A Portrait by George Richmond (of…?)

This is a portrait of a young woman in watercolour with some body colour, painted on paper and measuring 345 x 450mm.  It is inscribed in the bottom left corner: ‘Geo. Richmond, delt, 1852”.  

I have no reason to doubt this is anything but a genuine Richmond portrait, it is characteristic of his work, the signature is correct, and the picture was untouched in its original James Henry Chance frame.  

Assuming the artist and date are therefore correct, who is the sitter?

I’ve been considering a couple of theories. What follows are my research notes and some early speculation. 

The “Shelley” Conjecture

The first potential clue to the identity of the sitter is on the back of the picture, on the top of the frame, where written in a modern hand, is “Miss Shelley (?)” and “3”.  There is also a printed label that reads “SHELLEY 1882”.  

The question mark of course suggests the attribution as Miss Shelley is a guess, an identification perhaps prompted by the label, which may have nothing to do with the Shelley family name. Despite some extensive searching the label remains a mystery. It is also unclear what the label represents and whether the reference to 1882 is a date or an unconnected number. 

So, is there anything else would make anyone suggest the sitter is Miss Shelley?  The answer could come from the 1852 date. By 1852 Richmond had been a prolific portraitist for decades but if we look at the known, but not necessarily complete, record of his portraits from 1852 (they come from information in his diaries and account books), and exclude portraits of men, then we end up with a list of some 30 pictures.  On that list is the following entry:

            Shelley. Miss (Aunt of the Poet)        £42      1852

It is possible someone has simply seen the 1852 date and asked if this could be Miss Shelley. Is there anything else therefore to connect or help identify Miss Shelley as the sitter, other than a date and a seemingly random pick?  

There is another known connection between the Richmond family and the Shelley family. Richmond’s mother, Mrs Thomas Richmond née Anne Oram (1772-1859) knew the poet Shelley when he had lodged in the same house as her in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly.  That does seem to be a rather tenuous connection.

The known price for the work may be relevant – the majority of Richmond’s portraits are likely to be mid-sized watercolours or chalk drawings.  It looks like Richmond’s standard charge in 1852 for that format is £31.10.   But the portrait of Miss Shelley is more expensive at £42.  It is possible the portrait of Miss Shelley is a larger format work but this is not borne out by our picture.  The increased price can however also cover the production of a companion portrait. I have, for example, a pair of portraits of Mr and Mrs Penrhyn of similar size and from just a year later where the price charged for the pair is £42. The increased price can also include the cost of having the picture engraved but there is no evidence this one was.  

All of this speculation may however be academic as we now come to the major, and potentially fatal problem with the Shelley identification. Our sitter is, generally speaking, a young woman.  The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) famously died young, at 30 years of age, but his death was 30 years before this painting. His aunt (on his father’s side, to have the Shelley name) is not going to be a young woman.  The poet’s father Sir Timothy Shelley was born in 1731 and had died in 1815.  He had three sisters: an older sister Helen who was born before 1731 and must have been long dead by 1852, and two younger sisters Ariana and Jane Caroline Shelley, but both of those seem to have been born before 1771 so would be at least 80 years of age in 1852.   The spouses of Shelley’s uncles also don’t match our sitter.

Either the description in the account books of Miss Shelley as “the poet’s aunt” is wrong (which seems unlikely) or the sitter can’t be Miss Shelley.  Of course the best evidence to discount this as being Miss Shelley would be to find the actual portrait of Miss Shelley, which so far I’ve been unable to do. 

The Lascelles Theory

I haven’t given you the full story about the back of the picture. There is another possible lead to consider. On the wooden backing board, in pencil and in a different hand, is written the phrase “for Giles Lascelles”. 

Now it may just be a coincidence that someone called Lascelles is mentioned on the back of this picture and they may have no connection with the sitter.  The Lascelles name however is of huge interest because a) it is not a common British name b) it is associated with the aristocratic Lascelles family, one branch of which is headed by the Earls of Harewood and c) it generates a least one well documented connection I already know about with George Richmond.  All of these may help identify the sitter.

I have two reference points to work from – the modern reference to “Giles Lascelles” and the 1852 date of creation. Is it possible to connect these two references, to either identify the sitter, or develop a provenance?

I’m starting with the 1852 date as it relates directly to the painting.  Going back to the list I created of Richmond’s 1852 female portraits we find this entry:

            Miss Lascelles​​             £31.10            1852

Again, this is possibly a coincidence but maybe there is a Lascelles connection.  So, who could “Miss Lascelles” be and would she match this image?   

We have visual clues from the painting. If this is Miss Lascelles, she has to be a young woman of around 18 to early 30s in age (although estimating the age of sitters in portraits of this time is difficult). She has to be unmarried (to be “Miss” Lascelles) which might be supported by the visual clues as to dress, the lack of a wedding ring etc. We also have to consider whether there is a reason for commissioning a portrait e.g. to commemorate a marriage or engagement.  

There is one other visual clue, in that the sitter appears to be wearing mourning clothes, particularly black bracelets – so a close relative is likely to have died recently, but not too recently, as she is not in full mourning dress. 

I’m now looking at any female members of the Lascelles family to see who might fit those criteria.  One of the benefits of aristocratic families is that their lineage is well documented even if, in the traditional way, the family tree is confusing as they repeatedly adopt the same limited repertoire of names.

Let’s start at the top. In 1852, the head of the family was the third Earl, Henry Lascelles (1797-1857).  Not much to say about him except to note he is still alive in 1852, so he is not being mourned by his family.  The third Earl married Lady Louisa Thynne(1801-1859).  This is the Lascelles connection to Richmond that I already knew about because Louisa, Countess of Harewood was painted in a full-length oil by Richmond in 1855.  The painting appears on the cover of Raymond Lister’s biography of Richmond and is still in the Lascelles family seat, Harewood Hall near Leeds.  So we know that Richmond was familiar with the Lascelles family and painted the countess three years after our portrait.

Louisa, 3rd Countess Harewood, Harewood House

Could Miss Lascelles be a daughter of the Earl and Countess? They had 13 children including 6 girls, although the later children would be too young to be the subject of our painting.

The eldest daughter is Lady Louisa Isabella Lascelles (1830-1918) who would be 22 years of age in 1852. She marries Charles Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon in 1853 so is still “Miss” Lascelles and it is possible that this could this be an engagement picture.   There is photograph of Louisa Isabella taken in the 1860s where she looks remarkably like her mother but not at all like our portrait. 

The next daughter is Lady Susan Charlotte Lascelles (1834-1927) who would be 18 in 1852. She married Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 1st Earl Wharncliffe in 1855 so is still Miss Lascelles, but at 18 she seems to be to be at the very edge of the viable age range for our picture. There is a photograph of her in 1874 and a watercolour portrait by xxx in 1888 which although decades after the painting don’t suggest a particular resemblance. 

The other four daughters: Lady Blanche Emma Lascelles (1837-1863); Lady Florence Harriet Lascelles (1838-1901); Lady Mary Elizabeth Lascelles (1843-1866) and Lady Maud Caroline Lascelles (1846-1938) would be too young, at 15, 14, 9 and 6 respectively in 1852, to be our sitter. 

Finally, there is a rather magnificent, privately printed, catalogue of the art at Harewood House produced by the art historian Tancred Borenius in 1936. Whilst that lists a series of Lascelles portraits including Richmond’s portrait of the Countess Louisa it does not mention any other portraits of her daughters. This is actually reassuring, if it had been the Harewood Lascelles I imagine it would still be in the house today. 

So, whilst Lady Louisa and Lady Susan could still be our sitter the lack of resemblance to the (admittedly later) photographs is a concern, and the fact there is no record of a portrait at Harewood as I’d expect, and there is no obvious relative they are likely to be mourning tends in my mind to rule them out as contenders. 

We should however consider the other branches of the Lascelles family and that takes me to the children of William Saunders Sebright Lascelles (1798-1851) the brother of the 3rd Earl. He had 5 daughters of 10 children with his wife Caroline Georgiana Howard (?-1881) (she is from the Howard/Cavendish family). William was painted by John Jackson in a portrait currently in Hardwick Hall and there is an engraving of a rather striking portrait of Caroline. 

Their oldest daughter is Georgiana Caroline Lascelles (1826-1911) who married Charles William Grenfell on 20 Jul 1852. This could therefore be marriage picture and Georgiana would still be Miss Lascelles in the first half 1852. Georgiana was born on 5 January 1826 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire so would be 26 in 1852 which puts her in the right age bracket.  She would also be at the end of a period of mourning for father who died in July 1851.   Georgiana would go on to have 1 child, Baron William Henry Grenfell born in 1855. She died on 2 February 1911 at 85 years of age. The 1881 Census records a Georgiana C Grenfell in the house of Robert H Meade (her son in law), at St George Hanover Square, London.  We have a portrait of her as a young girl that was engraved later, which although shows a much younger girl does suggest some similarities with the sitter.  All of these things, age, mourning, possible wedding portrait make her a good, probably my best candidate for being “Miss Lascelles”.

String of Daisies: Steel engraving by W.H. Mote after A.E. Chalon

The next oldest daughter is Henrietta Frances Lascelles (1830-1884).  However, she had married William Cavendish, 2nd Baron Chesham  in 1849 so wouldn’t be “Miss Lascelles” in 1852.  She had child and would be 22 in 1852. She may be the Mrs Cavendish mentioned in Richmond diary entry (see footnote 1).

The others daughters: Mary Louise Lascelles (1835-1917) Emma Elizabeth Lascelles (1838-1920) and Beatrice Blanche Lascelles (1844-1915) at 17, 14 and 8 years of age respectively in 1852 are too young to be our sitter. 

For completeness, the other brother of the 3rd Earl, was Arthur Lascelles but his children are too young (aged 11) in 1852 to be our sitter.

I have therefore two main contenders Lady Louisa Isabella Lascelles (1830-1918) daughter of the third Earl whom I still have doubts about, and her cousin Georgiana Caroline Lascelles (1826-1911) who seems the strongest possibility. 

I should also mention that Richmond’s records show a “Mr Lascelles” was painted in 1835 (for £5.5). I can find no trace of that picture and without any hint as to the age of Mr Lascelles it is impossible to identify him. 

“For Giles Lascelles”

This phrase is scribbled in a modern hand on the backboard of the picture.  Given that, I don’t think this can mean the painting was done for a Giles Lascelles.  I’ve also seen notes like this on the back of pictures refer reframing work done for the named client. The frame is however almost certainly the original from 1852 and matches those of other Richmond pictures of that year and around that time.   It could of course also mean it was remounted, reserved or sold to a Giles Lascelles in recent years.

So who could Giles be? The most obvious contender is Henry Giles Francis Lascelles (1931-1998) who, according to Burke’s Peerage, usually went by his middle name Giles.  He however has a son, also called Hugo Giles Lascelles (b.1958).  

Not surprisingly both “Giles” are related to all the other Lascelles.  They are however also directly related to Georgiana.

And that is where my current research runs out of steam. I don’t have any provenance to work back from – I bought this picture in a private sale from someone who had no knowledge of the subject. I also can’t find any auction records for the painting – although this is difficult when you have no named sitter to go by.   That said, I also can’t find a record for another picture by Richmond of Miss Lascelles which would rule that option out. 

So, is this Georgiana Caroline Lascelles?  If so, where has it been for 170 years?

Any ideas – let me know. 

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A Portrait by George Richmond (kind of)

I have a current fascination, perhaps obsession, with the watercolour portraits of George Richmond (1809-1896). I’ll probably return to a detailed consideration of some examples I’ve managed to acquire recently, but this post looks at something rather unusual about which I still have several unanswered questions.

I’m always interested in an artist’s technique and the prolific Richmond has of course a refined, efficient and distinctive watercolour style especially in the portraits from the mid 1830s to 1850s. I prefer his watercolours to his admittedly masterful portraits in chalks from the 1850s, or to the maybe less accomplished oils he takes up later in his career. So when I saw for sale online a item described as a small preparatory drawing and colour wash for a larger watercolour portrait I was intrigued. Intrigued because I’ve never heard of, or seen, a preparatory work for a watercolour portrait of this size or level of detail. It was described as still sealed under glass with some foxing damage. Looking at the images online I immediately had doubts about the description, but I can’t resist a mystery so I bought it anyway.

We clearly have a portrait of a young man, with some limited colouring of the sky and background foliage. In the bottom left corner is Richmond’s signature and the date of 1856. It is small at 190mm x 145mm.

Let’s start with the subject of the portrait. We know this is Hardinge Giffard Follett because a full size watercolour, described as that, was sold at auction in 1997. Unfortunately I can only find a low-res black and white photograph of the lot but it is enough to confirm this is the same person.

We can also look at information from Richmond’s account and studio books that tell us he made two portraits of people called Follett. One watercolour of “Mr Follett (senior)” in 1857 for which he charged 30 guineas and another portrait of “Mr H. Follett” of 1856. That second one must be our man. Its an unusual name so a quick internet search leads to the conclusion Hardinge Giffard Follett is almost certainly the second son of Sir William Webb Follett (1796-1845) an eminent lawyer, MP and Attorney General in Peel’s government. (If I’m right about that, and assuming “Mr Follett senior” is Sir William, then that portrait doesn’t seem to be listed anywhere else despite the fact portraits of Sir William are recorded by Sir Martin Archer Shee amongst others and there is a statue memorial to him in Westminster Abbey.) The details of his parents (he gets the Hardinge and Giffard names from his mother) and this portrait are the only things I know, so far, about Hardinge Follett.

Why, before seeing this in the flesh, did I have doubts about this being a preparatory version of the larger portrait? It is worth making a comparison between the two versions.

Allowing for the lack of a better image of the larger version, the images are remarkably similar. That doesn’t suggest a preparatory sketch to be refined at a later date. Secondly, the signature is identical and the very fact it is signed and the signature is exactly scaled compared to the larger image suggests strongly this is not a preparatory version but a precise copy of the larger image. That is where the questions start to get interesting. There are plenty of engravings of Richmond’s portraits but this is not a hand coloured engraving or a mezzotint and doesn’t look like the other contemporary print types. It could be a modern type photo or print but it also looks like it has some age.

When it arrives the first thing I notice is the weight. Even allowing for it being under glass, it is heavy. Second, viewed at an angle the colour of the trees seems to have either been painted on the glass or to have adhered to the glass. That makes me less eager to open the seal.

The more carefully I look at the image from different angles and under magnification, the more it looks like it is painted on the glass. But I also notice what should have been obvious from the online images – there is a border that exactly matches the limits of the photo of the larger watercolour, so this is definitely some form of copy of that image, not a painted one and not a preparatory work.

When I’m looking at the back and wondering why it is not on board or card, my decision about opening it up is made for me because the old and deteriorating sealing simply comes apart. This is what I see when I open it.

That is a photograph printed on the glass. It sits on top of another piece of opaque black glass (hence the weight). The black background makes the image look like a positive. Put a piece of white card behind the image and you can see the negative.

I’m no expert in photographs, especially ones on glass plates with hand colouring. A crash course in early photography quickly throws up similar images which are commonly described as ambrotypes or collodion positives.  The image isn’t actually a positive, its a negative made to look like a positive when viewed by reflected light against a dark background. Some ambrotypes are hand tinted which is why the colour looked like it was painted on the glass. The ambrotype was introduced in 1854 and by the late 1850s was replacing daguerreotypes but the format didn’t last long being replaced itself by the tintype in the 1860s. So assuming I’m right that this is a ambrotype from the late 1850s to early 1860s, then it is pretty much contemporary to the 1856 watercolour. I now have questions that I don’t know the answers to.

It is worth saying that however, that whilst there are not a lot of them (in essence ambrotypes are monotypes), I have found another ambrotype of a Richmond portrait. It is of Richmond’s famous 1850 portrait of Charlotte Bronte and is in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), from engraving after drawing by George Richmond 1850 – © 2017 Art Gallery of Ontario

Two things about that, first it is a ambrotype of the engraving of the Richmond portrait (not, as I suspect in my case, of the original image) and second it is of a famous image of a famous person.

So to my unanswered questions. Why would someone make an ambrotype of a watercolour portrait of a relatively unknown Hardinge Follett? Why not, as was common for Richmond’s work, commission a copy of the portrait or an engraving? If you wanted a photograph, why not one of Hardinge himself from life, rather than of an artwork? Is there something in Hardinge’s biography that explains this e.g. he died soon after the portrait was painted? What happened to the original watercolour and what does it look like in colour, as I can’t seem to find details of the sale in 1997. Can you have ambrotypes restored to remedy some of the damage around the face? I’m conscious that they are delicate objects so does anyone produce an appropriate frame with a cover to protect it?

If you know anything about Hardinge Follett, his portrait or about ambrotypes do let me know.

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Stanley Inchbold: Return to the South Downs

More than a year since my last post and I’m returning to where I left off, with Stanley Inchbold painting watercolours on the South Downs.

The previous post on Inchbold focused on his watercolour “Sunset in Downland – Near  Newhaven” which appears as one of the illustrations of the book “Spirit of the Downs” (see the illustrations here).  Recently I’ve acquired another Inchbold watercolour, again signed, but this time it has no title, not even a misleading one. 

Stanley Inchbold – South Downs

This image doesn’t appear as an illustration in any of the books illustrated by Inchbold. It is clearly a British landscape and not one of his views of the Middle East or Portugal.  

If you look closely at the figure on the right with a hat, you can see he has a shepherd’s crook in his hand. Behind the figure on the horizon is what looks like one or possibly two windmills.  All of this, and the flora, suggest we are back on the South Downs.

Stanley Inchbold – South Downs, detail

We can probably narrow the location down a bit.  A windmill on the Downs could be Beacon Mill at Rottingdean, as painted by William Nicholson. Two windmills might suggest the Jack and Jill windmills at Clayton.  I think it is more likely to be the latter which would put the location near Ditchling Beacon looking west.  Mentioning Ditchling Beacon reminded me that whilst this image is not one of the illustrations in “Spirit of the Downs” this is:

Stanley Inchbold – Near Ditchling Beacon

And once you see that image the similarities with my picture are obvious. The same shepherd figure (although more prominent), same landscape, same sky.  I’m now confident that not only is my new acquisition a view near Ditchling Beacon, I’m pretty sure it was painted at the same time as the view that is used in the Spirit of the Downs. 

Stanley Inchbold – Comparison


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The Spirit of the Downs – Stanley Inchbold in Sussex

A couple of years ago I bought this watercolour.


As the picture is signed it wasn’t difficult for the seller to list it as a watercolour by Stanley Inchbold.


The view was described as “Shoreham by Sea from the Downs” which seemed to me to be a reasonable description, although there was nothing else to confirm that title.  When the picture arrived I did a little digging into Stanley Inchbold.

There isn’t that much in the way of biographical material on Inchbold and very few original works in public collections. Edward Stanley Inchbold (1855 – 1921), generally known as Stanley Inchbold, was born in Greenwich in 1855.  He was the son of Ann and Thomas Mawson Inchbold from the North Riding of Yorkshire. It is likely that he was related to the Pre-Raphaelite landscape painter John William Inchbold (1830-1888).

Inchbold seems to have started his career as a school teacher at Cowley College in East Barnet, Hertfordshire.  He doesn’t seem to have had any formal art training until he studied under Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914), the German-born painter of portraits and social realist subjects, who had opened an art school at Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1883.  Stanley studied at the Herkomer School from 1892 to 1894.

Inchbold must however have been painting from much earlier as he starts exhibiting in London from 1884, including showing work at the Royal Academy, the Fine Art Society and the New Watercolour Society.

Inchbold is primarily a landscape painter in watercolour.  He seems to have started travelling in the 1880s and spent much of his life in Europe, the United States, North Africa and the Middle East. In the late 1880s, Inchbold was living in North America where he joined Edgar Fleming (1859-1938), to create the photographic firm of Inchbold & Fleming, based in Victoria, British Columbia. By 1888, Inchbold was in California, where he remained for a few years.

During his peripatetic years Inchbold married Ada Alice Cunnick (1858–1939) who after their marriage used the name A.C. Inchbold. She was a romantic novelist and travel writer. Her novels include “Princess Feather” (1899), “The Silver Dove” (1900), “Phantasma” (1906), “Love in a Thirsty Land” (1914), “Love and the Crescent” (1918), and “Sallie of Painter’s Bakery” (1920).

Ada and Stanley visited Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Portugal, and Ada’s two travel books based on their trips are “Under the Syrian Sun” (1906) and “Lisbon and Cintra” (1907), both of which were illustrated by Stanley. The illustrations in “Under the Syrian Sun” are perhaps his best known works.


It seems Stanley and Ada had settled in Sussex by the early 1900s (they are recorded living in Eastbourne in 1910) – she produces “The Letter Killeth: A Romance of the Sussex Downs” published in 1905 (which was reviewed, not entirely favourably, by Virginia Woolf in the TLS, 27 October 1905) and he illustrated Arthur Beckett’s book “The Spirit of the Downs” which was published in 1909.

Which brings me back to the watercolour.  When I bought it I’d done enough research to know that Inchbold has illustrated Arthur Beckett’s book and had thought it possible the painting of the Downs may have been produced for that book. I found a copy in the London Library but this turned out to be a later edition, the 6th from 1943, where the illustrations are replaced by photographs. I then forgot about it for a while until a recent internet alert pointed me to an early edition for sale.


It is an odd book. The subtitle “Impressions and Reminiscences of the Sussex Downs” gives you a hint that it is a mix of slightly sentimental, slightly mythical, anecdotes of life in Sussex in the later part of the 19th century.  But, more importantly for me, the twenty illustrations were all still intact. My heart sank somewhat when the list of illustrations failed to mention a view of Shoreham.


Disappointed, I flicked through the pages anyway and found the second illustration was this:


So the view isn’t of Shoreham by Sea but from the Downs above Newhaven. It is interesting to see how the original compares with the book reproduction using printing techniques of 1909.

aaa comparison

Top: Original watercolour – Bottom: book illustration

I’m glad that my hunch that this might be a book illustration was right although I was thrown for a while by making the classic error of assuming a title attributed to the painting was correct.

To see a complete set of the illustrations from “The Spirit of the Downs” click here.


Further reading:

The Spirit of the Downs: Impressions and Reminiscences of the Sussex Downs” by Arthur Beckett, with twenty illustrations in colour by Stanley Inchbold, London, Methuen & Co., 1909

Under the Syrian Sun : the Lebanon, Baalbek, Galilee, and Judæa” by A.C. Inchbold; with 40 full-page coloured plates and 8 black-and-white drawings, by Stanley Inchbold. London: Hutchinson, 1906.

Lisbon & Cintra : with some account of other cities and historical sites in Portugal”  by A.C. Inchbold; illustrated by Stanley Inchbold. London: Chatto & Windus, 1907.

STANLEY INCHBOLD The Holy Land, Galilee, Judea and Baalbek, and the Landscape, Architecture and Native Life of Palestine, watercolours” (Note by Chas. Aug. Manley): Fine Art Society Exhibition: November – December 1903




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James Lawton Wingate on Arran, continued

My last post (some time ago) talked about the Scottish artist James Lawton Wingate and his paintings of the Isle of Arran.  I mentioned in that post Wingate’s illustrations for a book called “Arran of the Bens, the Glens and the Brave” with text by MacKenzie MacBride, published in 1910.

I compared one of the images in that book with a painting I have, but didn’t show any more of the book illustrations. Here are the rest:

Goatfell from the road between Lamlash and Brodick


Sunset at mouth of the Machrie

Ailsa Craig and Pladda Lighthouse from Kildonan

Lochranza and Castle

Old Bridge: North Glen Sannox

Corn cutting

Old Arran House, Whiting Bay

Harvesting, Tormore

Caisteal Abhail

The Edge of the Shisken Moor

Drumadoon Bay

The Old Pier, Lamlash, and the Holy Island

Clouds moving over a moor: Ben Ardven in the distance

Grey Cloudland: Sound of Kilbrannan

Whiting Bay from the Kildonan Road

The Approach of Night – Over the Sound of Kilbrannan


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Of Bens & Glens: James Lawton Wingate on Arran

I have a particular fondness for paintings of the Isle of Arran, partly because I spent my formative years looking at the Arran hills, especially the largest peak “Goat Fell”, from where I lived, across the Firth of Clyde, on the Ayrshire coast.


There is a tradition in Scottish landscape painting of showing the Arran hills in profile from across the Firth. (There is an old joke about it: “If you can’t see Arran it’s raining, if you can, it’s about to rain.”) Some of the best examples are by William McTaggart but the practice continues with contemporary artists, the best of whom might be the architect turned painter John Bell.

John Bell, Arran from Ardrossan North Shore, from my collection

There is also a tradition of artists visiting and living on the island, painting the views of the hills and the glens that surround them.  There is plenty to occupy them. Arran is often described as representing the geography of Scotland in miniature. There is a northern mountainous area but also a gentle rolling hills and almost flat pasture in the south. That variety in a relatively small area makes it an attractive venue for painters.

Despite the range of artists who have tackled the subject my favourite painter of Arran views is still rather obscure. James Lawton Wingate (1846 – 1924) didn’t start out as an artist but ended his days as President of the Royal Academy in Scotland.

He was born in Glasgow and rather than have a formal art education he started to work as a commercial clerk.  He did however attend drawing lessons early in the morning before going to work. Art soon appears to be the passion that takes over his life and by 1864, aged 18, he is exhibiting at the Glasgow Fine Art Institute.

From 1874 he moved to Crieff and later to Muthill (in Perthshire). To be honest I don’t have much time for his early work which is heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and presents a very romanticised version of harsh nineteenth century Scottish rural life.

Summer at Muthill, James Lawton Wingate

But something happens to Wingate on Arran. Later in life, around the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century, he loosens up – he becomes freer in his handling of paint – he becomes a Scottish impressionist.

This emancipation can probably be best seen in the way his views of Arran change. This is his 1869 painting of Glen Rosa, with its obsessive Pre-Rapahelte attention to detail:

(c) Perth & Kinross Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

And this is another view from the early 1900s:

Sunset over Arran, James Lawton Wingate, from my collection

Suddenly we start to see evocative sunsets and dramatic skies painted with sweeping brush strokes and smears of paint.  There are a whole series of them; sunsets over Goat Fell, the valleys of Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa and the sea and landscapes of Kilbrannan Sound.

In 1910 Lawton Wingate illustrates a book on Arran by MacKenzie McBride called “Arran of the Bens, the Glens and the Brave”. It is a compilation of stories, history and romances about the island. The interest for me though are the sixteen illustrations of Lawton Wingate’s Arran views which show how, by 1910 he had moved to the more fluid impressionist style of his later years.

Cover of “Arran of the Bens, the Glens and Brave” by MacKenzie MacBride with illustrations by J.Lawton Wingate RSA, TN Foulis, Edinburgh, first edition 1910, from my collection.

The first illustration in the book is a view of “Goat Fell from the road between Lamlash and Brodick”

“Goatfell from the road between Lamlash and Broderick” James Lawton Wingate, frontispiece illustration from “Of Bens and Glens, etc.”

I don’t know what happened to the original painting this illustration is based on.  I can’t seem to track it down but last year I did come across and managed to buy this oil sketch:

“Goatfell from the Lamlash to Brodick Road”, James Lawton Wingate, from my collection

“Goatfell from the Lamlash to Brodick Road”, James Lawton Wingate

Detail of “Goatfell from the Lamlash to Brodick Road”, James Lawton Wingate

The view is very similar to that in the book illustration and is recognisable to anyone who has spent time on Arran.  It shows the mountain of Goatfell in the distance and in the foreground a track with a woman and child in Edwardian summer clothes walking down the hill towards the town of Brodick.

My picture may be an oil sketch for the later, more detailed view illustrated in the book. (The view seems to have acquired a telegraph pole in the book version which might suggest that is later.)

The view hasn’t changed much. The modern road takes the same route and you can find where Lawton Wingate must have painted from by looking at google street view:

Comparison of Lawton Wingate view and google street view of A841, Arran

Continue reading

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Art History Book Challenge – No. 1 Emil Mâle “Gothic Art”

My previous post explained my challenge to read the 16 “Books That Shaped Art History” in 2016.  You should consult that book for serious or academic criticism since what follows are simply personal responses to reading these books.


I grew up with the gothic.  My small Ayrshire town is dominated to this day by a twelfth century Cistercian Abbey.  But, this being a very protestant Scotland and not northern France, the Abbey is in ruins and what decoration there was is long gone apart from a single, heavily worn carving of what may be Adam and Eve.


Processional arch, Kilwinning Abbey: Detail of “Adam & Eve” carving c.1190

To be fair, as Umberto Eco tells me, the Cistercians were never that keen on over luxuriant church decoration.  There is a Cistercian statute that denounces the misuse of gold, silk, silver, stained glass, sculpture , paintings and carpets.  That sounds remarkably like the views of the church that currently occupies what would have been the main aisle of the Abbey.  And it’s the reformation that Emil Mâle blames for the loss of knowledge about the meaning of 13th century religious art which his book “L’Art religieux du XIIIe siecle en France: Etude sur l’iconographic du Moyen Age et sur see sources d’inspiration” attempts to redress.

For something written by a French academic, in a niche field, in 1898, it is a remarkably accessible book.  The prose is clear, pithy even, and often quotable, starting with the opening line:

“To the Middle Ages art was didactic.”

It then launches into an iconographic study of the stained glass and sculptures on and in the 13th century cathedrals at Chartres, Notre Dame Paris, Amiens, Laon and Sainte-Chapelle.  It is almost exhaustingly immersive.  You are fifty pages in before there is any let up in the – this image means this, it comes from this medieval manuscript – approach.  I find myself taking him at his word since I have no knowledge of the books he refers to and the case he makes does appear compelling.

As the essay by Alexandra Gajewski on the book makes clear, Mâle’s life was dominated by “order, disciple and education” and it is that intense focus that means the book is still in print today.  It is also my main problem with the book.  After a few hundred pages you crave a personal comment, a little human detail or, at the very least, an appreciation of the art rather than a explanation of its meaning.  I want him to say not just “this is a statue of the Virgin standing above the burning bush” but look how serene it is.

Chartres Cathedral, North Porch, The Visitation

Chartres Cathedral, North Porch, The Visitation.

I want to know more about the artists – did they understand what they were portraying and why or did they simply cary out specific commissions from the clergy?  Who decided on the overall plan for the decoration?  Mâle does mention this issue but only, in passing, in the final pages of the book.

I suspect these minor criticisms (I am not, as others seem to be, that concerned that is is so centred on French art) are very 21st century views since this really is a book about iconography and theology.  I have learnt a lot of theology from this book, some of which is very helpful for looking at later religious art.

The book was illustrated and it certainly helps to see examples of what is described in the text but I did find myself looking up images on the internet (I suspect this will be common for these early books).  Modern, high definition, colour reproductions really help appreciate the beauty of the images, especially with the stained glass which, given the limitations of the time, is represented by line drawings.


“The Sky, Water and Trees” Legend of St Eustace, Chartres


I’m glad I read this.  I would never have done so without the prompt from the The Books that Shaped Art History. I fear however that the next time I go to Paris and stand at the foot of Notre Dame I will be a very boring person to be near.

Next up: Bernard Berenson “The Drawings of the Florentine Painters”

I read, the still in print, Dover (2000) unabridged “Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century” a republication of the work originally published in New York in 1913.

I also read Umberto Eco’s “Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages“, Yale University Press, 1986, originally published 1959.

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The Art History Book Challenge


The other day I started reading “The Books that Shaped Art History” edited by Richard Shone and John-Paul Stonard. It’s a collection of essays on sixteen books which, as the title suggests, were influential in developing new ways of looking at, thinking about or writing about art. Having read the introduction I was just about to start in on the first essay when the idea came into my head that I should read the original books before I read the essays about them.

There are sixteen books listed. I usually read more than 16 art books a year, so how difficult would it be to read the 16 in 2016?  And, I notice skimming the list, I already own and have read a handful of the titles so I’d just have to find them and revisit them. So far, so good.

But now I start to look in detail at the list. Some are not in print, some are long books on what are, for me anyway, obscure topics, and some are in German. But by this time I’m committed to the plan having casually mentioned it on Twitter.

I also mention the idea to some friends – another mistake – since one points out that, to get the real sense of the development of art history, I should tackle them in strict chronological order (as The Books that Shaped Art History does). I can’t really argue with that so reading them in order now becomes a rule. I have however drawn the line at attempting to read the books in their original language. I might have got by in French but the prospect of tackling Wolfflin or Belting in German is just too daunting.

These self imposed rules do still mean the first two books will be a 450 page book published in 1898 on French 13th century gothic art (not really my area) and Berenson’s 3 volumes of “The Drawings of Florentine Painters” which includes one volume which is his very long list of painters. I should have mentioned that another rule requires that I read the book from beginning to end, so no skipping chapters or “copious” lists.

Anyway, now the rules of the challenge are settled I can get underway. I’ll update here on progress and what I think about each book as I finish it.

First up, Emile Male’s “L’art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France: Etude sur l’iconographie du Moyen Age et sur ses sources d’inspiration“…

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The Fire Judges: Sir William Ellys

My earlier posts on John Michael Wright’s portraits of the “fire judges” judges are here:


and here:


In this mini post I’m simply sharing a photo of the portrait of Sir William Ellys (currently in the Royal Courts of Justice, London) as seen in natural raking light.

You can clearly see the damage and roughness of the surface of the “bed ticking” canvas; bearing in mind this is one of the better preserved of the portraits.

Worth also noting the Sunderland frame that retains some gilding (compare it with the black frames of the portraits in the Temple). Whilst the frame has the Ellys coat of arms at the top, at some point  it has lost the name plaque at the bottom.

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The Swordsman Revealed: An Update

In my earlier post “A Victorian Fencing Master: or, can you help me identify this painting?” I sought help on an attribution for this painting:

2013-06-29 11.01.41

A couple of people were kind enough to read the blog and tell me that they thought the subject probably was the fencing master Henry Angelo and were more confident than I was that the sketch of him in the National Portrait Gallery was consistent with the portrait.

But James Mulraine (who is an expert in identifying portraits – see his excellent website here) went one better and pointed me to the fact that C.R. Leslie had exhibited a portrait of Henry Angelo at the Royal Academy in 1843.

There is a lesson (or two) to be learnt here.  One thing I had done was check the Royal Academy Exhibition listings – you can find them online – but my first mistake was to, stupidly, start looking from 1845 because I’d become fixated on that date.  (This sometimes happens in police inquiries where one supposedly “known” fact derails or distracts the investigation.) But James was of course right and there in the RA Exhibition catalogue for 1843 is this entry:

East Room:

No. 179 Portrait of Henry Angelo Esq.         C.R. Leslie, R.A.

Now I had never considered C.R. Leslie as a possible contender for the artist, first because I have barely heard of him and second because the one thing I did know was that he painted literary scenes from Shakespeare. I didn’t have him down therefore as a portrait painter: my second mistake.

Before I turn to the Leslie’s biography I should say that a reference to a RA Exhibition listing wouldn’t be enough to convince me this was the same painting.  But the RA annual exhibition, then as now, was an event.  People commented on it, reviewed it, criticised and gossiped about it and 1843 was no exception.  In “The Art-Union: A Monthly Journal of Fine Arts”,  there is a review of the 1843 RA show which comments on individual exhibits. No 179 gets a not entirely favourable mention:

The Art Journal, Supplementary Number, June 1, 1843, page 165

The Art Journal, Supplementary Number, June 1, 1843, page 165

I probably agree with the criticism that the work is “kept” (as in controlled or in good condition) apart from the head, however I ignored the “too great prevalence of cold tints” because the exciting thing is that the description exactly matches the painting.  The one thing that had always been a problem in linking this painting to other artists – the fact that for a three-quarter length portrait it is quite small at only 60cm tall – turns out to be a helpful identifier.

The identification with Leslie as the artist is also consistent with the T. Brown suppliers mark on the back of the canvas.  Leslie is listed as one of the artists who used Brown’s canvases; his self-portrait in the NPG is one example.  My third mistake.

I’ll come to my fourth mistake in a minute but first a brief mention of the life and career of C.R. Leslie.

C.R. Leslie RA c1850

C.R. Leslie, RA c1850

Charles Robert Leslie was born in London in 1794 to American parents.  From time to time people try to claim him as an American artist and although he spent his childhood in Philadelphia he seems to have considered his home as England.  He arrives in London aged 17 to attend the Royal Academy schools were he wins various prizes.  He is known for cabinet pictures or representations of literary scenes, much like David Wilkie’s.  (As James Mulraine also points out; in a print of Leslie’s painting “Charles Dickens as Captain Bobadil” in the V&A there is a very prominent and detailed sword).

I hadn’t however realised that he also produced a number of formal portraits which he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy.  He became ARA in 1821 and a full RA in 1826.  He is also quite a distinguished author having published a book on Reynolds (which I have – so that probably counts as mistake no. 5) and in 1843, the year of our painting, his “Memoirs of the Life of John Constable” which is still a valuable source on the artist.  He also publishes (posthumously) his own “Autobiographical Recollections” in 1860.

In 1833 he left England to return to America to become a teacher at the US military academy at West Point.  This may seem surprising that a military academy would have a drawing teacher but anyone who has read about the life of James McNeill Whistler will know he attended the academy where drawing was considered important, albeit because it related to map making and battlefield reports.  There is a further connection between Leslie and Whistler because later, back in London, the young Whistler attended Leslie’s lectures on art at the Royal Academy.  I know this because not long ago I read Daniel E. Sutherland’s book “Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake” where the lectures, published in The Athenaeum magazine, are mentioned. Had I read all the footnotes to that book I would have spotted that a quote from Leslie  about “the great and unceasing” difficulty facing artists came from a letter he wrote to one Henry Angelo, Esq. on 4th February 1848.  That letter is now in the archive of the Art Institute of Chicago (Box .FF 6.49). So I had on my bookshelf, just yards from the painting, a link between the artist and Henry Angelo.  That was my fourth mistake.

I could mention some other errors: I failed to notice that there are two editions of Henry Angelo Snr’s book of Reminiscences.  The edition I hadn’t looked at has an engraving of Henry Snr (from a portrait by W Childe) which has a striking family resemblance to his son.

Angelo book title page

So, thanks to a very helpful tip-off and the magic that is the internet, I have managed to fill in the key details of the painting that hangs in my hall.  There are still some things I want to do – follow up on correspondence for example – but I feel confident that I can now label this picture:

Henry Angelo Esq, by C.R. Leslie R.A., exhibited 1843

Henry Angelo Esq, by C.R. Leslie R.A., exhibited 1843

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