs and artists (including David Wilkie and Benjamin Haydon) that called itself “the clique”, to which Seguier was admitted. Through such connections as these, the opportunistic Seguier secured a number of high-ranking official positions, beginning in 1805 with his appointment as Superintendent of the newly formed British Institution. This was followed in 1820 with the post of Surveyor of the King’s Pictures, and upon the foundation of the National Gallery in 1824 he was appointed its Keeper.

The Superintendent was responsible for organizing and hanging the shows at the British Institution, a role that inevitably gave rise to grumbling and worse from artists – at the Royal Academy a committee was responsible for the hang, which allowed someone else to be blamed, but Seguier had no such opportunity to share the blame. In 1833 John Constable wrote with heavy irony of having received a visit in his studio from “a much greater man than the King—the Duke of Bedford—Lord Westminster—Lord Egremont, or the President of the Royal Academy — “MR SEGUIER”.” When in 1832 two pictures by Richard Parkes Bonington, who had been dead only four years, were included in an “Old Masters” exhibition, Constable (who was twenty-six years older than Bonington) wrote that Seguier was “carrying on a Humbugg”.

Seguier held these three positions until his death in 1843; his brother succeeded him at the British Institution. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Benjamin Robert Haydon
26 January 1786 – 22 June 1846

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Benjamin Robert Haydon

Benjamin Robert Haydon was born in Plymouth, the only son of another Benjamin Robert Haydon, a prosperous printer, stationer and publisher, and his wife Mary, the daughter of the Rev. Benjamin Cobley, rector of Dodbrooke, near Kingsbridge, Devon. At an early age he showed an aptitude for study, which was carefully fostered by his mother. At the age of six he was placed in Plymouth grammar school, and at twelve in Plympton Grammar School, where Sir Joshua Reynolds had received most of his education. On the ceiling of the school-room was a sketch by Reynolds in burnt cork, which Haydon loved to sit and look at. Reading Albinus inspired him with a love for anatomy, and from childhood he wanted to become a painter.

Full of energy and hope, he left home, on 14 May 1804, for London, where he entered the Royal Academy Schools. He was so enthusiastic that Henry Fuseli asked when he found time to eat. In 1807, at the age of 21, Haydon exhibited, for the first time, at the Royal Academy. The painting he entered, The Repose in Egypt, was bought by Thomas Hope a year later for the Egyptian Room at his townhouse in Duchess Street. This was a good start for the Haydon, who shortly afterwards received a commission from Lord Mulgrave and an introduction to Sir George Beaumont. In 1809 he finished his picture of Dentatus, which, though it increased his fame, resulted in a lifelong quarrel with the Royal Academy, whose committee hung it in a small side-room instead of the in great hall. That same year, he took on his first pupil, Charles Lock Eastlake, later a leading figure in the British art establishment.

The financial difficulties which were to dog him for the rest of his life began in 1810 when, in response to Haydon having achieved a certain amount of commercial success, his father stopped paying him his annual allowance of £200. He also became involved in disputes with Beaumont, for whom he had painted a picture of Macbeth, and with Richard Payne Knight, who had outraged Haydon by denying both the aesthetic and the financial value of the sculptures from the Parthenon, recently brought to Britain by Lord Elgin. Haydon was fascinated by the “Elgin Marbles”, and believed that they provided evidence that ancient Greek artists had studied anatomy. The Judgment of Solomon, his next production, was sold for £700, to two Plymouth bankers, and also brought £100 voted to him by the directors of the British Institution, and the freedom of the borough of Plymouth. The income was not enough to pay off all his debts, but it maintained his credit, allowing him to continue borrowing.

At the end of May 1814 he took advantage of the cessation of hostilities with France to visit Paris with his friend David Wilkie, and see the art collections gathered by Napoleon from across Europe at the Louvre. Much of what he saw there disappointed him: he described Raphael’s Transfiguration, a painting he had particularly wanted to see, as “small & insignificant”. At François Gerard’s studio he saw a portrait of Napoleon, and began to develop a fascination with the defeated French leader, although, unlike some of his more radical friends such as William Hazlitt, Haydon never admired him politically.

On returning to England, he produced Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, which was later to form the nucleus of the American Gallery of Painting, erected by his cousin, John Haviland of Philadelphia. While painting another large work, the Resurrection of Lazarus, his financial problems increased, and he was arrested but not imprisoned, the sheriff-officer taking his word for his appearance. In October, 1821, he increased his commitments when he married Mary Hyman, a widow with two young children, whom he had known for some years. In 1823 Haydon spent two months imprisoned for debt in the King’s Bench Prison, where he received consoling letters from leading men of the day. While there, he drew up a petition to Parliament in favour of the appointment of “a committee to inquire into the state of encouragement of historical painting”, which was presented by Lord Brougham.

During 1825, following an agreement for his financial support with his lawyer, Thomas Kearsey, Haydon turned, rather unwillingly, to portrait painting, and at first he had considerable success. His works in the genre were, however, attacked in a savage review in Theodore Hook’s weekly newspaper John Bull. Haydon later blamed the article for his loss of clientele, and falling back into unmanageable levels of debt. Following a second period of incarceration at the King’s Bench Prison in 1827, he painted the Mock Election inspired by an incident he had witnessed there. The picture was bought by King George IV for £500. Encouraged by this success, he painted a companion picture, Chairing the Member, returning to the prison to make drawings of some of the inmates. A third painting of contemporary life showed the audience at a Punch and Judy show in the New Road at Marylebone. His hopes that the king would buy this work were disappointed, a setback he blamed on the actions of the Keeper of the King’s Pictures, William Seguier.

Among Haydon’s other pictures were: Eucles (1829); Napoleon at St Helena, for Sir Robert Peel; Xenophon, on his Retreat with the ‘Ten Thousand,’ first seeing the Sea; and Waiting for the Times, purchased by the Marquis of Stafford (all 1831); and Falstaff and Achilles playing the Lyre (1832). Curtius Leaping into the Gulf, and Uriel and Satan. (1843) As a supporter of parliamentary reform, he had the idea of painting a grand canvas of a meeting on Newhall Hill, addressed by Thomas Attwood, leader of the Birmingham Political Union. Attempts to raise subscriptions to fund the painting failed, and only sketches were ever made, but Haydon did receive a commission from the new Whig prime minister, Lord Grey, for a picture of the Reform Banquet held at the Guildhall. Completed In 1834, the painting contained 597 individual portraits. He also made a painting of the Meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society, now in the National Portrait Gallery.

Haydon became well known as a lecturer on painting, and from 1835 onwards travelled throughout England and Scotland on lecture tours. He campaigned to have the country’s public buildings decorated with history paintings showing the glories of the nation’s past, and within three days of the destruction of the Palace of Westminster by fire in 1834 he visited the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, in order to impress on him the importance of government patronage of art, especially in relation to the opportunities offered by the rebuilding made necessary by the disaster. Although a scheme along the lines of his suggestions was in fact carried out at the new Houses of Parliament, Haydon played no part in it. When, in 1843, an exhibition was held at Westminster Hall, to choose designs for paintings to decorate the Houses of Parliament. he submitted two cartoons, The Curse of Adam and Edward the Black Prince, but the commission charged with artists to carry out the work (which including his former pupil, Eastlake) found neither suitable.

He then painted The Banishment of Aristides, which was exhibited, along with other works, at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, where he had hired a gallery several times over the years. The American dwarf General Tom Thumb was then appearing at the same venue; over the Easter week 12,000 people paid to see him, while only 133 visited Haydon’s exhibition.

The artist’s difficulties increased to such an extent that, whilst employed on his last grand effort, Alfred and the Trial by Jury, overcome by debts of over £3,000, disappointment, and ingratitude, he wrote “Stretch me no longer on this rough world,” and attempted suicide by shooting himself. The bullet failed to kill him, and he finished the task by cutting his throat. He left a widow and three surviving children, who were generously supported by Haydon’s friends, including Sir Robert Peel, the Count d’Orsay, Thomas Talfourd, and Lord Carlisle. A resident of Paddington, he was buried just to the north-west of the grave of Sarah Siddons at St Mary’s Church, Paddington, London. The cemetery was converted to a park, St Mary’s Gardens, in 1885. Haydon’s is one of the few preserved stones. It is modest and eroded but his name is still (2014) just legible.

In 1839 Haydon began work on an autobiography, drawing on materials from his extensive diaries. Before his death he had completed the story of his life up to the year 1820. It was published in three volumes in 1853, edited by Tom Taylor, with additional material from the diaries, under the title Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon, Historical Painter, from his Autobiography and Journals.

The autobiography was assessed by the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition this way:

Haydon’s autobiography is one of the most natural books ever written, full of various and abundant power, and fascinating to the reader. His love for his art was both a passion and a principle. He found patrons difficult to manage; and did not have the tact to lead them gently. He failed, abused patrons and patronage, and intermingled talk of the noblest independence with acts not always dignified. He was self-willed to perversity, but his perseverance was such as is seldom associated with so much vehemence and passion. He had confidence in his own powers and in the ultimate triumph of art. He proclaimed himself the apostle and martyr of high art, and believed himself to have a claim on the sympathy and support of the nation.

Readers of his autobiography were struck by the frequency and fervour of the short prayers interspersed throughout the work. Haydon had an overwhelming sense of a personal, overruling and merciful providence, which influenced his relations with his family, and to some extent with the world. He had many enemies, actuated by motives as unworthy as his own were always high-pitched and on abstract grounds laudable.

Haydon’s Lectures, published shortly after their delivery, showed that he was as bold a writer as painter. He also wrote the long and elaborate article on “Painting,” in the 7th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Charles Dickens wrote in 1846 that “All his life [Haydon] had utterly mistaken his vocation. No amount of sympathy with him and sorrow for him in his manly pursuit of a wrong idea for so many years — until, by dint of his perseverance and courage it almost began to seem a right one — ought to prevent one from saying that he most unquestionably was a very bad painter, and that his pictures could not be expected to sell or to succeed.”

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir George Beaumont 7th Baronet
6 November 1753 – 7 February 1827

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George Beaumont

Sir George Beaumont 7th Baronet was Born in Great Dunmow, Essex, he was the only surviving child of the landowner Sir George Beaumont, 6th Baronet, from whom he inherited the baronetcy in 1762 (see Beaumont baronets). Beaumont was educated at Eton College, where he was taught drawing by the landscape painter Alexander Cozens.

The first paintings to enter Beaumont’s collection were by artists he knew, but a Grand Tour which he undertook in 1782 with his wife Margaret (the daughter of John Willes of Astrop, Oxon) widened his taste to include the Old Masters. On his return he began to assemble a collection of Old Master paintings despite his relatively modest means. His first important acquisition was A Landscape with Hagar and the Angel by Claude Lorrain, and this always remained his favourite painting, accompanying him on coach journeys in a specially-designed case.

In 1785 Lady Beaumont inherited the lease of 34 Grosvenor Square, which provided the Beaumonts with a much-needed escape from the tedium of Dunmow and introduced them to a more diverse social circle. This circle expanded when Beaumont became Tory MP for Beer Alston in Devon from 1790 to 1796, but his enthusiasm for politics was short-lived and he soon returned to his artistic pursuits. A picture gallery was added to the house in 1792 to accommodate their growing art collection. Despite the cool reception by critics of an early work, A View of Keswick (1779), Beaumont became a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1794 to 1825, eventually earning a reputation as the leading amateur painter of his day.

The Beaumonts went on frequent sketching tours of the Lake District and of North Wales, necessitated by Sir George’s having caught a fever during his Grand Tour. For their Welsh excursions they rented Benarth, a house near Conwy, where they were visited by Uvedale Price among others. Price had a great influence on Beaumont’s taste, awakening his interest in the Picturesque movement and in Flemish and Dutch painting and landscaping the grounds at Coleorton Hall, Beaumont’s country house in Leicestershire. Coleorton was later to become Beaumont’s main place of residence, and was rebuilt to a design by George Dance the Younger from 1804 to 1808. A friend of the Lake Poets, with whom he considered himself a kindred spirit, Beaumont lent out the farm of the estate to William Wordsworth and his family in the winter of 1806. They were briefly joined there by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but Beaumont was unable to establish the same rapport with this poet as with Wordsworth, who proved a lifelong friend.

The 1800s saw Beaumont being promoted to influential posts in what were effectively committees of artistic taste: he sat on the monuments committee for St Paul’s Cathedral from 1802 and was one of the founding directors of the British Institution (established in 1805). Despite his openness for romantic poetry, Beaumont was less receptive of new developments in painting. A staunch defender of the academic ethos of Sir Joshua Reynolds, he was one of J. M. W. Turner’s most vehement critics, regularly denouncing his handling of colour. This oppressive stance on matters of taste was to earn him the epithet of “supreme Dictator on Works of Art” from his old friend Thomas Hearne. Nonetheless, Beaumont did welcome some sympathetic artists, including the young John Constable, to study the Old Masters in his collection. The most famous fruit of Beaumont’s patronage is the Constable’s painting of the cenotaph erected to Reynolds in the grounds at Coleorton (painted 1833–6; now in the National Gallery).

He was a founding member of the British Institution in 1805, which in 1815 upset many British artists by a preface to the catalogue of their exhibition of Old Masters, implying rather too strongly that British artists had a lot to learn from them. The publication in 1815–16 of a series of satirical “Catalogues Raisonnés“, probably by Robert Smirke, ridiculed Beaumont for his conservatism, after which he retired from public life to Coleorton. A visit to Italy in 1821 in which he met Antonio Canova restored his morale, and while there he bought the Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo, which he later donated to the Royal Academy. This last stay in Italy convinced him of the need to educate British taste by establishing a public gallery of Old Masters. Upon his return Beaumont offered to give of 16 his paintings to Lord Liverpool’s government on the condition that they buy the collection of John Julius Angerstein, and that a suitable building be found to house these works of art. Angerstein’s collection came up for sale in 1824 and Parliament, spurred on by Beaumont’s offer, bought 38 of his pictures. The National Gallery opened to the public in May 1824 in Angerstein’s former house on Pall Mall, and Beaumont’s paintings entered its collection the following year.

After suffering a brief illness, Sir George Beaumont died in Coleorton Hall on 7 February 1827. He was buried in Coleorton church. Some paintings by his own hand have entered the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester, while the rest remain in the Beaumont family collection. His title was inherited by his cousin George Howland Willoughby Beaumont.

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