London Art Week 2019 – rediscovery of ‘lost’ masterpiece by John Frederick Lewis
Our summer exhibition includes a major rediscovery featured in ‘Country Life (5 June 2019). This magnificent, large watercolour by John Frederick ‘Spanish’ Lewis (1804-1876), famous in its day, is in exceptional condition, and has not been seen in public since 1891.
The Lewis depicts a dramatic moment during the Carlist wars in Spain in the 1830s when the artist was travelling in Spain. A wife pleads for the life of her husband, a captured spy of the Christino army, at the feet of the famous Carlist General leader Tomás Zumalacárregui. Lewis portrays the legendary soldier in his characteristic dress of red hat, sheepskin jacket (zamarra) and trousers which he wore rather than a uniform. Lewis worked from sketches given to him by Captain Henningsen, aide-de-camp to the General who is standing behind him in the watercolour.
The subject was exhibited at the Society of Painters in Water Colour in 1837. It was engraved by F.C. and C.G. Lewis, John Frederick’s father and brother, published by Graves in 1840 and 1841 under the title ‘The Spanish Wife’s Last Appeal’ and the image was well known in the mid-nineteenth century.
The work was subsequently exhibited at the Winter Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1891, lent by Arthur Blake, and since then hung in a dark room in a private collection in Dorset, the property of the Blake family. Its rediscovery is especially important as it is one of the major works of Lewis’ Spanish period. The work also featured in an article by Nicholas Tromans in The Burlington Magazine vol. cxxxix, no.1136, November 1997, pp.760-762, illus. fig 48 [the print] about Lewis’ Carlist war subjects, in which it was described as ‘whereabouts unknown’.
The first Carlist war was fought from 1833 to 1840, between the supporters of the regent, Maria Christina, (hence the term Christinos) acting for the infant Queen Isabella II of Spain, and those of the late king’s Ferdinand VII’s brother, Carlos de Borbón (hence Carlists). The Carlists supported an autocratic monarchy espousing ‘God, Country and King’ and invoked Salic Law, whereas Isabella had Liberal supporters. After the proclamation of Don Carlos’s bid for the throne, the progress of the conflict was eagerly followed in Britain, and, as with the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, divided opinion, and attracted participants on both sides from other countries. The fighting in the first war was mainly carried out in the Basque Country, Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia. It continued over the course of the nineteenth century with two further wars and into the twentieth with the Spanish Civil War.
Like many of Lewis’s paintings, it was favourably reviewed in the contemporary press. However, there is also the ambiguity found in many of his other works. Depending on your point of view, you could see it as an illustration of the ruthless cruelty of the Carlist General Zumalacárregui and the tragedy of the unfortunate spy and his family, or you could, like Henningsen, admire the stern nature and skill of the General, and the legitimacy of his cause. In 1838, Lewis exhibited another scene from the Carlist Wars, entitled The Pillage of a Convent, in Spain, by Guerilla Soldiers.
Lewis also made four studies for at least one other Carlist war picture, never realized, allegedly titled The Proclamation of Don Carlos, and one of these, in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, New York (1977.31), shows Zumalacárregui in the same pose but commanding at a battle or siege. He is widely credited for the invention of the Spanish omelette.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of J.F. Lewis by Briony Llewellyn and Charles Newton.
We were delighted to exhibit at the BADA Fair 2019 in Duke of York Square this March. It is a marvellous venue and a very well run fair. We received many compliments about our stand and the drawings on show which were heartening and much appreciated. We sold a number of works in the first few days and enjoyed a steady stream of business throughout the fair and afterwards.
Seeing our regular customers again is always a great pleasure, and this year we also met several new collectors. It is always most interesting to find out how people approach their collecting as it is so individual. Some collectors are very disciplined and narrow down their field to the extent that finding something that fits the collection is a triumph. I struggled to find a drawing for the knowledgable collector of rural boys clothing from the nineteenth century to whom I much enjoyed talking (Joshua Cristall, whose work I like very much, tended to draw rural girls). Others take a much broader approach but know immediately when they find something which will enhance their collection. But all collectors share a passion for their chosen field, and that I have in common with them.
Sale of recently rediscovered painting of Clive of India and Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey
We are pleased to announce the recent sale of an important historical painting by Francis Hayman (1708-1776) to a UK trust. The painting was rediscovered in the USA and relates to the larger version of the subject showing the victorious General Robert Clive (1725-1774) and Mir Jafar, the Nawab of Bengal (c.1691(?)–1765) after the Battle of Plassey on 23rd June 1757. Clive was extraordinarily successful in India and, on his return to England in 1760 with an enormous personal fortune, received huge critical acclaim. A version of the subject in the National Portrait Gallery, London, is regarded as an iconic depiction of the beginning of the British Empire in India.
Both paintings are probably preliminary oil sketches by Hayman for the huge canvas (12 x 15 feet) which formed part of the series of four gigantic pictures illustrating glorious victories from the Seven Years War (1756-63) which were installed in the annex to the Rotunda at the fashionable Vauxhall Gardens by the proprietor Jonathan Tyers (1702-67). Although much acclaimed at the time of their unveiling in the early 1760s, all four large pictures had disappeared from the Gardens by 1840 (they were almost certainly removed and probably destroyed by that date or soon after) but a lengthy description of the original large pictures was published in a contemporary guidebook to the gardens and in the London press which enabled the identification of the subject by Dr Brian Allen.
In 1756 the Nawab of Oudh, Siraj-ud-Daula, (1733-1757) captured the East India Company’s settlement at Calcutta and imprisoned British captives in the infamous Black Hole. Robert Clive, in command of the Company’s army, recaptured Calcutta in January 1757 and then took the French fort at nearby Chandernagore in March. Clive then deposed Siraj, with the help of Mir Jafar at the Battle of Plassey.
Mir Jafar’s rule is usually considered to be the start of British imperialism in India. He had effectively betrayed his predecessor Siraj ud-Dulah (1733-1757) who was killed soon after the battle, in order to become the next Nawab of Bengal. He gave a fortune of around £3 million to the East India Company, but in 1760 Mir Jafar was forced to abdicate in favour of his son-in-law Mir Qasim (d.1777). In 1763 Mir Jafar was restored with the full support of the Company for the remaining two years of his life. In 1764 Clive assumed supreme military and civil power in Bengal and forced the Mughal Emperor Sah ‘Alam to allow him to collect revenue (diwan) on his behalf.
A letter in the National Library of Wales (Robert Clive Papers H1/1-4) reveals that Clive visited Hayman’s studio on 26 April 1763 when Henry Clive paid 5s to ‘Mr Hamans the painter’. This is recorded in an account book in the handwriting of Henry Clive (1709-1775), who was a first cousin of Clive of India’s father. When Robert Clive came back from India for the second time in 1760, with his young cousin George in attendance, cousin Henry, who was an attorney, seems to have become a kind of steward, travelling with the party and keeping this account book (Dr Charlotte Mitchell kindly shared this information by email in October 2018). This shows that Clive almost certainly commissioned a painting from Hayman and it seems highly likely that he saw the Vauxhall Gardens work and decided that he wanted one for himself.
Despite never setting foot in India Hayman was among the first British artists to exploit Indian subject matter, a genre that was to become increasingly popular towards the end of the century in the hands of artists who did travel to the sub-Continent such as Zoffany and Tilly Kettle.
One of our Edward Lear watercolours featured in Apollo international art magazine
One of our Edward Lear watercolours featured in an article, Moving Lines, by Dr Jasmine Jagger in Apollo International Art Magazine, December 2018. Her account of Lear’s relationship with Tennyson’s poetry and his lifelong ‘Poetical Topographical’ project to illustrate 300 of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetic lines makes fascinating reading. In the writer’s opinion our watercolour by Lear is perhaps the finest example of Lear’s poetry painting.
Click here for a link to the article.One seem’d all dark and red – a tract of sand,
And someone pacing there along,
Who paced for ever in a glimmering land,
Lit with a low large moon.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘The Palace of Art’ Edward Lear, R.A. (1812-1888)
11.4 x 20.9 cm
Please click the image above to see an article in this month’s Apollo by Dr. Jasmine Jagger on Lear and Tennyson, discussing the significance of this work.
Karen Taylor Fine Art is delighted to announce the sale on behalf of a client of a recently rediscovered portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds to a charitable trust. The portrait of Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster (1714-1778) was discovered in a house sale at Plas Gwyn in Anglesey where it was very dirty (but in marvellous original condition under the mire) and mis-catalogued. Its misattribution had occurred by the 1950s when it was included in John Steegman’s book of paintings in Welsh houses as the work of a follower of Reynolds. This picture was also recorded as ‘untraced’ in David Mannings catalogue of Reynolds’ paintings. It was engraved by Richard Josey in 1866.
Plas Gwyn, Pentraeth, Angelsey was the house of Thomas Panton, the sitter’s father-in-law to whom he probably gave the portrait, and the painting remained there until its recent sale.
Peregrine Bertie, 3rd Duke of Ancaster succeeded his father in 1742. Reynolds painted him gazing slightly wistfully into the distance wearing an elegant red coat and sumptuous green waistcoat embroidered with gold thread, standing under a tree, with the sky beyond. He married first, in 1735, Elizabeth, nee Blundell, widow of Sir Charles Gunter Nicoll who came with a dowry of £70,000. His second marriage, in November 1750, was to Mary Panton, (?1735-1793), illegitimate daughter of Thomas Panton (1700-1782).
The Duke was a Privy Councillor and Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire from 1742 to his death in 1778. In 1745 he raised and led a regiment against the Jacobites and rose to Major General in January 1755; Lieutenant General in February 1759 and General in May 1772. He was Lord of the Bedchamber from 1755-65; Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation of King George III in 1761 until his death and Master of the King’s Horse from 1776-78. The Prime Minister Lord North called him ‘a very egregious blockhead, who is besides both mulish and intractable’. He was also president of the charitable Lock Hospital, London’s first venereal disease clinic.
Although apparently paid for by the Duke himself the portrait may have been given to his father-in-law, Thomas Panton through whose family it has passed by descent. Panton began as a humble groom in the stables of King George I at Hampton Court Palace and later rose to become Master of the Thurlow Hunt. He was also the trainer of the Duke of Devonshire’s horses and Keeper of the King’s Running Horses at Newmarket after 1750.
It should be noted that at the same time as the Duke was sitting to Reynolds (1757-8) the artist was also painting portraits of both of Mary Panton’s parents, Thomas and Priscilla.
Careful restoration has revealed a portrait of exceptional quality in excellent condition and with great richness of colour. Many of Reynolds’ paintings are not in very good condition, often due to the experimental nature of his work and his use of bitumen.
Summer exhibition July 2018
Karen Taylor Fine Art was delighted to return to the Illustration Cupboard for our Summer Exhibition. The show started successfully with a well-attended private view which had quite a buzz and went from strength to strength through the week. It was extremely pleasing to see so many people looking seriously at English drawings and watercolours and we enjoyed catching up with old customers and getting to know new ones.
The highlight of the show was a fresh group of watercolours by Louis Francia and John Sell Cotman from a French collection which had not been seen in public since they were painted in the 1830s. The drawings came from a friendship album compiled by Baron Francois Akerman (1809-1890), régent of the Banque de France, and his wife Louise Bouquet de Saint Simon after their marriage in 1836 and until recently kept (out of the light in a thick leather binding) at their family home, the château de Coulonges in the Loire.
A stunning Francia watercolour of Dunkirk showed the town before WWII took its toll, with loggers floating their timber into the busy port, negotiating the moored shipping. Francia is a pivotal figure in early 19th century Anglo-French art, he sketched with Girtin, exhibited at the Royal Academy and was Richard Parkes Bonington’s teacher. Flashes of his influence on Bonington are evident in this work with characteristic deft touches of red and green for example. Having come to Britain during the French revolution Francia returned home to Calais in 1817 after the fall of Napoleon. Artists from England would visit him when they arrived in France as many did, keen to travel after Europe opened up again after the Napoleonic Wars. Hung together with another Francia marine watercolour, a delicate Cotman of Cologne and two works by Thomas Shotter Boys of Paris and Brussels, the group made quite an impact.
Taylor made British picture show
Works by Louis Francia from our Illustrationcupboard Gallery summer show are highlighted in the Antiques Trade Gazette 16 June 2018.
John Sell Cotman’s watercolour ‘Boats off Cologne’
A nice mention in ‘The Daily Telegraph’s art market focus by Colin Gleadell on 29th May.
BADA Fair, Duke of York Square, London March 2018
We were delighted at the success of our first appearance at the BADA fair in Chelsea.
Karen organised Spink’s stands at the fair in the 1990s, and has always liked it as an elegant fair of a manageable size which is a pleasure to visit. It was good to be able to show some of our oil paintings and in pride of place was a magnificent work by William James Müller, compared by Hugh Honour, the great art historian of Romanticism, to the work of Rubens in his Images of the Black in Western Art. It was very well received and snapped up at the beginning of the fair. Sold by Spink in the 1970s to a private collector, Karen borrowed it from him for an Orientalist exhibition she organised at Spink in the 1990s, so it was pleasing to be able to find it a new home.
Works on Paper Fair, Royal Geographical Society, London February 2018
We enjoyed exhibiting at the Works on Paper fair at the Royal Geographical Society again this year. It seemed to be the year of Edward Lear, with a talk by Jenny Uglow whose marvellous new biography Mr Lear a Life of Art and Nonsense we thoroughly recommend, as it full of interesting information and beautifully written. There was a lot of interest in our two Edward Lear drawings of Italy at the fair which have both gone to new homes.
We were delighted with the quantity of visitors, from private collectors to museum curators and former colleagues and had a busy time chatting with old friends and making new acquaintances.
We showed work by Luke Elwes from his beautiful Waterline Series which was well received.