Our tour of the house began in the Breakfast Room, with its impressive collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century portraits.
Our tour of the house began in the Breakfast Room, with its impressive collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century portraits. Image by Emma Nock.

Portraits in context at Weston Park by Emma Nock

As somebody whose own specialism is not actually in art history (but rather in historic houses and other buildings), I was very keen to attend the portrait study day at Weston Park, not only to enjoy privileged access to the house and collections, but also to benefit from the in-depth knowledge of their curator—Gareth Williams—and my fellow delegates. As a curator with the National Trust in the South West region, my own current role is a twelve-month research project to[...]

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  1. Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman, watercolour on paper, by Edward Robert Hughes, signed and dated 1889. © The Geffrye Museum of the Home, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.
    Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman, watercolour on paper, by Edward Robert Hughes, signed and dated 1889. © The Geffrye Museum of the Home, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.

    E. R. Hughes’ Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman Acquired by the Geffrye Museum, by Emma Hardy

    13 February 2017

    The Geffrye Museum of the Home has recently purchased a beautiful, large-scale watercolour portrait of two young sisters in a domestic interior by the late Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Robert Hughes. Today Hughes is best-known for his ‘blue’ paintings – a series of spectacular, highly finished watercolours on literary and mystical themes, featuring winged allegorical figures against luminous blue skies, completed towards the end of this life. However, during his lifetime, his critical reputation was largely based upon his portraiture, especially[...]

  2. Thomas Burnet, appointed Master of the Charterhouse in 1685. Courtesy of The Charterhouse
    Thomas Burnet, appointed Master of the Charterhouse in 1685. Courtesy of The Charterhouse

    Revealing the Charterhouse, by Ellie Darton-Moore

    16 January 2017

    In December I returned to the National Portrait Gallery, where I had worked for 3 years until last autumn, to attend the annual Understanding British Portraits conference. On the agenda was a talk by Ibby Lanfear, Paintings Conservator, which focused on a collection of 17th-century portraits here at the Charterhouse. It was a wonderful experience to sit with colleagues old and new in the quiet hush of the Ondaatje Wing Theatre to listen to her talk. The Charterhouse is a[...]

  3. Richard Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley (1911-22), by Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937), 1914, oil on artist’s board. Purchased with help from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Grosvenor Museum Society, Bequest of Mrs Frances Wise 2015.196. Conserved with help from the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust.
    Richard Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley (1911-22), by Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937), 1914, oil on artist’s board. Purchased with help from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Grosvenor Museum Society, Bequest of Mrs Frances Wise 2015.196. Conserved with help from the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust.

    De László’s enchanting portrait of Lord Madeley (1914) purchased by the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, by Peter Boughton

    09 January 2017

    The Grosvenor Museum’s greatest acquisition in 2015 was a portrait of Richard Crewe-Milnes, Earl of Madeley, the three-year-old son of the 1st Marquess of Crewe, painted in 1914 by Philip de László, one of the most celebrated portrait painters of his age. This masterly oil sketch exemplifies the artist’s painterly panache and retains its original circular gilded frame in the Louis XV style. Following conservation to both painting and frame, it makes a superb addition to the permanent display in[...]

  4. Arthur Atherley, oil sketch from life by Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), 1791. Oil on canvas, 62.2 x 50.8 cm. © The Holburne Museum
    Arthur Atherley, oil sketch from life by Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), 1791. Oil on canvas, 62.2 x 50.8 cm. © The Holburne Museum

    A New Portrait for Bath: Thomas Lawrence’s sketch for Arthur Atherley by Amina Wright, Holburne Museum

    19 December 2016

    Early in 2016, following a successful fundraising campaign, the Holburne Museum in Bath purchased Thomas Lawrence’s preparatory oil sketch for one of his most celebrated paintings, Arthur Atherley (left). This is the first oil painting by the great Royal Academician to enter the Holburne’s important collection of British eighteenth-century portraits. Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) lived and worked in Bath during his teens, from 1780 to 1787. Born in Bristol, he was the most successful artist from the West Country in[...]

  5. Portrait of Joseph Leftwich by Clare Winsten, c.1919, Ben Uri Gallery & Museum
    Portrait of Joseph Leftwich by Clare Winsten, c.1919, Ben Uri Gallery & Museum

    A newly-discovered portrait of Joseph Leftwich by ‘Whitechapel Girl’ Clare Winsten, c.1919, by Sarah MacDougall, Ben Uri Gallery & Museum

    14 December 2016

    My co-curator, Rachel Dickson, and I were delighted when, in the summer of 2015, just as we were preparing to celebrate Ben Uri’s centenary with a major collection exhibition, Out of Chaos, at Somerset House, this early oil by Clare Winsten (1892–1984) came to light. A portrait of one European Jewish émigré to London by another, it depicts the Yiddish writer, critic and translator, Joseph Leftwich (1892–1983), the key chronicler of the so-called ‘Whitechapel Boys’, fittingly executed by the only[...]

  6. Portrait of an Old Jew by John Opie, c.1779 © Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
    Portrait of an Old Jew by John Opie, c.1779 © Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance

    A Portrait of an Old Jew: Returning Opie’s masterpiece to Penzance by Louise Connell, Director, Penlee House Gallery & Museum

    22 November 2016

    This year Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance purchased a portrait of an elder from the Penzance Jewish Community by John Opie (1761–1807), A Portrait of an Old Jew from c.1779 from a private collection. Painted in the style of Rembrandt, an artist whom Opie admired, the portrait stares directly at us out of the shadows. Just discernible on his forehead is the Tefillin, a box containing four scrolls inscribed with words from the Torah, the Jewish holy book.[...]

  7. Ozias Humphry, George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, 18th century, pastel drawing, 61 x 51 cm. © UK Government Art Collection
    George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, by Ozias Humphry, 18th century, pastel drawing, 61 x 51 cm. © UK Government Art Collection

    ‘…and amongst moneyed men he was looked up to as an oracle’.* Mr Coutts’s Chinese Wallpapers and the Art of Diplomacy, by Dr Laura Popoviciu

    02 August 2016

    Standing outside Sir Frederick Gibberd’s modern atrium of Coutts & Co., gracefully incorporated into the Georgian building on the Strand and waiting to explore their portrait collection as part of a study day organised by the Understanding British Portraits network, I wondered about the Coutts’s taste as collectors. The semi-reflective glass façade would not give anything away yet. Reaching the top floor and stepping into the solemn boardroom, I did not envisage such an unexpected encounter. I was instantly drawn[...]

  8. Lucian Freud by Jane McAdam-Freud, 2012, sterling silver. Collection: The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
    Lucian Freud by Jane McAdam-Freud, 2012, sterling silver. Collection: The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

    Banking and financial institutions – three portrait collections in London, by Charlotte Dew

    26 July 2016

    Until taking on the role of Assistant Curator at the Mercers’ Company – a Great Twelve City Livery Company – I had always worked with public collections. Researching and cataloguing a private collection has opened my eyes to a different world, which I am still learning to navigate three years on. And being relatively new to the study of portraiture, the Understanding British Portraits (UBP) programme has created an invaluable range of opportunities to learn from expert colleagues. All three[...]

  9. View of the west front of the Hall, seen from the Gatehouse, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler
    View of the west front of the Hall, seen from the Gatehouse, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

    The power of portraits in context: A study day at Hardwick Hall by Liz Waring

    31 March 2016

    I had been looking forward to the Understanding British Portraits Study Day at Hardwick Hall from the moment it was announced.  Since first encountering ‘Bess of Hardwick’ 12 years ago when I moved to the area I have become something of an enthusiast. Combined with my equally keen interest in 16th and 17th century portraiture, this study day could not have been more perfect and I was certainly not disappointed. In contrast to the chill in the air outside –[...]