Picture of the Day…

john-lowin

Today’s picture comes from the collection at the Ashmolean in Oxford. Our sitter is John Lowin, who was a celebrated actor and associate of William Shakespeare, and managed the King’s Players from 1623-1642.  It is inscribed 1640, but no artist is attributed.

There is a little more information here: John Lowin

Incidentally, if you’re ever in Oxford, I would really recommend a visit to the Ashmolean. It’s a wonderful mix of art and archaeology, and they put on many excellent exhibitions that easily challenge the insane crowds and stress at the London galleries. As an added bonus, their cafe also serves an excellent cheese and onion quiche!

Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland

On the 20th September 1643, at the first battle of Newbury, King Charles’s 33-year-old Secretary of State was killed by enemy fire, having charged his horse at a gap in a hedge which was lined by the enemy’s musketeers. Many believe his actions were deliberate, a suicidal act by a sensitive poet unable to bear the burden of his position, and the bloody destruction of war, any longer. There are a number of surviving portraits of Falkland, many of which show a thoughtful but melancholy man. Unlike other paintings in which statesmen have the artist depict them as proud, often arrogant individuals of status and position, he is clearly not a man of war or violent ambition, but an intellectual more drawn to philosophy, writing and poetry.

I think this is shown very clearly in Van Dyck’s beautiful painting below.

Falkland by VanD
c.1638-1640 ©The Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement

He was also painted on more than one occasion by Cornelius Johnson:

Falkland CJ1
1635, ©Birmingham Museums Trust
Falkland CJ2
©National Trust, Montacute House

This one is attributed to John Hoskins:

NPG 6304; Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland attributed to John Hoskins

Watercolour on vellum, 1630s
©National Portrait Gallery, London

None of the images I’ve found of Cary are from the civil war period after 1642, and most are either copies of, or after, Van Dyck’s earlier original above. I’ve long wondered if he ever sat for Dobson, with whom he would almost certainly have been acquainted at Oxford. Given Dobson’s ability to capture the true character of his sitters (in my view better than Van Dyck, at times), I would imagine a portrait of the tragic Viscount Falkland might have been one of his most moving. If there is a Dobson ‘Holy Grail’, this is it!

If you’re interested in reading more about Falkland, there’s an old but readable biography by J.A.R Marriott, entitled “Falkland and his Times 1610-1643”, published in 1907 (copies are available on Abe Books). Recommendations for a more recent biography gratefully received. 🙂

Culture in the Conflict

Most of the paintings that make us think of  the English Civil War tend to be of soldiers, courtiers or royalty, those individuals closest to the fighting,  yet if you look around you’ll find a surprising number of poets, writers and musicians as well, keeping the arts alive while all around was falling apart. Here are just a few I’ve come across, dated either during the war, or just before/after.

Milton
I found this picture of (allegedly) the poet and writer  John Milton, in a 1932 edition of the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs*. No date is given, but it is claimed to be a Dobson. This is, in my opinion, incorrect, not only because it just doesn’t LOOK like a Dobson, but Milton was strongly in favour of the Parliamentarian cause, and therefore highly unlikely to have had his portrait painted by the King’s principle artist over in Royalist HQ, Oxford. (If painted before 1642, of course. Before that, and before sides were drawn, there’s no great reason it couldn’t have happened).  I have no suggestions who did paint it though, or where it may be now. Any thoughts?

Evelyn
The diarist John Evelyn, by Robert Walker, 1648.
©National Portrait Gallery, London

Ben Jonson
Apologies for the poor quality of this one, but it’s the only copy I have. Also found in an old book, this (again, alleged) image of the playwright and poet Ben Jonson, is labelled as a Dobson. It would have to be a very early one if taken from the life, as Jonson died in 1637 and Dobson was only a few years out of his apprenticeship by then. I don’t know where this is now, but would love to see a clearer version.

Musician
Portrait of a Musician by William Dobson, c. 1644
©Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

Hobbes
The philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, by William Dobson, c. 1640s.
©The Royal Society

I’m not convinced by this attribution either…

*The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol 60, no.346, Jan., 1932.

Walker et al

Dobson’s opposite number in the Parliamentarian army, Robert Walker, is as much a mystery as Dobson is.  We know nothing of his background, or how he came to be working in the Parliament camp, but it is said he was older than Dobson by  about a decade (he was allegedly born in 1599), and was a member of the Painter-Stainer’s Company. Here he is, in a self-portrait c.1645-1650…

Robert Walker
“Robert Walker”, c.1645-1650, ©National Portrait Gallery, London

While Dobson’s movements are easy to pin down, as he almost certainly didn’t move from Oxford until the Royalists surrendered and left it in 1646, it’s unclear whether Walker was similarly based in one location, or if he was on the move.  He was prolific, however,  with many of the Parliamentarian high command sitting for him, both during the war and afterwards under the Commonwealth. Walker’s most recognised painting is probably this one of Oliver Cromwell.

NPG 536; Oliver Cromwell by Robert Walker
“Oliver Cromwell”, c.1649, ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Although portraits  from this period tend to be, at first glance at least, simplistically attributed to either Dobson or Walker depending on whether the sitter looks like a Roundhead or a Cavalier, of course they weren’t the only painters trying to make a living during the conflict. Other names I’ve come across while researching Civil War portraits include Gerard Soest (attrib.):

Unknown possibly by Soest
“Portrait of a Royalist Officer”, c.1646-1649, ©The Samuel Cortauld Trust,
The Courtauld Gallery, London

John Weesop:

Marmaduke-Darcy Weesop
“Marmaduke d’Arcy”, c.1645-1648, ©The Huntington Library,
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

…and John Hayls:

Thomas Pigott
“Colonel Thomas Pigott”, c.1647, ©North Somerset Museum/North Somerset Council

I know nothing about the above painters, but would be very interested to learn more about them, and any others who where about during the wars and painting soldiers, from either side. Let me know!

%d bloggers like this: