Walker and Monamy: now attributed to Gawen Hamilton.

Hogarth, Monamy, and The Connoisseurs

TWO

Hogarth, Monamy, Scott & Patronage

Whitley, in Artists & Their Friends (Vol I, p.206) remarks that Horace Walpole "had an extravagantly high opinion of Scott's powers, and acclaimed him as being, within his range, 'not only the first painter of his age, but one whose works will charm in every age'." A more rigorous comparison of Monamy with Scott is made on another page, but something is worth saying here about the differences in patronage experienced by the two painters, as well as their relationships with Hogarth. It is amusing to note the statement on p.114 of the catalogue to the Tate Gallery's 1987 Manners & Morals exhibition: "Nothing is known of Scott's early training, but he modelled himself closely on Willem van de Velde, and was undoubtedly England's most eminent marine painter until he took to painting views of London in the 1740s." This sounds like a childish riposte to my 1981 article on Monamy, which originally read: "in 1731, (Monamy) was without doubt considered his country's most eminent native artist ... his standing as a marine artist was virtually unassailable for at least twenty (years), from 1720 to 1740. ... Samuel Scott began to be noticed about 1736, but did not receive his formal commission to paint Lord Anson's naval triumphs until 1750, the year after Monamy's death." The wording has been modified in the text on this website, but, in essence, I stick by what I said, although I now realize that Scott began to make inroads into the market for specious marines, addressing the taste of the flush connoisseur, perhaps slightly before 1736.

In the catalogue's Biographical Index of Artists a further assertion is made that Scott was "Best English painter of marines and Thames views". Curiously, of the six pictures by Scott in the catalogue, three are architectural studies of bridges, one is neither a marine nor a Thames view, since it depicts "Covent Garden on a Market Day", and the remaining two are marines, painted in 1736. One of this pair features a Danish timber bark, described as "getting under way" (hoisting a sail?), but in fact looking as if set in concrete. Imposing, nonetheless.


"Getting under way". Left, Scott: a Danish timber bark, 1736.   Right, Monamy: an East Indiaman, undated.

How, one might ask, in light of the catalogue's six Scotts, is a "marine painter" to be defined? A reasonable answer is provided in Iain Pears' outstanding work The Discovery of Painting; 1680-1768. He writes, p.39, of the 18th century: "People were granted a partial ability to perceive with accuracy, particularly when their own experience gave them insights into the painter's intentions. The painter Joseph Highmore (1692-1780), for example, makes this point quite specifically:

"... every man is a Judge of the Representation, in proportion as he is of the Original Subject; a Sailor, for instance, is a better Judge of the principle Circumstances which enter into the Composition of a Seapiece, than the best Painter in the World, who was never at Sea ..."

I cannot help feeling that Joseph Highmore had the essential differences between Monamy and Scott in mind. The point is that neither Scott, nor the great majority of his patrons, had ever been "at Sea", in the sense known by a genuine sailor. Their perspective, and that of all those who believe Scott to be a sea painter, including critics, curators, connoisseurs and catalogue compilers, is purely land-based. They don't actually know what they are talking about, since their experience does not include a knowledge, understanding or appreciation of the sea. In an age which has contrived to hail Alfred Wallis as a great artist, they still cannot "perceive with accuracy".

   

Until about 1731, when Monamy was 50 and Scott was, let's say, 30, the salient difference between them was Scott's rigid devotion to the works of van de Velde. From about the year 1726, and presumably a few years before, as evident from Kingzett's catalogue, Scott was an assiduous imitator of the Dutchman. In 1731/32, with a commission for "six pictures of the principal Forts & Settlements belonging to the East India Company", sub-contracted to him by Lambert, Scott's career took a new and rewarding upward leap. Kingzett comments that few accounts of the EIC works "shed any light on the circumstances or influence which led to the commission" (Samuel Scott Bicentenary Exhibition, 1972). The paintings were delivered by November 1st, 1732.

Then, as now, the importance of patronage cannot be over-estimated. "Toil, Envy, Want, The Patron, and the Jail", was Dr Johnson's catalogue of ills. Only the truly resilient, like the stalwart Doctor himself, overcame these obstacles.

Here it is probably worth inserting a comment or two from Walpole in Power, by Jeremy Black, p 84. "Some mercantile groups, such as the East India Company, had very close links with the [Walpole] ministry. .... Walpole also sought to influence London politics through his City friends, ..... [His] intention was clearly to limit the volubility and independence of popular London politics, and he sought to achieve his aim by means of legislative action and the definition of a favourable group through patronage and shared interests."

Hogarth's five day frolic with Scott, Forrest, Tothall, and John Thornhill was "Begun on Saturday, May 27th, 1732; and finished on the 31st of the same month." There is minimal evidence of any further fraternization between Hogarth and Scott, although Kingzett reports that together with Benjamin Wilson they played a practical joke on Hudson in 1751. Hudson had painted Scott's portrait in about 1730. Scott actually seems to have been something of the butt of the frolicsome party in May 1732. Scott kept clear of Vauxhall Gardens, and failed to produce a picture for the Foundling Hospital, in spite of being one of its Governors. Within a few months of the Gravesend jaunt, or perhaps even at about the same time, the Walpole-Scott Club was formed, and Scott never wanted for patronage again. Apart from the statement in Elizabeth Einberg's catalogue that he "was undoubtedly England's most eminent marine painter", Scott, as reported by Charles Mitchell, possessed an extra asset in the person of "his wife Ann, a sprightly lady who, according to Horace Walpole, was 'very handsome and not very wise' and for whom, later on, Horace's brother, Sir Edward, affected to sigh." (Hogarth's Peregrination, 1952, p.xvii). Sir Edward appears to have purchased much of Scott's surplus production, and other members of the family, including Sir Robert himself, patronized the youngish artist. It is difficult to accept that Monamy received patronage by the Walpoles, but it does seem as though Sir Edward owned four rather ordinary pieces by him; and it must be supposed that these were bought before the formation of the Walpole-Scott club. Scott also owned a sea-piece by Monamy, as recorded in the posthumous sale of his collection in 1773. See page on provenance.

Hogarth, who was as pugnacious in his pursuit of profit as he was on behalf of English art, seems to have accepted the Walpole shilling, in a small way, during this period. If, as suspected, the English art market was in the doldrums in the early 1730s, it would have been pragmatic of him to swallow any antipathy to the prevailing regime. See note. In any case, he seems never to have taken any political side, but saw all faction as fit for satirical exposure.


alterius non sit qui suus esse potest
his own man is not another's lackey  
   

Not so Monamy, whose political sails were constant, and not for trimming. Nothing that is known or can be suspected of his commitments suggests compromise --- at least, not after 1730 --- and his powers of invention and resource went into his painting. He, like many of his ancestors and descendants, would have found it constitutionally impossible to genuflect or bend, and Mrs Monamy, having borne five children and now aged about forty-four, is unlikely to have been sprightly at this time, if she ever was.

Passed over for the East India Company's decorative project, a commission he might reasonably have expected to land, in view of his training and City standing, perhaps rejected by the fraternity of virtuosi, it seems to me that by 1733 he abandoned aspirations to assume the mantle of van de Velde, and looked into himself for renewed inspiration. In the first place, this appears to have found interim expression in a concentration on the effects and nature of light, and its representation in paint on canvas.

That Moonlight, and Night & A Ship on Fire were already part and parcel of Monamy's repertoire is indicated by their inclusion on the back wall in the conversation piece. These themes present specific challenges to the artist: the representation of objects at night, illumined only by the palest of natural light sources, and the dramatic spectacle of a scene on canvas lit entirely from its own internal blaze. Monamy's interest in the effect of changes in the sun's orbital position is discussed in connection with his well-known Signal to Anchor, which I date, in dispute with authority, to about this period, ie circa 1729-1732. There is plenty of other evidence for his attention to the impact of sunlight at different times of the day.

Consider the paintings at right. As I will continue to maintain, the chronological evidence affirms that Monamy's acknowledged interest in van de Velde dates from about 1722, with the issue of Kirkall's first series of 16 marine mezzotints, up to the period of the canvas at right, signed and dated 1728. This painting, I suggest, would have justified Monamy's claim to be second only to van de Velde. The 1726 Painter's Hall painting is also a nod to van de Velde.

In historical battle scenes following the Master, his concern is more for the subject, since there was no alternative, and not with the manner. A few other works indicate an exploitation of van de Velde models, for instance in the carriage panel painted for the unfortunate John Byng. Over the complete range of the oeuvre, however, the major impression is of Monamy's continual experimentation, receptivity to all and any influence, and his capacity for generating innately original concepts.

   

Perhaps the Walker/Monamy conversation picture was not painted until about 1731-32 after all. Here is a look at the signed canvas in the composite work, juxtaposed with another painting signed Monamy.

The right-hand picture has been reversed, for closer comparison with the conversation piece. When I saw this painting at Sotheby's, it appeared to me that it was dated 1732, but this date, if there at all, was extremely indistinct, and I had no opportunity for close photographic or microscopic examination. At the time I did not at all connect it with the picture within the picture. It struck me only as a bold and novel solution to the artistic challenge of representing brilliant sunlight, head on. See here. J.M.W.Turner is reported to have said "The Sun is God". In this, as in other respects, Monamy appears to me to have anticipated Turner by several decades.

But English art was slowly sinking under the imports of foreign wares for the delectation of the connoisseurs, and the problem of its sales promotion and display to the wider market, a constant and virtually life-time's pre-occupation with William Hogarth, was still unsolved in 1732. Like a conjuror producing the salvation of English painting out of a hat, the feisty pug came up with the equivalent, for the London of the early 1730s, of the World Wide Web. Vauxhall Gardens.


Vauxhall Spring Gardens. One of the earliest of the many engraved depictions.

go to page three

Note.   Not long after writing this I was rather amazed to have my suspicions confirmed by Derek Jarrett, in The Ingenious Mr Hogarth, pp 66-68. He notes, of Hogarth's relationship with the "hated minister, Sir Robert Walpole", that "within a few months of the new King's accession (1727) Hogarth did indeed receive a commission" from Walpole, to engrave the Great Seal of England, in silver. Jarrett continues "Hogarth .... may have needed persuading in order to return .... to a craft which he had already found 'detrimental to the arts of painting and engraving I have since pursued'. If so, it was probably Walpole himself who did the persuading. The theory that he did so as a preliminary to using Hogarth as a paid satirist for his own political purposes seems somewhat implausible; but he may have pointed out that he was in an unrivalled position to advance Hogarth's newly conceived ambition to be a portrait painter."

The Walpole Salver
1728

from Hogarth
by Mary Webster

This theory does not seem at all implausible to me. The likelihood is, however, that Walpole's overture, no matter how financially rewarding, would ultimately have had the reverse effect, by inducing a sense of humiliation in Hogarth, who wanted nothing more than to forget his days as an apprentice silver-engraver. His response was the muted allusion to Walpole in his Macheath portrayal, 1729. Scott was an easier target for the Walpoles in 1733. Seven years down the line, however, in 1740, Scott just could not afford to be left out of the Porto Bello hysteria: the market demanded his participation, and he obliged. But it seems to me that the navy and the anti-Walpole faction never forgave Scott for being the minister's poodle. An interesting sidelight on this situation is provided by the appearance in 1740 of "Satirical and panegyrical instructions to Mr.William Hogarth, Painter, on Admiral Vernon's taking of Porto Bello with Six Ships of War only. By A.Marvell, Junior [pseud.]" This is an Advice to the Painter poem, which combines a satire on Walpole and the anti-war party with a panegyric on Admiral Vernon. The name taken by its pseudonymous author is particularly significant, as is discussed elsewhere on this site. [back]

"All those men have their price." Sir Robert Walpole, referring to his opponents.

"As a painter he had but slender merit." Horace Walpole, referring to Hogarth.

       

page one         page two         page three         page four
the two conversation pieces
chronology & authenticity
title page     introduction     background
article 1981     article 1983
westminster topography
monamy website index
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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005, 2016
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