Morgan Library: Gainsborough

May 11, 2018 at 10:32 pm (entertainment, history, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Gainsborough_Morgan

In my email today was notice that The Morgan Library in New York City has opened their exhibit: Thomas Gainsborough: Experiments in Drawing, which runs until August 19, 2018.

(click the photo for more information from The Morgan about their exhibition)

More than twenty works “reveal the artist’s technical innovations, his mastery of materials, and his development of a new and original mode of drawing.”

Also planned are Lunchtime Lectures, such as this one coming up on May 16th:

GAINSBOROUGH EXPERIMENTS: CORK, BROCCOLI, MILK, AND DRAWING THE LANDSCAPE

This lecture is a ticketed event ($15, but free for Morgan Library Members and student with valid ID); available online. For times and access information, see their website.

The Gainsborough exhibit has an exhibition catalogue, too! An 84-page paperback, for $20.

 

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Zoffany’s Daughter

February 27, 2018 at 8:37 am (books, people, portraits and paintings) (, , )

A reader of my Ladies of Llangollen blog brought to my attention a new book published in Australia and the UK: Zoffany’s Daughter: Love and Treachery on a Small Island, by Prof. Stephen Foster. She described it as, “quite unusual, as it combines History, Fact, and Fiction.”

zoffanys-daughter

The book’s website gives an enticing introduction: “2nd July 1825: Cecilia Zoffany, daughter of a famous artist, flees to the island of Guernsey with her two young daughters, one of them disguised as a boy. Alone and distressed, the beautiful stranger seeks the help of locals in a desperate attempt to retain the custody of her children. Her estranged husband, a London clergyman, follows close behind.

Cecilia Horne is the second daughter of famed artist, Johan Zoffany. Born in 1780, she married the Rev. Thomas Horne on 27 June 1799; Zoffany painted a portrait of his father (another Rev. Thomas Horne). After eight children, the couple separated in 1821. Of course, at the time, British law gave custody of children to the father.

  • read a review, at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  • the book’s Amazon.uk page
  • The Ladies Monthly Museum magazine, features news of the trial of “Mrs. Cecilia Zoffany, wife of Mr. Horne”
  • Investigate the “Rice Portrait,” possibly illustrating the young Jane Austen, which was once believed to have been painted by Zoffany

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Jane Austen BookBenches

October 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings, travel) (, , , )

Sitting with Jane” was a summertime (17 June-30 August) installation of artist-produced benches that created a 24-stop Jane Austen trail. Last month (15 September 2017) the benches were sold at auction, raising funds for The Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

WHERE will the Jane Austen Trail benches turn up next?!?

I wish I had found this project earlier! The “Trail” looks so fun…

If you’re an ‘app’-person, there’s an app for it: available (or was available…) on iTunes and Google Play. The rest of us can “follow” on an old-fashioned MAP.

Sitting with Jane logo

For those of us now having to let our eyes do the walking online, there ARE illustrations of the benches.

Dancing with Jane

This bench, entitled DANCING WITH JANE, by Michelle Heron, was situated outside the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke.

As you see, the benches were “open books” in design, and the artists got to embellish them any way they wished. Michelle Heron was “inspired by regency dancing and the balls that Jane and characters in her novels attended, with a backdrop of a manuscript from her last fully completed novel, Persuasion.”

JANE AND HER FORGOTTEN PEERS, by Amy Goodman, was situated near Winchester Cathedral – where _I_ have enjoyed several “dining with Jane Austen” meals (though not on the Jane Austen bench, of course). Caroline Fairbairne painted TWO benches, one located in Chawton (entitled CHAWTON WOODWALK); while the other graced the area of Steventon Church (DO YOU DANCE, MR. DARCY?).

Oakley Hall (home of the Bramstons in Jane Austen’s time) gave people the opportunity of WAITING FOR MR. DARCY (by Traci Moss). But I must admit to rather liking the refreshing joke behind Mik Richardson‘s ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY? at Worting House.

Are you sitting comfortablyPlease don’t sit on my book!

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Old Artists, Faded Art

May 15, 2016 at 7:01 pm (books, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

One of the most difficult things to accomplish is the identification of portraits. Too many portraits who remain unnamed.  Merely, “Portrait of a Gentleman” or “Portrait of a Lady”.

Ross_a Lady-closeup

Also “unnamed” – sometimes – are the small-scale artists. For instance, I have a will which gave the TANTALIZING news that family portraits existed (at least up to 1814). But who was the painter?

family pictures

“all the Family Pictures painted by Mr. Fold[s…]”

For the life of me I could NOT read the last few letters of the name…

But, while researching for my upcoming article on James Boswell and the city of Chester, I came across this book – and offer it as an excellent place to look up some SMALL Artists, a DICTIONARY of exhibitors from The Society of Artists of Great Britain and The Free Society of Artists, compiled by Algernon Graves (published in 1907):

society artists

I’ll give a special prize to the first reader to email me (smithandgosling [dot] gmail [dot] com) with the ONE exhibitor of paramount interest, a Smith & Gosling relative, who appears in Graves’ line-up.

NB: the artist’s name in the will extract may be John FOLDSONE (father of Anne Mee). Foldsone was described in 1808 as “A painter of portraits in oils, small heads, of no great merit, but with sufficient likeness to procure much employment at a small price. His practice was to attend his sitters at their dwellings.” (He was not alone in this practice, actually.)

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Spending Time at The Vyne

August 16, 2015 at 11:42 am (entertainment, estates, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Why is it: the Best FINDS are found around midnight or 2 AM?

Last night I found that the National Trust has been BUSY photographing artwork and posting them on their National Trust Collections site. FINALLY! we can see some flower paintings of Eliza Chute, Augusta Smith (her sister), and their teacher Miss Meen (Margaret Meen).

Alas! isn’t there ALWAYS confusion when more than one person has similar or exactly the SAME NAME?!?

The Vyne is uncertain, for instance, who painted one “scene” picture – Eliza Chute, or the wife of William Wiggett (who later took the name Wiggett Chute in order to inherit); their daughter was also an Eliza Chute (1843-1913). Her pictures of The Vyne are simply charming.

There IS one “scene” picture that they DO attribute to Eliza Chute (Mrs. William Chute), called A Roadside Halt. Emma’s “Aunt Chute” WAS known as an adept painter, and did practice by copying “old masters”, for example in the art collection of neighbor the Duke of Wellington.

But it is the Floral Paintings that I am most excited to see, for instance this undated work inscribed (pencil) “Eliz. Smith Chute” = which, without seeing it up close, could be in Eliza’s hand, or could be a later hand (not that I doubt it was painted by her, just that she may not have signed it herself).

Eliza Chute_red flowersWatercolor on Vellum

I suspect, between the fact that the Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma [later: Lady Northampton, Aunt Chute, Mamma, and Aunt Emma]), were busy in the 1790s, around the time of Eliza’s marriage, producing various Flower Paintings while in the company of Miss Meen, and the fact that it’s ID’ed as “Smith Chute”, that it probably dates from early in this period. It’s unusual for Eliza to use both her maiden and married names.

  • compare Eliza’s flower paintings at The Vyne with those at The Royal Horticultural Society (afraid you have to work for this one: use the SEARCH function and type in Elizabeth Chute or Elizabeth Smith).
  • See other “artwork done by” (more links), on this blog.

Some Flowers are very in the style of Miss Meen – for instance the Asclepia Giganticus Pentandria Digynia, signed “El. S. 1785”. But others seem their own sweet style – like the Amaryllis, which has to date before September 1793 [when she married William Chute] if it is signed “El. S.”

Born in 1768, Eliza was still in her teens in 1785!

There is even one, called Log and Red Berries, worked by BOTH Eliza Chute AND Margaret Meen.

Problems arise with the works of Augusta Smith — is it the daughter Augusta (whom they ID by her married name, Augusta Wilder), or is the artist Mamma?

augusta smith_pink flowersWatercolor on Vellum

This is – judged from afar (though I am NO expert on artist identifications) – said to date from 1820-1836. The cut-off is obvious: Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, died in the summer of 1836. The back merely says “Augusta Smith” (which of course she would NOT have been after 1829, when she married! so the dating is still erroneous.)

Other Botanicals are a much easier call, and are clearly misattributed – little Augusta was not painting florals at the age of 4 or 5, and there are works identified (for instance) as “Suttons, 1803”. Even worse: “Turnera Ulmifolio Pentandria Trigynia by Augusta Smith, Mrs Henry Wilder (1799-1836). (in ink). AS 1787.” So prodigious a child was little Augusta, that she painted TWELVE YEARS before she was even born!?! Don’t think so…

Emma, by the way, began lessons with Miss Meen in February 1815, aged 13.

The images at the Royal Horticultural Society must be searched for, but all the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (and their instructress, Margaret Meen) are represented. Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”) is actually represented by an online “gallery” of work. Twenty nine images (currently) come up if you search for the term Joshua Smith — because the girls are ID’ed as his daughters! You can toggle the image display so the instructive text comes up beside each image, which is highly useful.

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Online Gallery: John Hassell

August 5, 2015 at 11:22 am (diaries, estates, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Doesn’t it always happen this way: late at night, searching for something else, and up pops some USEFUL item on the internet.

Last night it was locating some lovely drawings of the Surrey artist John Hassell (1767-1827). “Exploring Surreys Past” has a fine “exhibition” of his works, sorted geographically. A lot of country churches and country estates, including one (1822) of Botleys – the future home of Mary’s brother, Robert Gosling.

botleys_hassell

Botleys (in Chertsey), still exists! You can get a peek inside, via this “wedding venue” site. For me, the most evocative photo is one that includes the outside “double sweep” stairs:

botleys6

I have a photograph, from the 1860s, in which all of Robert’s family is seated around the base of the stairs. Robert Gosling is center; his wife Georgina Vere Sullivan to one side – it was the first time I had ever seen a picture (never mind a photograph!) of dear Georgina. She is mentioned with frequency in Mary’s diaries. Their children and grandchildren – and even a pet or two – are ringed around and above them. I see them, even in the “empty” photograph above.

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Jane Austen’s (family) Portraits

December 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm (books, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

In a follow-up to the news of the Sotheby’s sale, I’ve pulled out the one source I have that discusses this very portrait’s “reason for being”: Deirdre Le Faye’s (2nd ed.) Jane Austen: A Family Record.

Near the end of the book, the genesis of James Edward Austen Leigh’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, is treated. It is a rather disappointing story, from the view of the Memoir‘s author: his two sisters were most giving and generous. However, his eldest sister, the former Anna Austen [born 1793] now long the widowed Mrs Lefroy, declared how little she remembered! But then, after sitting down with her pen and paper and exercising her recollections, she did come up with a highly entertaining narrative. Hard to be harsh with Anna: how many of us will recall people from our past, sixty years later?

Edward’s younger sister Caroline Mary Craven Austen [born 1805] also supplied her memories for her brother to incorporate as he wished. Her piece was later published as My Aunt Jane Austen.

Other sources were, of course, attempted. According to Le Faye, “Rather surprisingly, it seems that even at this late date Anna [Lefroy] still did not know that Cassandra had kept Jane’s letters and distributed some of them to the younger nieces, for she wrote to her brother [James Edward Austen Leigh, born 1798]: ‘The occasional correspondence between the Sisters when apart from each other would as a matter of course be destroyed by the Survivor — I can fancy what the indignation of Aunt Cassa. would have been at the mere idea of its being read and commented upon by any of us….'”

Anna also wrote to her brother, “‘You must have it in your own power to write something; & Caroline, though her recollections cannot go as far back even as your’s, is, I know acquainted with some particulars… [they] were communicated to her by the best of then living Authorities, Aunt Cassandra — There may be other sources of information, if we could get at them — Letters may have been preserved’.”

“As far as letters held by other branches of the family were concerned James Edward’s approaches met with only limited success.” Le Faye then details that one of Frank Austen’s son’s “knew that no letter to Henry had been kept”, and that Frank’s daughter Fanny Sophia “had destroyed [Jane’s letters to Frank], following his death in 1865, without consulting anyone else beforehand.” Martha Lloyd Austen’s (Lady Austen) letters had come into Frank’s hands, and “it was one of these that he sent to the Quincy family in 1852 — but how many more of them may have been in his possession at that date is unknown.”

Fanny Sophia was willing to let Edward look at the few letters she had retained, “but only on the condition that he did not publish any”. He evidently did not, therefore, take her up on the offer.

Then there comes the tale of Lady Knatchbull, the former Fanny Knight. “She was now drifting into querulous senility and could not — perhaps would not — remember where she had put her letters from Jane.” These, which Edward did not live to see published, came out in 1884 in the so-called Brabourne edition (vol. 1) [other works by Brabourne, including vol. 2 of Jane Austen’s letters, at Internet Archive].

Certainly, Edward Austen had done the best any biographer can try to do, in amassing all the known “primary materials”.

So what of the portraits?!?

“After these disappointments, the help which James Edward received from Cassy Esten, Charles’s eldest daughter, must have been particularly welcome. She allowed him to use those of Jane’s letters which she had inherited in 1845, and it was she who proffered the two simple watercolour sketches by Cassandra…” These two being the “Sketch” (now at the National Portrait Gallery” and the “Bonnet Portrait”, the view of Austen, sitting out-of-doors, where her face is obscured by her bonnet. “Anna thought there was ‘a good deal of resemblance’ in the figure of the latter, but that the former was ‘so hideously unlike’.”

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Henry had admitted “in 1832 when Bentley wanted a likeness [of Jane Austen] for his new edition of the novels” that “no professional artist has ever painted Jane’s portrait at any time in her life”. {But did Henry know “all” about his sister?}

“James Edward commissioned a local artist, James Andrews of Maidenhead, to redraw the Cassandra-portrait, working under the superintendence of himself and his sisters. They considered his version good enough to appear in the Memoir, and a stipple vignette was steel-engraved from this watercolour to use as the frontispiece.”

austen-watercolor

“Those members of the family who had known Jane best were on the whole rather disappointed by the frontispiece. Casey Esten [born in 1808] wrote ‘I think the portrait is very much superior to any thing that could have been expected from the sketch it was taken from. — It is a very pleasing, sweet face, — tho’, I confess, to not thinking it much like the original; – but that the public will not be able to detect…’  Caroline was equally lukewarm: ‘The portrait is better than I expected — as considering its early date, and that it has lately passed through the hands of painter and engraver – I did not reckon upon finding any likeness — but there is a look which I recognise as hers — and though the general resemblance is not strong, yet as it represents a pleasant countenance it is so far a truth – & I am not dissatisfied with it.’

NPG D1007; Jane Austen after Cassandra Austen

Lizzy Rice [born 1800], now a stately matriarch, wrote from Kent to James Edward: ‘I remember her so well & loved her so much & her books always were and always will be my delight … how well the portrait has been lithographed I think it very like only the eyes are too large, not for beauty but for likeness, I suppose making them so was Aunt Cassandra’s tribute of affection…’.”

Caroline agreed with the comment about the portrait’s eyes: “‘they are larger than the truth: that is, rounder, & more open – I am very glad she sees a general likeness tho’—‘.”

Mrs Beckford, the former Charlotte Maria Middleton, a Chawton neighbor, “considered that: ‘Jane’s likeness is hardly what I remember  there is a look, & that is all…’.” Le Faye records no comments – and perhaps none exist, from Emma or Edward Austen Leigh, regarding the portraits.

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Sotheby’s: Jane Austen Portrait

December 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm (jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

Got wind of a very informative article at ArtDaily.org – discussing the Austen portrait that sold at auction today. The BIG Mystery: Who purchased the portrait?!?

  • New York Times’ blog quotes that Chawton’s Jane Austen’s House Museum felt they could not raise the required funds (estimated to fetch £150,000 to £200,000) after purchasing Jane Austen’s ring.
  • Death Threats over the £10 Bill portrait?
  • Lotta Jane Austen on the block!

The ArtDaily article offers a “behind the scenes” idea as to how Cassandra Austen‘s little drawing (now at the National Portrait Gallery, London) was used to produce the watercolor (ie, Sotheby’s auction item), which, in turn, was made into the etching that graced as frontispiece the Memoir of Jane Austen, written by her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh (husband to my Emma!).

austen-watercolor2

The watercolor portrait has been in family hands – and rarely seen. So, for me, it’s a thrill to see a decent image of the little portrait. Letters have recorded what Edward and his sisters thought of the work of watercolorist James Andrews. That discussion will be Part II – unless the mystery owner is revealed! Gotta wonder if the buyer – if outside the UK – is prepared for backlash. After the furor Kelly Clarkson’s purchase of the Jane Austen ring aroused, it is unlikely the portrait would not arouse the same.

  • If you owned this portrait – could you have sold it?

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Constable painting revealed

September 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm (news, portraits and paintings) (, , )

constable

Miracles DO happen – a reader contacted me recently over some letters once tossed away, and news reports have been discussing this small, postcard-sized painting that has been ID’ed as a John Constable. Click the picture for a short BBC broadcast, and some other links for more of the story:

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More Jane Austen Portrait News

June 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm (jane austen, jasna, news, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , )

Kate in Norfolk sent the following link, about the Rice Portrait: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2156805/The-teenage-Jane-Austen-Fresh-evidence-divisive-portrait-13-year-old-girl-really-loved-author.html

TheDaily Mail’s story undoubtedly gives the family some encouragement about authenticity. Although, it also sheds light on the possible artist!

Read the article, then visit the “Rice Portrait” website. For more on Paula Byrne’s “Austin” portrait, see her website.

Art History News discusses “written” IDs on works, which rather echoes my own thoughts – especially after the Byrne portrait’s incongruous handwriting (see earlier posts on that portrait for a picture of the inscription Miss Jane Austin).

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