Monday, March 20, 2017

Further Information on NICHOLAS FREESE (1761/2-1831)

Nicholas Freese, the artist, was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire  in 1761/2.  His father, also called Nicholas, was born in Hamburg, Germany and his English mother, Elizabeth Rowney, was London born.  His German grandparents were Jurgen and Maria Freese

His father's family later settled in England, where his father worked as a merchant in commerce at 7 New Street, Birmingham, according to Baileys British Directory for Merchants and Traders.  His parents married on 30th March 1758 in the parish of Saint Martins, Birmingham.  His father was naturalised British on 21st December 1767 and died in Birmingham in 1807 and his mother, Elizabeth, died the following year. 

The artist had five siblings; four sisters and one brother called George, although only he and his youngest sister, Sarah (1771-1849) are known to have survived into adulthood.  At some point Nicholas moved to London to pursue his career as an artist and he is listed in 1790 in Wakefield's Merchant and Tradesman's General Directory for London as a Portrait and Landscape Painter, living at 426 Strand, London.  On 29th August, 1791. he married Mary Stokes in St. Martin in the Fields.  Pallot's Marriage Index for England reveals a copy of his marriage record, showing his distinctive writing of his surname.

Nicholas' sister, Sarah (1771-1849) married the Rev. William Green, a clergyman, scholar and mathematician when she was 22 years old and her bridegroom 30 or so years older.  The oil paintings of Sarah and her husband William Green, which are shown below, look very likely to have been painted by Sarah's brother, Nicholas. 

The Rev. William Green 
©Sykes, J. 2016

Mrs. Sarah Green (nee Freese)
©Sykes, J. 2016

Further details of the couple can be seen on  We are grateful to Mr. J. Sykes for allowing us to use these images and for providing further information about the Freese family.

Nicholas and his wife, Mary, called their only son George, after the artist's brother, and their youngest daughter, Mary, after her mother.  
Their son, George Fraser Freese (1792-1813) was a lieutenant in the British army and served in the 59th regiment of foot.  He died  in the Peninsular War. The European Magazine and London review Volume 64, Jul - Dec. 1813, p. 365, lists amongst its 'Deaths Abroad' section:

'Lieutenant George Fraser Freese, of the 59th Regiment of foot, in his 22nd year, only son of Mr. N. Freese, artist. As an ensign, he partook in the perils of the Walcheren expedition; in the memorable battle of Vittoria (sic) as a lieutenant, his intrepidity was highly conspicuous and claimed the particular attention of the Hon. Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Fane, now no more, and at the storming of St. Sebastian he was mortally wounded whilst gallantly leading and cheering the brave company he had the honour to command and which was one of the first that stormed the breach.'

George Fraser Freese was wounded storming San Sebastian on 31st August 1813 and died on 5th September 1813. (Further references:,British Army Officers Casualties Peninsular War. Peninsular Warin Battle of Vitoria).

Nicholas Freese exhibited at the Royal Academy 1794-1814.  His last exhibit in 1814 was a miniature in memory of his dead son, George.  It is possible that he did not paint any miniatures after this date. 

An unknown Lady c.1810
by Nicholas Freese
©Arturi Phillips Images. 2016

His daughter, Mary, was an actress.  She appears to have used the spelling Freize for her surname.  Whilst performing on the Southampton and Portsmouth circuit, she met her future husband, the actor and writer Henry Stephen Kemble (1789-1836), a member of the famous acting family.  Despite opposition from his family, he and Mary were married on 23rd January 1814 at South Shields, Durham.  Later that year, Mary played the part of Agnes in The Mountaineers at the Haymarket, London on 12th July, whilst her husband played the part of Octavian.  He did not have a high reputation as an actor, but was deemed to be good at 'ranting and raving'.  Mary was described in The Dictionary of National Biography as 'pretty, lively and vivacious, but overpowered by timidity'. 
(Further references: A Biographic Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London 1660-1800 by Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans (Copyright 1982 South Illinois University Press), British Pirates in Print & Performance, Introducing 'Striding the Deck, Strutting the Stage.')

Nicholas Freese had three known London addresses whilst he was working as an artist:

426 Strand
411 Strand
9 Percy Street

A Lady by Nicholas Freese
©V&A Museum. 2016

A typical background by Freese

Nicholas Freese died in January 1831 aged 70 and was buried at St. John the Evangelist, Lambeth.  At the time of his death he was living at Waterloo Road, London

Monday, October 24, 2016

Children Through The Ages

The Royal Miniature Society annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London has just finished.

We went at the start of the exhibition and set up a special display called 'Children through the Ages.' This showcased miniatures painted from 1640 to today of children.  Here are some photos of the children miniatures on display

Thursday, October 13, 2016

George and John Engleheart


Sorry we have not been posting anything for some time.

 We have been writing a book and have done a lot of research into George Engleheart and his Nephew John Cox Dillman Engleheart and have just published the book. It has been an exciting project for us and you should be able to get it on Amazon soon or email us for details. It is a hardback with 196 pages. The last book written on Engleheart was in 1902 by George Williamson which unfortunately was full of errors.


We have just curated an exhibition called 'Children through the Ages' which is now on at the Mall Galleries, London with the RMS annual show. Next month we are off to Celle, Germany to give a talk on John Engleheart. Busy times!

Friday, October 16, 2015


The exhibition was officially opened on Tuesday 13th October by author and public speaker, Dr. Gervase Phinn, who gave an amusing and interesting introduction and then graciously presented the Awards.

The standard of exhibits was as high as ever, with many new artists.  One of the notables among new artists exhibiting at the RMS was polish Ewa Buksa-Klinowska, whose astounding enamel miniatures swept up The Gold Bowl and also the Connoisseurs Award.  Ewa flew over for the event to receive her prizes in person and was overwhelmed by the occasion, saying that the praise had 'hit her in the heart'! 

Ewa accepting the gold bowl award

Gold Bowl winning entry

'Suzi' enamel on copper

The first day of the exhibition was bustling with activity, with many red 'sold' spots appearing in the cabinets containing the works of art.

An additional exhibition of some highlights from the Society's Diploma Collection displayed the wonderfully lovely miniature of HM The Queen in her younger days. An apt reminder of our longest-serving Monarch.

For the first time ever, all the exhibits can now be viewed on-line at

The exhibition is open daily, 10.00 - 5.00, closing on Sunday 25th October at 1.00 p.m.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

THE LAIDMAN SISTERS : Ida Frances Laidman (1878-1962) and Edith Annie Laidman (1880-1943)

Following additional research by living descendants of the Laidman family, it has now been established that the two miniature painters, Ida and Edith, had a sister, (Charlotte) Mary and two brothers, the Rev. William Ernest and the eldest, George Henry Laidman (born 1871 in India).  George became a Civil Engineer and married May Constance Hovenden in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1919.  None of the sisters married and it is thought that the Rev. William also remained single.

Further information has now come to light regarding these two artists with the exciting discovery by collector, Warren Kundis, of a miniature of 'Mary' Laidman (1874-1954) by her sister Edith.

Miniature of 'Mary' Laidman (1874-1954)

Warren has kindly allowed us to use his images and we are grateful to him for this.

Although the 'signature' on this miniature is not the artist's, the backing sheet confirming the identity of the sitter and  the artist is genuine.

It is believed that Edith probably 'signed' the miniature with a monogram EAL and at a later date someone unknown altered it to read E. Laidman. 
 Edith's genuine signature is also shown below.

Not only do we now have an image of Mary, who as far as we know was not an artist herself, but this miniature also calls into question the identity of another miniature by Edith, previously unknown, which could possibly be a self portrait.  Certainly the striking combination of blue eyes, dark chestnut brown hair and fine features shared by the sitters in both these miniatures is very suggestive of a close family connection.  
The miniature, possibly of Edith, came from her sister, Ida's, Estate

Possible self-portrait? by Edith Annie Laidman

A photograph of an elderly Ida Laidman

A miniature of Mrs. Charlotte Laidman (nee Smith) the artists' mother by Ida Frances Laidman

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The RMS is holding its annual exhibition in The Mall Galleries, London SW1 (just off Trafalgar Square).   With about 600 exhibits including miniatures, sculptures and painted boxes, it shows off the incredible talents of living artists from all over the world, with most of the items on display for sale.  Prices range from the low hundreds to several thousand pounds.   

Not only is it a wonderful exhibition - and it is free entry - but there are practical demonstrations with opportunity to talk to artists about their work and see them painting. As usual, there is an exclusive range of well-priced greeting cards for sale.  A fantastic way to spend a few hours.

This year the new President of the Society, Rosalind Pierson, takes over from the much-loved and revered artist, Elizabeth Meek.  With impeccable timing, Rosalind managed to win the foremost award this year 'The Prince of Wales Award for Miniature Painting'.  

Our own award went to Suzanne Bradley, who makes a speciality of painting animals.  We could not resist 'Murphy' for its excellence.  

Murphy by Suzanne Bradley

Why not call in if you are in London?  The exhibition is open 10.00 - 5.00 daily until Sunday 26th October 2014 (closing 1.00 p.m. on final day).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

THE GENIUS OF ROBERT LEE KEELING (born Baltimore c. 1864)

Robert Lee Keeling was born in Baltimore, USA.  His father, Robert James Keeling, was a clergyman.  His mother was Elizabeth Bend Polk (1830-1874) and her son's miniature of her is now in the New York Historical Society Museum.  He had a sister, Rose, who married Stilson Hutchins, the founder of the Washington Post, and the couple became well known in the newspaper Society columns.   

By the time he was 16, Keeling's family had moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the 1880 Census reveals that he was still at school at that time.  In June 1891 the New York Times reported that a sketch performed at the Lyceum Theatre called 'A Lesson in Acting' featured a young Robert Lee Keeling 'hitherto unheard of, was the real thing....'   Although Keeling started his career as a stage actor, by the time he was in his 30's he was a miniature painter of great repute.   It is not known where he trained as an artist.   

In  March 1893 the New York Times announced that Keeling was to marry Nannie Key Michell (nee Tyson), a widow some 20 years older than him, previously married to a wealthy auctioneer.

Keeling's reputation as a miniature painter soon took on near legendary status on both sides of the Atlantic.  American newspapers made much of his Royal commissions  to paint Queen Alexandra in 1901, and King Edward VII the following year.  He painted many a famous family in both Europe and America and gossip about his personal life featured in a clutch of newspapers in 1897, when his first wife, Nannie Key Keeling , from whom he was estranged, aged 'in her fifties', was found dead in her home.   Apparently the marriage was unhappy and the couple had soon separated, with Nannie living most of the time in New York and Keeling living in Washington.  Even the New York Times ran the story in its September 19th 1897 edition.

Keeling was a frequent visitor to England and exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1905. He mixed with the cream of society with families like the Vanderbilts and Stuyvesants and his comings and goings were dutifully recorded in the Social Pages - what parties he attended, where he was staying, who he was seeing.  

This miniature by him dated 1903 may possibly be his second wife, Caroline.  Originally in a gold frame and kept in its Tiffany leather travel case purchased from Bond Street, London, the suggestion is that it was painted in London.  The romantic and superb setting of the miniature attest to it being a gift of love.  

There were still newspaper reports of him living with Caroline Weldon in New York in 1910 but in January 1912, his personal life again became a 'cause celebre' when Caroline divorced him, citing that 'he had failed to provide her with the necessaries of life for the past year... and had deserted her'. Much was made of the fact that she was a great beauty.  Having been granted the divorce, tongues wagged again when she remarried with indecent haste.... to her lawyer.  

New York Times June 18th 1916 showing an image of a miniature by Keeling of Mrs. William A. Hamilton

The dodgy reputation did not appear to harm his career or his  ' invitability' and Keeling was still regularly appearing in the newspaper Social Columns, often accompanied by his married sister, Rose.  His frequent trips to Europe continued with a report in the New York Times October 7th 1922 announcing his recent return and giving his address as 135 East Thirty Fourth Street, New York, an address used by him for some years.  

Keeling miniatures are rare.  He signed his work 'Keeling' with a flashy flourish.  Please let us know if you have one of these miniatures as we would love to see more of his work.