Category Archives: Subscribers

A Supplement to the St. Martin’s Lane Academy Membership

In 1988, Ilaria Bagnamini published a very useful check-list of members of the St. Martin’s Lane Academy in Volume 54 of the Walpole Society. Bagnamini’s list is compiled from Vertue’s notebooks, the subscribers to first edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and Wine and Walnuts (1823). Kirby’s second edition, published in 1755, contains many more subscribers, including more members of the Academy. Here is a supplemental list of names indicated in the second edition that did not make it onto Bagnamini’s list.

Mr. Allen, Painter

Mr. Thomas Carter, Statuary

Mr. Francis Coates, Painter

Mr. John Eccardt, Painter

Mr. Thomas Gainsborough, Painter (Bagnamini does include Gainsborough, but says he is on `no list’)

Mr. Thomas Major, 2 Books

Mr. Benjamin Radcliffe (this is presumably the R. Ratcliffe from 1823)

Mr. Peter Roberts, Chaser

Mr. Benjamin Wilson, Painter and F.R.S. 4 Books


Bagnamini, I. 1988. George Vertue, art historian and art institutions in London, 1689-1768: A study of clubs and Academies. The Volume of the Walpole Society, Vol. 54, 1—148.

Charles Catton

Charles Catton the elder (1728—1798) subscribed to the first edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, where his name is starred as a member of the Academy of Painting. Catton in some ways had a career that paralleled Kirby’s. Where Kirby was from Suffolk, Catton was from Norwich in Norfolk. They were both coach painters, Kirby leaving that work when he moved to London, while Catton went on to become coach-painter to George III, although sadly not in time to work on the famous Gold State Coach. Coach painters had to paint the coats of arms on the doors of the coach, and Catton introduced an innovation to this kind of heraldic painting with naturalistic animals such as lions as the supporters, instead of the simpler ‘heraldic’ style of animals (note the lion in his self-portrait).

In the 1760s he was a regular exhibitor at the annual exhibitions of the Incorporated Society of Artists, but the political in-fighting of the late 1760s that saw the foundation of the Royal Academy saw him as a founding member, nominated by George III. He also went on to become Master of the Painter-Stainers Company in 1783.

Norwich Museum recently acquired a bound sketchbook of Catton’s containing 143 drawings.

One significant difference between Catton and Kirby, is that Catton was reportedly one of 35 children.

Here is a Norfolk landscape of Catton’s, now owned by the National Trust.

A self-portrait by Catton is at the Yale Center for British Art.

Yale also has a less-serious, but rather fun, late print of his called The Margate Hoy.

Kirby Live Again!

I am giving a talk at MathFest in Hartford on August 1.  Intended for a wide audience, this talk will show how Kirby’s networks of subscribers evolved over the publication of his series of books between 1748 and 1754 to trace the patronage circles that ended with Kirby’s appointment as tutor in perspective to the then Prince of Wales.

Here’s the abstract:

How Brook Taylor Got Joshua Kirby a Position

In 1748, Joshua Kirby was a provincial coach-painter in Ipswich, Suffolk. By 1755 he was tutor in perspective to the Prince of Wales (the future George III). In between, he published Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy, a book that aimed to explain Brook Taylor’s notoriously difficult Linear Perspective. Using the subscription lists of the three works he published during this period, we trace how Kirby’s expanding social networks brought him to the notice of those in power.

A Brief Biography

Joshua Kirby was born in 1716 at Parham in Suffolk, the second or third son of John Kirby and Alice Brown. The Kirby family lived at Wickham Market where his father kept a mill. John Kirby is now remembered for his Suffolk Traveller, a book detailing the roads and places of Suffolk, with accompanying large map. The book was published in 1736, and a few years later Kirby’s drawings of Scole Inn appeared. By now in his early twenties, Joshua had moved to Ipswich and obtained work at house-painting. In 1739, he married Sarah Bull. They had four children, of whom two died in infancy. Surviving were a son William, and a daughter Sarah.

Joshua’s brothers, John, Stephen and William all received legal training. John was Under Treasurer at Middle Temple, Stephen died in 1741 while working with his brother, and William married into the local landowning family of Meadowes and spent his career administering his wife’s estates. I know very little about his sisters, none of whom seem to have married.

Kirby’s next project was a series of engravings of local castles, abbeys, and monuments, each dedicated to a local patron, and the set of Twelve Prints accompanied by a brief Historical Account of the locations was published in 1748.

It was around this time that his great friendship with Thomas Gainsborough began, and many of Kirby’s Suffolk subscribers to his Twelve Prints sat to Gainsborough for portraits in the 1750s. It is not clear to me whether Kirby met William Hogarth through Gainsborough or through engravers, but Hogarth became a great promoter of Kirby. After the Twelve Prints, Kirby set to work on writing a volume on perspective painting. The project took several years, with much encouragement from Hogarth, eventually being published as Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy in 1754. This was Kirby’s big break. He gave a series of lectures on perspective to the St. Martin’s Lane Academy that were so well received he was immediately elected a member (many of the members of the Academy had subscribed to the book, with Hogarth taking 6 copies). He moved to London, gave another series of lectures on perspective from his house and rushed out a second edition of the book. Among the many new subscribers to the second edition were Thomas Sandby, Draughtsman to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and John Shackleton, Principal Painter to his Majesty. Also subscribing was the Earl of Bute, who had charge of the education of the Prince of Wales, and soon appointed Kirby as tutor on perspective to the prince.

After five years as a tutor, and with the accession of his pupil as George III, Kirby, along with his son, was appointed Clerk of the Works at Kew and Richmond, a post he retained for the rest of his life. Kirby was elected to the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries in 1767 and in 1768, during a period of furious factionalism was elected President of the Incorporated Society of Artists. Despite strong networking, Kirby was not really a political operator and he was unable to prevent the formation of the rival Royal Academy and fading of the Incorporated Society. He resigned in 1770, and in 1771 his son William died. Kirby’s health deteriorated and he died in 1774.

Kirby has not been well-served by biographers, and the most extensive description of his life is the article, “Joshua Kirby (1716—1774): a Biographical sketch” by Felicity Owen in the Gainsborough’s House Review of 1995.

Philip Winterflood

Philip Winterflood subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. The Winterflood family lived at Bury St. Edmund’s. Philip ran the Six Bells and the town Assembly Rooms. Untangling the family relationships is tricky. A Christopher Winterflood, possibly his brother, was a baker and ran the Bushel Inn, but went bankrupt in 1758. Philip himself his recorded as having four sons: Philip, Joseph, William and Thomas. William died at age 11. Of Joseph and Thomas I know nothing. Who their mothers were is even more perplexing. There are two burials recorded of wives of Philip Winterflood at Bury St. Edmund’s, a Mary age 22 in 1722, and a Rebecca, aged 22 in 1725/6. There is also a marriage recorded of a Philip Winterflood and Alice Spratt in 1725.

Philip went into business as a brewer with his son Philip, who seems to have married a Martha Spratt. The younger Philip died in 1762, and the elder Philip had a difficult time sorting out the brewery finances and closing the business down – there was apparently a lot of disagreement among debtors and creditors as to which were personal debts, and which business ones and who was liable. In the midst of all this wrangling, the younger Philip’s widow died in 1763. Cleaning up the financial mess rolled on into 1764, when John Winterflood, another Innholder, at the Three Kings, died, although his daughter and her husband planned to keep the inn running.

Philip let the Six Bells in 1773, but kept running the Assembly Hall until 1777 (it is now known as the Athenaeum and has been extensively remodeled since then, but is still standing near the Abbey gate.

Philip Winterflood died in 1783, at the reputed age of 90. As a well-known figure around town, he was portrayed in caricature by local artist Henry William Bunbury, and also by R. Yates shortly before he died.