When George in pudding-time came o'er
And moderate men looked big, sir,
My principles I chang'd once more,
And so became a Whig, sir.

The Vicar of Bray 1734   aka Robin Walpole  

"A sizeable chunk of art history consists of unravelling other people's errors and substituting your own." Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair, 1990, Chapter 5.

British Painting 1660-1815
Its history slanted by Vertue; and poisoned by Walpole.

Sumptuous and lavish are words which very suitably describe a 378 extra large-page tome titled Art in Britain 1660-1815, written by David H.Solkin, and published in 2015. The photographic reproductions are superb. The text is unexceptionable, for establishment Courtauld historians.

1660 was the year of the Restoration of the Roman Catholic dynasty of tricky Stuarts, witty but sleazy like Charles, when not wooden like James. 1815 was the year of the Battle of Waterloo, and of J.M.W.Turner's 40th birthday. These 155 years have been misread by British art historians, sheepishly imbibing H.Walpole. Did Turner suddenly pop up from nowhere ?

Here's Wikipedia, finally: "Fishermen at Sea, exhibited in 1796, was the first oil painting shown by Turner at the Royal Academy. It shows strong influence by artists such as ..... "Peter Monamy and Francis Swaine, who was admired for his moonlight marine paintings". [Laura Boyle]. This particular painting cannot be said to show any influence of Willem van de Velde the Younger, as not a single nocturnal scene is known by that painter. Is the message getting through ? Has the penny dropped ? Has someone been reading The Call of the Sea, 2009 ?

See here
. See here also. This picture seems to be overlooked in Professor Solkin's book.

Peter Monamy and Francis Swaine are, naturally, not mentioned at all by David Solkin, still well and truly under the Walpole cosh. Professor Solkin is nevertheless an expert in the art of J. M. W. Turner. Samuel Scott, the topographical painter, is noted more than once by Solkin, having been relentlessly touted by Walpole, especially for his sea-pieces, but referred to thus in 1866 by Redgrave: "He was indeed a good draftsman, and painted some tolerable topographical views, as well as marine pieces, but his works do not show any original treatment; they are now little known or esteemed, and he is remembered chiefly as one of Hogarth's companions, in his jovial water-party to Gravesend, in 1732." Scott was never admired for his marine pictures, except by Walpole; and his actual talent was for architecture. The sea did not agree with him.

Solkin was not, of course, about to consider British marine painting, since marine painting, among those qualified to know, does not deserve to be recognised as "Art in Britain 1660-1815", let alone at any other time. Re-reading this page, on Vertue and Walpole, I am staggered yet again on the absolute garbage that has been written about Monamy and British marine painting during the last 200 years. Heigh-ho. Here we go again: "Willem the Younger's art had effectively established the defining conventions of British marine painting, which would never stray far from his example for the next hundred years or more." Solkin, page 11. Repeats the mindless mantra of the conventional British art historian, first uttered in 1957.

Before we leave this page on British Painting, 1660-1815, some comment on the Hogarth dual portrait on Professor Solkin's page 140 is not to be resisted. This was the picture of which John Nichols, in 1782, said: "it confers no honour on the painter or the persons represented." It will be immediately obvious to any man-in-the-street Englishman that David Garrick is making a V. This is politely known as a "derisive" gesture, though others may more familiarly know it as decidedly vulgar, not to say obscene. Nichols' realisation of this must be the only explanation for his opinion that the picture dishonours both painter and sitters. Others may discreetly affect not to have noticed, distracted perhaps by the sweetness of Garrick's ever-loving wife, though the gesture is unavoidably striking. It implies both Garrick's and Hogarth's verdict on the taste of the times. Nothing could be plainer.

Intriguing Note: July 2016

An uncommonly hefty spanner has abruptly and incidentally been thrown into these scrupulously pondered works.

It has been suggested that the figure at right, appearing on the far left of Gawen Hamilton's "conversation of virtuosi", represents not George Vertue, but, wait for it --- William Hogarth ! Compare left.

Hogarth and Vertue
portrayed by himself and Richardson

The nose has it ! But do the eyes ?

Another characteristic of the figure at the edge of Hamilton's virtuosi is its remarkably short stature. The uncommon shortness of both Scott and Hogarth is remarked on elsewhere. However, while Hogarth did have something of a snub nose, and while the jaw-line and lower face in the virtuosi portrayal are reminiscent of Hogarth, the eyebrows and slightly protruding eyes seem to signify Vertue. The conjectured resemblances may simply be Hamilton's relative inability to capture a likeness.

If Hogarth were really to be substituted for Vertue among Hamilton's virtuosi, the notes supplied by Vertue, confused and confusing as they already are, would be thrown into irredeemable turmoil. I don't think the substitution is acceptable.

Still, Hamilton's portrayal of Vertue is definitely off-key.

The Virtuosi painting, at left above, is reproduced in Art in Britain 1660-1815, page 93.

Does Hamilton look ashamed of himself ?

Hamilton's self-portrait in this group now strikes me as ambiguous in intent, as if he were at odds with the general ambience. He turns away, regarding the spectator with a knowing look.

The Virtuosi 1735

Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caused himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike:
Alike reserved to blame, or to commend,
A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading e'en fools, by flatterers besieged,
And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause

Alexander Pope, 1735

1737: See here for Hogarth's Anecdotes..

the connoisseur and the painter, circa 1730-1732 ?
by Gawen Hamilton. But not according to Horace Walpole.

Tell em the Generous scorn their Rise to owe
To Flattery, Pimping, and a gawdy shew

published in Marvell's works, 1726.

spot the van de velde influence ?

".....the styles of Scott and Peter Monamy, and ultimately of all the English marine artists of the eighteenth century,
were formed entirely on that of the Van de Veldes."
Page 275, The Oxford History of English Art 1625-1714, by Whinney and Millar, 1957.

give me strength

monamy website index
the decorator one
decorations displayed
public display at vauxhall gardens
vauxhall gardens
hogarth, monamy, and the connoisseurs
garrick and hogarth
british art history
more rubbish from british art historians
a conversation of virtuosi

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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2016
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