AGM + talk by Jane Short on Artists and paintings in Richmond, Twickenham and Kew

Date(s) - Monday 17 May 2021
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Duke Street Church

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This event was held via Zoom.

Over the centuries many artists have visited or lived in the Richmond area, inspired by the picturesque scenery of the River Thames, parks, palaces and open spaces.  Some have provided beautiful landscapes, others have concentrated on portraits.  Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Joseph Mallard William Turner are of course famous names, but some others that will be mentioned in this talk are lesser known.  We will explore the artists’ local connections and view some of their paintings.

Jane Short

Jane Short has lived in Richmond borough since 1967 and is a longtime member of Richmond Local History Society.  Before retirement she was employed in local government as the Appeals Officer for Hounslow borough.   She became a founder member of Hounslow Heritage Guides in 1993 and continued for 22 years.  Jane qualified as a Richmond Heritage Guide in 1998, becoming Secretary and Training Officer in 2000, both positions she still holds today.

Tonight’s talk was originally researched by Johanna Coombes (a fellow Heritage Guide and late RLHS Membership Secretary) before her sudden and untimely death in March 2020. Jane has agreed to take over the talk, working from Jo’s research notes and adding her own slant to the presentation.

 John Foley reports on Jane’s talk

We all know how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful areas of Greater London. The river, and its verdant surroundings, have for centuries attracted commerce and civilisation, the river of course being the main traffic highway in centuries past. But perhaps not all of us knew the sheer number and variety of artists who have been attracted by Richmond. This was the project prepared by Jo Coombes, former membership secretary of the Society, until her shocking and sudden death in March 2020. Fourteen months and a dreadful pandemic later, her friend Jane Short, having embellished Jo’s work, delivered (via Zoom) an illuminating, colourful and revelationary presentation.

The big names of art associated with our area we know; J M W Turner lived in Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, and his villa there, having been restored, can now be visited. Thomas Gainsborough, originally from Suffolk, has his monument at St Anne’s Church on Kew Green where he was buried, Johann Zoffany from Germany, with his long  associations with the Royal family and with the Garrick family at Hampton, was also buried at Kew. And Sir Joshua Reynolds, who hailed from Devon, settled and painted in Richmond, hosting large dinner parties where he would be seen holding conversation with the help of his ear trumpet. And over the river at Chiswick, William Hogarth had his home (again now open for inspection) full of his etchings.

But from the early 18th century there exists a long series of paintings by foreign-born artists attracted by Richmond who are perhaps less well known; in 1710 Leonard Knyff (1650 –1722) arrived from Haarlem to paint the scene from Richmond Hill. The Dutch artist Jan Griffier from Amsterdam did the same. In 1748 Peter Rysbrach painted Richmond ferry while the Italian Antonio Joli, in Richmond on an architectural building commission, made  a view of the riverbank. Pieter Tillemans (1684- 1734) from Antwerp suffered from asthma. He moved to Twickenham and  found the Richmond air soothing. His topographical views showed the house where Alexander Pope lived.

Not just foreign-born emigres or visitors; Samuel Scott (1702-1777) lived opposite St Mary’s Church Twickenham, and his work made him known as the English Canaletto. He painted Pope’s house in 1720.The watercolourist Thomas Rowlandson, son of a textile merchant, settled in Richmond and produced over 10000 watercolours, including views of Richmond Bridge. Remarkable that he found time, as he loved gambling! Then there was Thomas Christopher Hofland (1777- 1843) born in Nottinghamshire, but who arrived at Montpelier Row Twickenham, and exhibited over 70 paintings at the Royal Academy. His pupil George Hilditch turned from landscape painting to the new developing science of photographic prints, while Arthur Hughes (1832 –1915) was a pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator, his best known work being April Love. And not to forget one of the most remarkable Victorian artists and explorers, Marianne North ,whose paintings  of nature around the world can once again be seen in her gallery at Kew Gardens.

Up until the Second World War there was a remarkable art gallery attached to Doughty House, built on Richmond hill in 1771. A wealthy industrialist, Francis Cook, amassed a considerable collection including Rubenses, van Dycks and Rembrandts. Bomb damage in the war hastened the sad dispersal of this collection, but there is a most curious recent development involving one of the former collection’s paintings. Reports in 2017 reveal that this painting – Salvator Mundi – may after all have been an original by Leonardo da Vinci (Mr Cook, the former owner had not known this.) At a New York auction a staggering sum equivalent to £342million was paid for this work.

Saudi Arabia’s gain may be Richmond’s loss, but we do still have the Orleans House Gallery with its  rich artistic  heritage bequeathed to us by the redoubtable Nellie Ionides. And after all, to the best of our knowledge the one and only great Leonardo never paced up to admire and paint the view from Richmond Hill.