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Posts Tagged ‘Sir Joshua Reynolds’

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 Abraham Hume 2nd Baronet
29 February 1749 – 24 March 1838

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Abraham Hume

Sir Abraham Hume 2nd Baronet was a British floriculturist and Tory politician.

He married Amelia Egerton, daughter of John Egerton, Bishop of Durham.

He was appointed High Sheriff of Hertfordshire for 1774 and also elected at the 1774 general election as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the borough of Petersfield in Hampshire, and holding the seat until the 1780 general election, when he did not contest Petersfield again.

He was returned to the House of Commons 27 years later, at the 1807 general election as an MP for the borough of Hastings in Sussex. He resigned the seat in early 1812 in order to contest a by-election in Boston, where he was defeated in April 1812, and was then re-elected for Hastings at a by-election later the same month. At the 1812 general election, he contested both Boston and Hastings, but was elected only in the latter, and held that seat until the 1818 general election, when he contested neither Boston nor Hastings.

Both Sir Abraham Hume and his wife were active as rosarians and developed several rose cultivars at their estate in Hertfordshire. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in December 1775, and one of the founding members of the Geological Society and the British Institution.

He was a keen art collector, especially of Old Master prints and drawings (drawings by Polidoro da Caravaggio were a particular favourite). He was friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds who left him in his will a small painting by Claude Lorrain, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

They had issue:

  • Amelia Hume (21 January 1772 – 15 January 1837)
  • Amelia Sophia Hume (31 July 1788 – 21 February 1814)

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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.

Joseph Wright of Derby
3 September 1734 – 29 August 1797

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Joseph Wright

Joseph Wright of Derby was born in Irongate, Derby. Deciding to become a painter, Wright went to London in 1751 and for two years studied under Thomas Hudson, the master of Joshua Reynolds. After painting portraits for a while at Derby, Wright again worked as an assistant to Hudson for fifteen months. In 1753 he returned to and settled in Derby and varied his work in portraiture by the production of the subjects with strong chiaroscuro under artificial light, with which his name is chiefly associated, and by landscape painting. Wright also spent a productive period in Liverpool, from 1768 to 1771, painting portraits. These included pictures of a number of prominent citizens and their families.

Wright married Ann (also known as Hannah) Swift, the daughter of a leadminer, on 28 July 1773

Wright and his wife had six children, three of whom died in infancy. Wright set off in 1773 with John Downman, a pregnant Ann Wright and Richard Hurleston for Italy. Their ship took shelter for three weeks in Nice before they completed their outward voyage in Livorno in Italy in February 1774. Downman returned to Britain in 1775. Although he spent a great deal of time in Naples, Wright never actually witnessed any eruption of Mount Vesuvius; however, it is possible that he witnessed smaller, less impressive eruptions, which may have inspired many of his subsequent paintings of the volcano. On his return from Italy he established himself at Bath as a portrait-painter, but meeting with little encouragement he returned to Derby in 1777, where he spent the rest of his life. He became increasingly asthmatic and nervous about the house, and for these complaints he was treated by his friend Erasmus Darwin. Ann Wright died on 17 August 1790. On 29 August 1797 Wright died at his new home at No. 28 Queen Street, Derby, where he had spent his final months with his two daughters.

Wright was a frequent contributor to the exhibitions of the Society of Artists, and to those of the Royal Academy, of which he was elected an associate in 1781 and a full member in 1784. He, however, declined the latter honour on account of a slight which he believed that he had received, and severed his official connection with the Academy, though he continued to contribute to the exhibitions from 1783 until 1794.

Wright is seen at his best in his candlelit subjects of which the Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight (1765), his A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1766), in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), in the National Gallery are excellent examples. His Old Man and Death (1774) is also a striking and individual production.

Joseph Wright of Derby also painted Dovedale by Moonlight, capturing the rural landscape of a narrow valley called Dovedale, 14 miles northeast of Wright’s home town of Derby, at night with a full moon. It hangs in the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Its companion piece, Dovedale by Sunlight (circa 1784–1785) captures the colors of day. In another Moonlight Landscape, in the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota Florida, equally dramatic, the moon is obscured by an arched bridge over water, but illuminates the scene, making the water sparkle in contrast to the dusky landscape. Another memorable image from his tour of the Lake District is Rydal Waterfall of 1795.

Cave at evening (above) is painted with the same dramatic chiaroscuro for which Joseph Wright is noted. The painting was executed during 1774, while he was staying in Italy. Notice the similarities to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s holding, Grotto by the Seaside in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti, Sunset (1778).

Wright had close contact with the pioneering industrialists of the Midlands. Two of his most important patrons were Josiah Wedgwood, credited with the industrialization of the manufacture of pottery, and Richard Arkwright, regarded as the creator of the factory system in the cotton industry. One of Wright’s students, William Tate, was uncle to the eccentric gentleman tunneler Joseph Williamson and completed some of Wright’s works after his death. Wright also had connections with Erasmus Darwin and other members of the Lunar Society, which brought together leading industrialists, scientists, and philosophers. Although meetings were held in Birmingham, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, lived in Derby, and some of the paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby, which are themselves notable for their use of brilliant light on shade, are of, or were inspired by Lunar Society gatherings.

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), shows people gathered round observing an early experiment into the nature of air and its ability to support life.

The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone (1771) depicts the discovery of the element phosphorus by German alchemist Hennig Brand in 1669. A flask in which a large quantity of urine has been boiled down is seen bursting into light as the phosphorus, which is abundant in urine, ignites spontaneously in air.

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery shows an early mechanism for demonstrating the movement of the planets around the sun. The Scottish scientist James Ferguson (1710–1776) undertook a series of lectures in Derby in July 1762 based on his book Lectures on Select Subjects in Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Optics &c. (1760). To illustrate his lectures, Ferguson used various machines, models and instruments. Wright possibly attended these talks, especially as tickets were available from John Whitehurst, Wright’s close neighbour, a clockmaker and a scientist. Wright could also have drawn on Whitehurst’s practical knowledge to learn more about the orrery and its operation.

These factual paintings are considered to have metaphorical meaning too, the bursting into light of the phosphorus in front of a praying figure signifying the problematic transition from faith to scientific understanding and enlightenment, and the various expressions on the figures around the bird in the air pump indicating concern over the possible inhumanity of the coming age of science.

These paintings represent a high point in scientific enquiry which began undermining the power of religion in Western societies. Some ten years later, scientists would find themselves persecuted in the backlash to the French Revolution of 1789, itself the culmination of enlightenment thinking. Joseph Priestley, a member of the Lunar Society, left Britain in 1794 after his Birmingham laboratory was smashed and his house burned down by a mob objecting to his outspoken support for the French Revolution. In France, the chemist Antoine Lavoisier was executed by the guillotine at the height of the Terror. The politician and philosopher Edmund Burke, in his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), tied natural philosophers, and specifically Priestley, to the French Revolution; he later wrote in his Letter to a Noble Lord (1796) that radicals who supported science in Britain “considered man in their experiments no more than they do mice in an air pump”.

In light of this comment, Wright’s painting of the bird in the air pump, completed over twenty years earlier, seems particularly prescient.

It was against this background that Charles Darwin, grandson of the Derby man and Lunar Society member, Erasmus Darwin, would add to the conflict between science and religious belief half a century later, with the publication of his book The Origin of Species in 1859.

Wright’s birthplace at 28 Irongate, Derby is commemorated with a representation of an orrery on the pavement nearby.

Joseph Wright was buried in the grounds of St Alkmund’s Church, Derby. The church was controversially demolished in 1968 to make way for a major new section of the inner ring road cutting through the town centre, and now lies beneath the road. Wright’s remains were removed to Nottingham Road Cemetery.

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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 Henry Raeburn
4 March 1756 – 8 July 1823

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Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn was born the son of a manufacturer in Stockbridge, on the Water of Leith; a former village now within the city of Edinburgh. His ancestors were believed to have been soldiers, and may have taken the name ‘Raeburn’ from a hill farm in Annandale, held by Sir Walter Scott’s family. Orphaned, he was supported by his older brother and placed in Heriot’s Hospital, where he received an education. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to the goldsmith James Gilliland of Edinburgh, and various pieces of jewellery, mourning rings and the like, adorned with minute drawings on ivory by his hand, still exist. Soon he took to the production of carefully finished portrait miniatures; meeting with success and patronage, he extended his practice to oil painting, at which he was self-taught. Gilliland watched the progress of his pupil with interest, and introduced him to David Martin, who had been the favourite assistant of Allan Ramsay the Latter, and was now the leading portrait painter in Edinburgh. Raeburn was especially aided by the loan of portraits to copy. Soon he had gained sufficient skill to make him decide to devote himself exclusively to painting. George Chalmers (1776; Dunfermline Town Hall) is his earliest known portrait.

In his early twenties, Raeburn was asked to paint the portrait of a young lady he had noticed when he was sketching from nature in the fields. Anne was the daughter of Peter Edgar of Bridgelands, and widow of Count James Leslie of Deanhaugh. Fascinated by the handsome and intellectual young artist, she became his wife within a month, bringing him an ample fortune. The acquisition of wealth did not affect his enthusiasm or his industry, but spurred him on to acquire a thorough knowledge of his craft. It was usual for artists to visit Italy, and Raeburn set off with his wife. In London he was kindly received by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy, who advised him on what to study in Rome, especially recommending the works of Michelangelo, and gave Raeburn letters of introduction for Italy. In Rome he met his fellow Scot Gavin Hamilton, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni and Byers, an antique dealer whose advice proved particularly useful, especially the recommendation that “he should never copy an object from memory, but, from the principal figure to the minutest accessory, have it placed before him.” After two years of study in Italy he returned to Edinburgh in 1787, and began a successful career as a portrait painter. In that year he executed a seated portrait of the second Lord President Dundas.

Examples of his earlier portraiture include a bust of Mrs Johnstone of Baldovie and a three-quarter-length of Dr James Hutton, works which, if somewhat timid and tentative in handling and not as confident as his later work, nevertheless have delicacy and character. The portraits of John Clerk, Lord Eldin, and of Principal Hill of St Andrews belong to a later period. Raeburn was fortunate in the time in which he practised portraiture. Sir Walter Scott, Hugh Blair, Henry Mackenzie, Lord Woodhouselee, William Robertson, John Home, Robert Fergusson, and Dugald Stewart were resident in Edinburgh, and were all painted by Raeburn. Mature works include his own portrait and that of the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, the bust of Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill, the two full-lengths of Adam Rolland of Gask, the remarkable paintings of Lord Newton and Dr Alexander Adam in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of William Macdonald of St Martin’s.

Apart from himself, Raeburn painted only two artists, one of whom was Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, the most important and famous British sculptor of the first half of the nineteenth century. It has recently been revealed that Raeburn and Chantrey were close friends and that Raeburn took exceptional care over the execution of his portrait of the sculptor, one of the painter’s mature bust-length masterpieces.

It was commonly believed that Raeburn was less successful in painting female portraits, but the exquisite full-length of his wife, the smaller likeness of Mrs R. Scott Moncrieff in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of Mrs Robert Bell, and others, argue against this. Raeburn spent his life in Edinburgh, rarely visiting London, and then only for brief periods, thus preserving his individuality. Although he, personally, may have lost advantages resulting from closer association with the leaders of English art, and from contact with a wider public, Scottish art gained much from his disinclination to leave his native land. He became the acknowledged chief of the school which was growing up in Scotland during the earlier years of the 19th century, and his example and influence at a critical period were of major importance. So varied were his other interests that sitters used to say of him, “You would never take him for a painter till he seizes the brush and palette.”

In 1812 he was elected president of the Society of Artists in Edinburgh, in 1814 associate, and in the following year full member of the Royal Scottish Academy. On 29 August 1822 he was knighted by George IVand appointed His Majesty’s limner for Scotland at the Earl of Hopetoun house. He died in Edinburgh.

Raeburn had all the essential qualities of a popular and successful portrait painter. He was able to produce a telling and forcible likeness; his work is distinguished by powerful characterisation, stark realism, dramatic and unusual lighting effects, and swift and broad handling of the most resolute sort. David Wilkie recorded that, while travelling in Spain and studying the works of Diego Velázquez, the brushwork reminded him constantly of the “square touch” of Raeburn. Scottish physician and writer John Brown wrote that Raeburn “never fails in giving a likeness at once vivid, unmistakable and pleasing. He paints the truth, and he paints it with love”.

Raeburn has been described as a “famously intuitive” portrait painter. He was unusual amongst many of his contemporaries, such as Reynolds, in the extent of his philosophy of painting directly from life; he made no preliminary sketches. This attitude partly explains the often coarse modelling and clashing colour combinations he employed, in contrast to the more refined style of Thomas Gainsborough and Reynolds. However these qualities and those mentioned above anticipate many of the later developments in painting of the nineteenth century from romanticism to Impressionism.

Sir Henry Raeburn died in St Bernard’s House (17 St Bernards Crescent), Stockbridge, Edinburgh. He is buried in St. Cuthbert’s churchyard against the east wall (the monument erected by Raeburn in advance) but also has a secondary memorial in the Church of St John the Evangelist, Edinburgh.

Raeburn made more than a thousand paintings spanning fifty years.

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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 West
October 10, 1738 – March 11, 1820

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Benjamin West

Benjamin West was an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence and the Seven Years’ War. He was the second president of the Royal Academy in London, serving from 1792 to 1805 and 1806 to 1820. He was offered a knighthood by the British Crown, but declined it, believing that he should instead be made a peer. He said that “Art is the representation of human beauty, ideally perfect in design, graceful and noble in attitude.”

West was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, in a house that is now in the borough of Swarthmore on the campus of Swarthmore College, as the tenth child of an innkeeper and his wife. The family later moved to Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, where his father was the proprietor of the Square Tavern, still standing in that town. West told the novelist John Galt, with whom, late in his life, he collaborated on a memoir, The Life and Studies of Benjamin West (1816, 1820) that, when he was a child, Native Americans showed him how to make paint by mixing some clay from the river bank with bear grease in a pot. Benjamin West was an autodidact; while excelling at the arts, “he had little [formal] education and, even when president of the Royal Academy, could scarcely spell”.

From 1746 to 1759, West worked in Pennsylvania, mostly painting portraits. While West was in Lancaster in 1756, his patron, a gunsmith named William Henry, encouraged him to paint a Death of Socrates based on an engraving in Charles Rollin’s Ancient History. His resulting composition, which significantly differs from the source, has been called “the most ambitious and interesting painting produced in colonial America”. Dr William Smith, then the provost of the College of Philadelphia, saw the painting in Henry’s house and decided to become West’s patron, offering him education and, more importantly, connections with wealthy and politically connected Pennsylvanians. During this time West met John Wollaston, a famous painter who had immigrated from London. West learned Wollaston’s techniques for painting the shimmer of silk and satin, and also adopted some of “his mannerisms, the most prominent of which was to give all his subjects large almond-shaped eyes, which clients thought very chic”. West was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, whose portrait he painted. Franklin was the godfather of West’s second son, Benjamin.

Sponsored by Smith and William Allen, then reputed to be the wealthiest man in Philadelphia, West traveled to Italy in 1760. In common with many artists architects and lovers of the fine arts at that time he conducted a Grand Tour. West expanded his repertoire by copying works of Italian painters such as Titian and Raphael direct from the originals. In Rome he met a number of international neo-classical artists including German-born Anton Rafael Mengs, Scottish Gavin Hamilton, and Austrian Angelica Kauffman.

In August 1763, West arrived in England, on what he initially intended as a visit on his way back to America. In fact, he never returned to America. He stayed for a month at Bath with William Allen, who was also in the country, and visited his half-brother Thomas West at Reading at the urging of his father. In London he was introduced to Richard Wilson and his student Joshua Reynolds. He moved into a house in Bedford Street, Covent Garden. The first picture he painted in England Angelica and Medora, along with a portrait of General Monckton, and his Cymon and Iphigenia, painted in Rome, were shown at the exhibition in Spring Gardens in 1764.

In 1765 he married Elizabeth Shewell, an American to whom he became engaged in Philadelphia, at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Dr Markham, then Headmaster of Westminster School, introduced West to Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Thomas Newton, Bishop of Bristol, James Johnson, Bishop of Worcester, and Robert Hay Drummond, Archbishop of York. All three prelates commissioned work from him. In 1766 West proposed a scheme to decorate St Paul’s Cathedral with paintings. It was rejected by the Bishop of London, but his idea of painting an altarpiece for St Stephen Walbrook was accepted. At around this time he also received acclaim for his classical subjects, such as Orestes and Pylades and The Continence of Scipio.

Benjamin West was known in England as the “American Raphael”. His Raphaelesque painting of Archangel Michael Binding the Devil is in the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Drummond tried to raise subscriptions to fund an annuity for West, so that he could give up portraiture and devote himself to entirely to more ambitious compositions. Having failed in this, he tried—with greater success—to convince King George III to patronise West. The king’s first commission was a painting of the departure of Regulus from Rome. West was soon on good terms with the king, and the two men conducted long discussions on the state of art in England, including the idea of the establishment of a Royal Academy. The academy came into being in 1768, with West one of the primary leaders of an opposition group formed out of the existing Society of Artists of Great Britain. Joshua Reynolds was its first president.

In 1772, King George appointed him historical painter to the court at an annual fee of £1,000. He painted a series of eight large canvases showing scenes from the life of Edward III for St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle, and proposed a cycle of 36 works on the theme of “the progress of revealed religion” for a chapel at the castle, of which 28 were eventually executed. He also painted nine portraits of members of the royal family, including two of the king himself. He was Surveyor of the King’s Pictures from 1791 until his death.

He painted his most famous, and possibly most influential painting, The Death of General Wolfe, in 1770 and it exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771. The painting became one of the most frequently reproduced images of the period. It returned to the French and Indian War setting of his General Johnson Saving a Wounded French Officer from the Tomahawk of a North American Indian of 1768.

West became known for his large scale history paintings, which use expressive figures, colours and compositional schemes to help the spectator to identify with the scene represented. West called this “epic representation”. His 1778 work The Battle of the Boyne portrayed William of Orange’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and strongly influenced subsequent images of William. In 1806 he produced The Death of Nelson, to commemorate Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

St Paul’s Church, in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, has an important enamelled stained glass east window made in 1791 by Francis Eginton, modelled on an altarpiece painted c. 1786 by West, now in the Dallas Museum of Art. It shows the Conversion of Paul. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1791.

Following a loss of royal patronage at the beginning of the 19th century, West began a series of large-scale religious works. The first, Christ Healing the Sick was originally intended as a gift to a Quaker hospital in Philadelphia; instead he sold it to the British Institution for £3,000, which in turn presented it to the National Gallery. West then made a copy to send to Philadelphia. The success of the picture led him to paint a series of even larger works, including his Death on a Pale Horse, exhibited in 1817.

Though initially snubbed by Sir Joshua Reynolds, founding President of the Royal Academy, and by some other Academicians who felt he was over-ambitious, West was elected President of the Royal Academy on the death of Reynolds in 1792. He resigned in 1805, to be replaced by a fierce rival, architect James Wyatt. However West was again elected President the following year, and served until his death.

Many American artists studied under him in London, including Ralph Earl, Samuel Morse, Robert Fulton, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Matthew Pratt, Gilbert Stuart, John Trumbull, Washington Allston, Thomas Sully, John Green, and Abraham Delanoy.

West died at his house in Newman Street, London, on March 11, 1820, and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

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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.

Society of Artists of Great Britain
1765-1791

Society of Artists of Great Britain was founded in London in May 1761 by an association of artists in order to provide a venue for the public exhibition of recent work by living artists, such as was having success in the long-established Paris salons. Leading members seceded from the society in 1768, a move leading directly to the formation of the Royal Academy of Arts. The society was dissolved 1791 after years of decline.

The Society of Artists of Great Britain began in 1760 as a loose association of artists, including Joshua Reynolds and Francis Hayman, who wanted greater control by artists over exhibitions of their work previously organised by William Shipley’s Society of Arts (founded in 1754). The new society organised their first exhibition in April 1760 and over one thousand visitors per day attended. The following year they held their second exhibition at Christopher Cock’s Auction Rooms in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, and “In a conspicuous gesture they called themselves the Society of Artists of Great Britain to emphasise their identity with the ‘nation’ and to announce a clear split with Shipley’s faction.” Some 13,000 people bought a copy of the catalogue for the 1761 exhibition which featured a frontispiece designed by William Hogarth depicting Britannia watering three trees marked Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

In 1765, the Society, then comprising 211 members, obtained a Royal Charter as the “Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain”.

Reynolds would later be a founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, after an unseemly leadership dispute between two leading architects, Sir William Chambers and James Paine had split the Society. Paine won, but Chambers used his strong connections with George III to create the new body – the Royal Academy of Arts was formally launched in 1769. However, the Society of Artists of Great Britain continued its schedule of exhibitions until 1791, while those who remained with the older “Society of Arts” now called themselves the “Free Society of Artists” (1761–1783).

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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.

Society of Dilettanti
Since 1732 –

Society of Dilettanti is believed to have been established as a London dining club in 1732 by a group of people who had been on the Grand Tour. Records of the earliest meeting of the Society were written somewhat informally on loose pieces of paper. The first entry in the first minute book of the Society is dated April 5, 1736.

In 1743 Horace Walpole condemned its affectations and described it as such; “…a club, for which the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk: the two chiefs are Lord Middlesex and Sir Francis Dashwood, who were seldom sober the whole time they were in Italy”

The group, initially led by Francis Dashwood, contained several dukes and was later joined by Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight, among others. It was closely associated with Brooks’s, one of London’s most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs. The society quickly became wealthy, through a system in which members made contributions to various funds to support building schemes and archaeological expeditions.

The first artist associated with the group was George Knapton.

The Society of Dilettanti aimed to correct and purify the public taste of the country; from the 1740s, it began to support Italian opera. A few years before Sir Joshua Reynolds became a member, the group worked towards the objective of forming a public academy, and from the 1750s, it was the prime mover in establishing the Royal Academy. In 1775 the club had accumulated enough money towards a scholarship fund for the purpose of supporting a student’s travel to Rome and Greece, or for archaeological expeditions such as that of Richard Chandler, William Pars and Nicholas Revett, the results of which they published in Ionian Antiquities, a major influence on neo-Classicism in Britain. One notable member was Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples.

The Society has 60 members, elected by secret ballot. An induction ceremony is held at a London club. It makes annual donations to the British Schools in Rome and Athens.

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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.

John Campbell 1st Baron Cawdor
1753 – 1 June 1821

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John Campbell

John Campbell 1st Baron Cawdor was the son of Pryse Campbell of Stackpole Court, Pembrokeshire, and Sarah (née Bacon). His siblings were Sarah, George, Alexander and Charles Campbell. He was sent to board at Eton College, Berkshire (1763–67). Afterwards he studied at Cambridge University (Clare College) (1772).

His father died in 1768, so when his grandfather died in 1777 John inherited Stackpole Court and his grandfather’s estates in Pembrokeshire and Nairn, and a mineral-producing estate in Cardiganshire; these lands and mines made him a rich man. From 1777 to 1780 he was Member of Parliament for Nairnshire. He became Member of Parliament for Cardigan Boroughs from a by-election in June 1780 until he stood down at the British general election, 1796. From 1780 he was Governor of Milford Haven.

Between 1783 and 1788 Campbell visited Italy and Sicily, where he bought antiquities from Fr. John Thorpe, Henry Tresham, James Durno and Thomas Jenkins, commissioned paintings of archaeological sites in Naples and Sicily from Xavier della Gatta, Tito Lusieri, Henry Tresham and Louis Ducros, and bought sculptures from the young Canova. In 1788 Campbell bought from Giovanni Volpato the celebrated Lante Vase [now at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire]. He also began a collection of ‘Etruscan’ (i.e. ancient Greek) vases from Nola and other southern Italian sites, and had further examples sent to him after his return to Britain, including the ‘Campbell Crater’ excavated at Lecce in 1790. He also continued to acquire architectural and sculptural fragments and casts.

Campbell established a Museum in his house in Oxford Street, London, which had an art-historical rather than decorative intention, and was hailed by the sculptor, John Flaxman, as ‘excellent news for the arts’.

In 1789 on 28 July John Campbell married Isabella Caroline Howard – daughter of Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle and Margaret Caroline Leveson-Gower. They had two children:

  • John Frederick Campbell, 1st Earl Cawdor (1790–1860), married Elizabeth Thynne, daughter of 2nd marquis of Bath
  • Rear-Admiral Hon. George Pryse Campbell (1793–12 August 1858), married on 13 October 1821 Charlotte Gascoyne, daughter of Isaac Gascoyne.

In 1794 Campbell became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1795 a Fellow of the Royal Society.

As a Parliamentarian, Campbell was at first a Whig and a supporter of Lord North. In debates on the North Atlantic slave trade he supported the abolitionists. He became a supporter of the younger Pitt’s war policy. On 21 June 1796 Campbell was made a peer with the title of ‘Baron Cawdor’ of Castlemartin in the County of Pembroke. As a landowner he was an active improver – draining the Castlemartin Corse and creating Bosherton lakes. His generosity to the poor was proverbial.

In 1797 he was the commander of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry, who defeated Napoleon’s troops in the Last invasion of Britain.

In 1800 Campbell sold the contents of his Museum. Several items were sold to the architect, Sir John Soane.

In 1804 Campbell added to his extensive land-holdings by inheriting John Vaughan’s estates at Golden Grove, Carmarthenshire. In 1808 he was mayor of Carmarthen.

Campbell died on 1 June 1821, at Bath. He is buried at Bath Abbey.

A portrait of John Campbell was made by Joshua Reynolds; a miniature of him by Richard Cosway is in the National Galleries of Scotland.

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