Sunday, March 27, 2011

Richard Cosway (1742-1821)

Cosway was a prolific artist and at least one of his miniatures seems
to come up for sale in every major London auction.  However, his
drawings are not so often seen.  Even rarer are his oil paintings.

This oil painting, attributed to Richard Cosway, is the first we have seen
at close hand.  It could well be that because they are unsigned and
quite unlike his miniature work, they are not recognised.

When Cosway was training as an artist in London, he was said to have
painted erotic scenes on snuffboxes.  As far as we know, none of this
work has yet been discovered.

 However, some of his miniatures could
almost come into the category of erotic, such as this portrait of
 Lady Charlotte Sophia Leveson-Gower (later Duchess of Beaufort)
c.1787  Originally mounted in a gold box, this portrait was probably
painted for the benefit of her husband-to-be.

An unknown lady c.1785

 At one stage this miniature was probably mounted in a box, as indicated by
the instruction written in French on the reverse.  A smaller size
miniature of excellent quality, but not displaying the cloudy sky
background that became Cosway's trademark.

These next two miniatures are two classic 1790 miniatures with the famous cloudy sky background
 and signed in full on the back.

Unknown Gentleman.

The signature on the back with Cosway's Latin inscription stating he is
miniature painter to The Prince of Wales

Madame Marie Laubevinska, an opera singer.

Cosway output included a lot of pencil drawings, some of them coloured.

A pencil and watercolour drawing on card. dated 1796.  Either
Cosway never mastered perspective or else he deliberately elongated
the body for the sake of elegance.
  The face is very recognisable as by Cosway

A pencil and watercolour drawing on card.  c.1805  Earl
Harrington.  Rare signature on the back.  An extraordinary work,
reflecting the sitter's interest in magic and chivalry and his
obsession with Henry VIII.

Unknown Gentleman Signed and dated '18001'. 

 Cosway had never experienced writing
the numbers for the start of a new century and probably didn't know
how to 'start the year', hence the extra '0'. He was also rather
cheekily still using his elaborate signature with his boast of being
miniature painter to the Prince of Wales, which of course he was not
at this stage.  Horace Hone had been appointed in his place in 1795   .
This later miniature, in sombre colours is rather sad, as are all the
miniatures he painted in this 'grey' period, perhaps reflecting his
own state of mind.  Lacking the brilliant Cosway blue cloudy sky
background, his 'grey' period miniatures are never as eagerly sought
after by collectors

Saturday, March 12, 2011

William, John and Edward Naish

JOHN W. NAISH (1771-1852)
Born in Axbridge, Somerset, like his brother, William, he entered the
Royal Academy School on a six year course. The Royal Academy records
show that he entered the school on 18th February, 1791, aged 20 . It
is not known whether he completed the course.  He exhibited miniatures
at the Royal Academy from 1790-1795. He is also known to have painted
sporting subjects.  Apparently, a picture of a spaniel, signed and dated by him on
the back (what looks like 1791?) was sold at Sothebys on 21st November
1979 (Lot 23).
During his time in London, his known addresses are:

360 Oxford Street (1790/91)
464 Strand (1792/93)
25 Strand (1794/95)

Oxford Street in Victorian times

The Strand in Victorian times

Like his brother, William, very few signed examples of his miniatures
appear to exist.  One, ostensibly signed on the back, is in the Dumas
Egerton Collection, now on long term loan at the Scottish National
Portrait gallery.  Sadly, we have no good image of this miniature and
to date have been unable to obtain one.

 By 1797, he is believed to have lived in Bristol at 27 College Green,
an address given on the back of a a miniature painted in that year.  A
few years later, c.1803, he painted the pair of miniatures below
whilst at 43 Princes Street, Bristol.  This address appears on his
trade card tucked into the back of the miniatures.

A pair of portraits c.1805 by John Naish when he was in Bristol.
Trade card on the reverse.  Copyright of the Victoria and Albert
Museum, London.

  Although the trade card does not mention the
christian name of the artist we know that his brother, William, died in 1800 and so strong
circumstantial evidence dictates that it is John.  It cannot be anyone
else as the trade card states that the artist is late of the Royal
Academy and records show that only William and John Naish attended the
Royal Academy school and exhibited there. Daphne Foskett states in her Dictionary and Guide that William Naish lived for a time in Bristol, but there is no evidence to support this and it is extremely unlikely to be so.  For one thing,  William  had a large and successful London practice, he is placed firmly at London addresses for all his adult life by his exhibits at the Royal Academy and he is always described as being a London resident by contemporaries.

Engraving of Isaac Ingall after John Naish

There are several known engravings after John Naish.  An engraving dated 1797
by John Yeartherd, after John Naish, of Isaac Ingall (1678 - 1798), a
strange looking portrait.  The sitter was famous for reputedly living
until 120!  He worked for the Webster Family at Battle Abbey, Sussex
for 90 years.
In 1805, The Gentleman's Magazine states that John Naish '...resides
in or near London' and was patronised by and a friend of the late Sir
Joshua Reynolds, under whom he studied portraiture.

In some reference books, it is stated that John Naish lived with his
brother, William, at one time, but there is no evidence to support
this, despite the fact that they both lived at the same address, but
at different times.  262 Stand, London was occupied by William Naish
between 1786-91 and by John Naish during 1792/93 according to Royal
Academy records.

The 1851 Census records John Naish as being married and still
practising as an artist, aged 80.  By this time, he had returned to
his home county of Somerset and was living as a lodger at 72 Silver
Street.  The head of the household was a Mr. Durban, an agricultural
worker and his wife, a laundress.  John Naish is recorded as having
died in 1852.

If anyone has a miniature or other painting by John Naish, or any further information, we would love to hear from you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alyn Williams (1866-1955)

The Welsh-born artist, Alyn Williams, was one of the most successful
miniature painters of his generation.  He studied art at the Slade
School in London, and also under Courtois in Paris.  Although he set
up his practice initially in London,  in later life he split his time
between New York and London.   

Lady in a black hat Signed and dated 1898

 He became the first President of the
Royal Miniature Society, a post he held for 50 years, exhibiting there
regularly.   He also exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1890-1904,
the Paris Salon and in America. One of his most famous pupils was
Mahala Theodora 'Dora' Webb.

Unknown lady Signed and dated 1900

 His miniatures of little girls are invariably insipid.  

Unknown little girl Signed and dated 1900

  Williams' first wife, Kathleen, was
from Derbyshire and the couple lived in Kensington.  Later in life, he
had an American companion, Mrs. Anna Dorsey Williams, although it is
not known whether or not they actually married.  It seems from
official documents that the artist intended to live permanently in New
York, but in the event, he returned to Britain.

His portrayal of
women utilizes harsh brushstrokes and bright colours.

Violet Hammersley Signed and dated 1906

 He painted many
wealthy and influential people, including members of the Royal Family.
 He always signed his work in full on the front, invariably with the
date,  occasionally adding his address to the backing card. 

King Edward VII Signed and dated 1908

Alyn Williams was a prolific artist with a long career.  

Unknown boy titled 'Smiles' Signed and dated 1921