Category Archives: Artists

Dinner at the Hospital

The Foundling Hospital played an important role in the developing community of artists in London in the 1740s and 1750s. Hogarth was the principal force behind this.  Back in 1740, Hogarth had donated his portrait of Captain Coram to the hospital, and in 1746 Hogarth, together with Rysbrack, suggested a plan to the Governors of the Hospital whereby artists, principally painters and sculptors, would donate work to decorate the (public) areas of the hospital, and, in return, would have their work seen by those sections of polite society who might commission more work from the artists.  The plan was approved and became a great success.  A committee was formed to meet annually on November 5 to oversee the donations.  Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore, James Wills, Thomas Gainsborough, Samuel Wale, Richard Wilson, and more all donated works.

Hogarth_Captain Coram

As was frequently the case in eighteenth-century England, the annual business meeting of the committee soon acquired a dinner, which grew into a large gathering of artists and their supporters.  Few records of these dinners survive, with the exception of the one held on November 5, 1757.  At this dinner, an astonishing 154 people signed the guest list.  The original list is long lost, but it was transcribed and later published in [Brownlow 1847, 17—20]. Brownlow sorted the names alphabetically within profession (Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers) and non-artist supporters (who did not get a heading).  He also included some helpful footnotes identifying some of the names. The list thus stands as one of the few lengthy sources of the names of active artists in the late 1750s.

Joshua Kirby was present at the dinner, and out of the artists there that evening, at least 40 had subscribed to his Method of Perspective, as well as some half a dozen of the supporters.

 

References

Brownlow, J. (1847) Memoranda; or, Chronicles of the Foundling Hospital, Including Memoirs of Captain Coram, etc. London.

Precepts and Observations

William Oram wrote one book, the posthumously-published Precepts and Observations on the Art of Colouring in Landscape Painting. The book was prepared and edited by Charles Clarke from Oram’s original manuscripts notes, and published in 1810. It appears that the notes were mostly compiled in the 1750s and the manuscripts was fairly complete – there are certainly places where Oram may have intended a fuller treatment, but the core chapters are well worked out.

 

PRECEPTS AND OBSERVATIONS

 

ON

 

THE ART OF COLOURING

 

IN

 

LANDSCAPE PAINTING,

 

BY THE LATE WILLIAM ORAM, ESQ.

 

O.F HIS MAJESTY’S BOARD OF WORKS.

 


 

Quid si Naturre fas explorare sagaci

Mente vias. Vanier. Prr.ed. Rust. l. xi.

 


 

Arranged from the Author’s original MS. and published

by CHARLES CLARKE, Esq. F. S. A.

 


 

l.ondon :

 

PR I NTED FOR WHITE AND COCHRANE, HORACE’s HEAD, FLEET STREET;

 

BY RICHARD TAYLOR AND CO, SHOE LANE,

 

M.DCCC.X

 

The text stays close to the topic of the title. It is principally concerned with the choices and application of colour in painting landscapes, especially the handling of skies and trees. Oram opens with a couple of short chapters giving theoretical background to why the color of sky varies around the horizon and from horizon to zenith at different times of day, and the changing colors and details of trees at different distances from the observer. These early chapters are a little perfunctory and were possibly something he might have revisited before publication. In Chapter 5 he really gets going, with the treatment of skies and how to lay in the colors of skies and clouds for different types of light. The book is a technical manual of the application of oils. Here is a sample paragraph:

Again, for a sky with a warmer horizon, representing a time nearer the evening than the former:– Let the horizon be made with light red and white, and so growing into a bluish colour, with a small mixture of Indian red in that tint between the light red horizon and the bluest part of the sky. The clouds upon the horizon should be made up with blue and white, with lake only in their shades, and terra di sienna and white with a little light ochre in their lights.

Continue reading

Hogarth and the Elephantine Arch

In 1761, George III was crowned in Westminster Hall. As Master Carpenter of the Board of Works, one of William Oram‘s tasks was to construct and decorate a triumphal arch through which the King’s Champion would ride. A print of the arch was engraved by Anthony Walker:

William Henry Pyne included an anecdote about Hogarth, Hayman and other artists teasing Oram during the construction of the arch in his rambling, entertaining, and largely fictitious work, Wine and Walnuts. It should be remembered that Pyne was not yet born when the incident related allegedly took place. However, it is the only extended anecdote involving Oram that I know, so here it is (with Pyne’s epic footnotes suppressed, but eccentric punctuation retained): Continue reading

Joshua Kirby – Printseller

The plates for Joshua Kirby’s Twelve Prints of 1748 were engraved by Joseph Wood of Covent Garden. Kirby’s connection with Wood went back several years at this point. In June 1745, he advertised for sale in the Ipswich Journal, “A Curious Print of Mr. Garrick, from an original Painting by Mr. Pond, engrav’d by Mr. Wood,” at a shilling each (cited in Whitley, Gainsborough, 18). Garrick had made his stage debut in Ipswich in 1741, and by 1745 was very well known.

Later, Kirby was to be found selling Hogarth’s prints of Beer Street and Gin Lane.

References

Whitley, W.T. (1915). Thomas Gainsborough. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.

A Mystery Box

Reader Gina sends in these pictures of a painted antique wooden box in her possession. Because of the signature, she thinks it may have been painted by, or associated with, John or Joshua Kirby, but there is no detailed provenance. I have not seen or heard a description of any similar item and we would welcome any comments or hints people may have.

St. Anne’s, Kew

The church of St. Anne on Kew Green was dedicated in 1714, having been built on land donated by Queen Anne, and is celebrating its tercentenary in 2014. Over the course of the three centuries, the church has been enlarged, renovated and altered numerous times. The church website has a useful sequential plan.

The church began as a modest chapel in what is roughly the central portion of the modern façade.

It was then enlarged in 1770 with the addition of two aisles, the northern one being used as part of the church, and the southern aisle as a charity school. This enlargement was designed by Joshua Kirby, and paid for by George III. The southern aisle was later incorporated into the church.

Kirby died in 1774 and was buried near the new southern wall of the church he had re-designed only a few years before, and this portion of the foot print of the building has not altered since then.

Near Kirby’s grave is that of his long-time friend, Thomas Gainsborough:

St. Anne’s also holds the graves of Jeremiah Meyer, miniature painter to the King, and Johan Zoffany.

Zoffany’s Resignation Letter

The late 1760s was a bad time for the Society of Artists. Riven by factions, it was failing. A dissident group, including most of the prominent artists broke away and persuaded the king to found a Royal Academy. In a vain attempt to forestall this, the Society of Artists made Kirby its President, presumably on account of his good relationship with George III. George did not stand with Kirby, however, and he was forced to deal with the defections of many of his friends to the new academy. Among those who left the Society was Kirby’s friend, Johan Zoffany, who submitted the following letter of resignation, in one epic sentence.

Sir,

Sensible of the Regard shewn me by you, and the directors & fellows of the Incorporated Society of Artists, by their Unanimity in re-electing me a director of the Society for the present year, as well as in their Choice of me into the Committee for the Governance of the Academy: it is with Great regret that I am Constrain’d to Acquanit you, that my business requires me, very soon, to leave England for some time, & consequently must deprive me of all Opportunities of attending on the Affairs of the Society, & also being Sensible, that there are many very ingenious Gentlemen Amongst us who are equally desirous to give all possible attention for the promoting the welfare of so Useful an institution, & that my Continuance in the direction & in the Committee, during my Absence, will be attended with inconvenience to the Body by keeping such other Gentlemen from giving the necessary Assistance, I must beg leave of You & the Society to resign my Appointments. Assuring that I am with the Greatest Respect for you & the Society in General,

Sir,

Your most hble servant

Johan Zoffany

November 22nd, 1769.

The letter has none of Zoffany’s characteristic linguistic eccentricities and certainly was not written by him, although he did sign it (Webster, 248). Whatever Zoffany’s plans were in November 1769, he did not leave the country for several years, which exposed him to a certain amount of criticism, especially when the King nominated him for the Royal Academy on December 11.

 

 

References

Webster, M. (2011). Johan Zoffany. New Haven: Yale University Press.