Thursday, April 10, 2014

Families in planned 18C English Landscapes from "Conversation Pieces"


1730 William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764)  The Jones Conversation Piece

During the 1990s, I was trying to see both English & American landscapes as those living in the 18th-century did. Then I found families posed in idealized planned landscapes in Conversation Pieces, which is a term for a group portrait, especially those painted in Britain in the 18C, beginning in the 1720s. 


1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) The Watson-Wentworth and Finch Families

Conversation Pieces usually portrayed a group apparently engaged in some informal genteel conversation or some family activity, very often outdoors. Typically the group were members of a family, but friends could be included; and sometimes, deceased relatives also appeared.

1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) Syllabub straight from the Cow The Russell and Revett Familes in a landscape

The settings of Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to portray, including the ideal landscape or house interior, which he wanted to depict as the settings for his everyday activities. And so, these Conversation Pieces were a great way for me to see what those in the early 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes.


1730 Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) Outdoor Conversation Piece of Thomas Hill of Harwood and his First Family

The subjects of Conversation Pieces were depicted in a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they really could do the activities they were portrayed enjoying.  People were painted sharing common activities such as hunts, meals, fishing, or musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.


1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) The Russell and Revett Familes with Fishing Rods and Game

Arthur Devis was a regional painter famous for his small Conversation Pieces, popular with the gentry of Cheshire. William Hogarth (1697-1764) & Charles Phillips (1708-1747) also worked in the genre. The German artist who settled in England, Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), specialized in complicated Conversation Pieces; and most human portraits by George Stubbs (1724-1806) take this form, with horses & carriages in the composition.

1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) Family by a Lake and a Classical Pavilion


1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) Family by a Lake and a Classical Pavilion Detail


1731 William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764) Ashley Cowper with his Wife and Daughter



1738 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Breaking-Up Day at Dr Clayton's School at Salford



1738 William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764) The Hervey Converstion Piece The Holland House Group



1740  Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Sir John Trevelyan (1735–1828), 4th Bt, with Wife Louisa Simond, Lady Trevelyan, Son Sir John Trevelyan (1761–1846), 5th Bt, & Daughter Helena Trevelyan



1740s Edwardy Haytley (English artist, (1740-61) The Brockman family at Beachborough Manor



1740s Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) A Gentleman handing a Lady a Sprig of Honeysuckle



1740 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Thomas Lister and Family at Gisburne Park



1742  William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764) and George Lambert (English artist, 1700-1765) Chiswick House  NB  Not exactly a Conversation Piece, but too informative to leave out.



1730s Charles Philips (British artist, 1708-1747) Sir William Strickland and his family


1743 Edwardy Haytley (English artist, (1740-61)  The Montagu family at their Sandleford Priory estate in Berkshire



1747 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Richard, Mary, and Peter, Children of Peter and Mary du Cane


1744-46 Edwardy Haytley (English artist, (1740-61) The Brockman Family at Beachborough Temple Pond



1749 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Mr and Mrs Van Harthals and Son



1749 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Robert Gwillym and Family



1749 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The Thomas Cave Family



1751 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The James Family



1754 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The Clavey family in their garden at Hampstead



1756 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Edward Gordon, His Sister Mrs Miles and Her Husband in their Garden at Bromley



1758 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Alicia and Jane Clarke



1761 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Sir John Shaw and his Family in the Park at Eltham Lodge, Kent


1763 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Francis Vincent, his Wife Mercy, and Daughter Ann, of Weddington Hall, Warwickshire


 1763 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Daughters of John 3rd Earl of Bute


 1763 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Mathew Family at Felix Hall, Kelvedon, Essex


 1763 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Sons of John 3rd Earl of Bute


 1766 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Woodley Family


 1767 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Family of William Young


1769 George Stubbs (English artist, 1724-1806) The Milbanke and Melbourne Families


 1769 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Bradshaw Family


1769 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810)  The Drummond Family


 1773 Edward Smith (English artist) An Angling Party (perhaps The Willyams Family at Carnanton)


1776 George Stubbs (English artist, 1724-1806) The Reverend Robert Carter Thelwall and His Family


1780 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) Henry and Mary Styleman


Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Henry Fiennes Clinton,9th Earl of Lincoln, with his wife Catherine and his son George on the great terrace at Oatlands


Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) On the grounds of Ranelagh


Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Sir Nathaniel and Lady Caroline Curzon


Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The Edgar Children


Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Two Children and a Dog in a Park


1780 George Stubbs (English artist, 1724-1806) The Wedgewood Family


1780 William Williams (British artist) Conversation Piece, before a house in Monument Lane, Edgbaston


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

1764 Dr John Hope's Proposal to send seeds from America to the growing Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh


Monday, September 3, 1764  New-York Gazette (New York, NY)

Proposal for an annual importation of AMERICAN SEEDS into Scotland.

A Taste for the propagation of American plants, particularly trees, has of late diffused itself very much in this country. And such a taste, doubtless, deserves to be encouraged: for theoretical speculation gives us reason to hope, and time and experience will probably Convince us, that these plants may prove the means of making considerable improvements in this kingdom.

But this taste labours under great discouragements at present. In the first place, the skill and fidelity of the savers and collectors of these seeds in America are uncertain. In the next place, the integrity of the seedsmen in Britain is not always to be trusted; who, from the expense they are at in procuring these seeds, are often tempted, if any others remain on hand over year, to dispose of them as fresh seeds. And though nothing were to be feared in either of these respects ; yet, after all, there is commonly little choice in the assortments sent over at random, and a man curiosity is often disappointed in his inquiries after the seeds he wants.

To remedy these inconveniencies deserves the attention of all who wish well to planting, gardening, or agriculture. And as our new acquisitions in America promise us a large accession of plants to our former collections, and of plants too to which the climate of Britain will be peculiarly suited, the following proposals are humbly submitted to the consideration of all who will) well to their country.

I. That a subscription shall be set on foot for an importation of American seeds into Scotland, the subscription-lnm being two guineas each person.


II. That the scheme shall be put into execution this year 1764.


III. That a botanical catalogue, with the provincial names, shall be made up, with the greatest care, of American, and particularly Canadian, plants and trees, which can be supposed to thrive in the open air in Britain.


IV. That a correspondence shall be settled with some persons of integrity, and skill in botany, residing in one or other of the colonies of New-England, New-York, Pennsylvania.


V. That the catalogue of plants shall be transmitted to them, that they may send over a quantity of the seeds of the plant: in proportion to the sums subscribed.


VI. That they shall also be directed to inquire after, and transmit, a particular information concerning the circumstances attending the growth of the several plants, so far as they can, viz. the soil and latitude where they grow naturally ; what region of the air they inhabit; whether they are found near the coast, or in the inland parts; if growing on hills, or in their neighbourhood ; what aspect they delight in, dye.


VIl. That this commision shall be given early in the season, so that the seeds may be properly saved, and imported in due time.


VIII. That when the seeds come home, they shall be divided into small lots, of, the value of ten shillings or under, each lot comprehending a quantity of each kind of seeds.


IX. That as the quantity of tree and shrub seeds is proposed to be greater than that of the seeds of herbaceous plants, there shall be lots of tree and shrub seeds put up by themselves.


X. That the subscribers shall be furnished with what lots of these seeds they want, at prime cost, as value for part of their subscriptions.


Xl. That the remaining lots, sealed up, and marked with the year and price, shall be put into the hands of seedsmen, to be sold out to all who call for them, not more than one lot to one person, in order to indemnify the subscribers; and that if any os the lots of seeds shall remain unsold after one year, the same shall be returned to the society.


XII. That the subscription shall continue during pleasure.


By these means there would be a regular and annual importation of seeds, so that if through the accidents of seasons the feeds of one year should misgive, the planter would be sure of a supply the next year; and the person employed in America would find it worth while to be at pains in collecting these seeds, and transmitting them safe, and in a vegetating state, to Britain.



John Kay.  Dr. John Hope, Professor of Botany in the University of Edinburgh Kay's Originals, Vol 2, page 412

John Hope (1725-1786) was a Scottish physician & botanist. He is best known as an early supporter of Carl Linnaeus's system of classification. He served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1784-6.  Hope was the son of surgeon Robert Hope & Marion Glas.  He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He took leave to study botany under Bernard de Jussieu at the University of Paris, but returned to his studies in Scotland, graduating MD from the University of Glasgow in 1750.


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

For the next decade he practiced medicine, indulging in botany in his spare time. In 1760, he was appointed as King's Botanist & as Professor of Botany & Materia Medica at the University of Edinburgh.  Hope succeeding in combining the gardens & collections at Trinity Hospital & Holyrood to a new, combined site on the road to Leith. He also succeeded in obtaining a permanent endowment for the garden, thus establishing arguably the first ever "Royal Botanic Garden."

When Hope became the 6th Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1761, he made a momentous decision early on in his tenure: close down the existing small physic gardens at Holyrood to create a new, much larger garden on a 5 acre site on Leith Walk.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

At its entrance, Hope decided to build a little house which could serve as a gateway to the garden, a home for his head gardener, & a classroom in which he could teach medical students about botany – it would come to be known as the Botanic Cottage.

The Botanic Cottage at the entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Designed by noted architects John Adam & James Craig – the latter responsible for designing the layout of Edinburgh’s New Town just a few years later in 1767 – the Botanic Cottage was completed in 1765.  Hundreds of students learned about botany in its large upstairs room overlooking the garden, hearing directly from Professor Hope about his experiments & studies, & referring to his detailed diagrams & illustrations.