THE 1826 WHITEHAVEN ART EXHIBITION
In 1825, Mr J.H. Johnson had exhibited paintings at art exhibitions held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle, to less than total acclaim. In 1826, he decided to take a step further, by organising a wide-ranging exhibition of paintings and drawings, from Old Masters to modern works by local amateurs, in the prosperous port of Whitehaven. Here are newspaper accounts of the event:
Cumberland Pacquet, 18 Oct 1825
225. Holiday Time. J.H. Johnson. We like many parts of this picture very well, but the drawing, we fear, in some instances is rather faulty. The grouping, however, and general effect of the picture are good, and promise better things by and bye. Mr. Johnson also has a picture entitled "Composition," which is in many respects praiseworthy.
Cumberland Pacquet, 25 Jul 1826
EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS.
THE Inhabitants of Whitehaven and its Vicinity are respctfully informed that an EXHIBITION of the WORKS of ANCIENT and MODERN ARTISTS will be opened in Mr. Kelty's Room, Irish Street, Whitehaven, on SATURDAY the 12th Day of August next; and all those desirous of sending Pictures, either for Exhibition or Sale, are requested to intimate their Intention to Mr. J.H. JOHNSON, at Mr. Rawlins's, Grocer, Market-place, Whitehaven, previous to the 31st Inst.; after which Time none can be admitted.
Whitehaven, July 24th, 1826.
Cumberland Pacquet, 1 Aug 1826
To the EDITOR of the CUMBERLAND PACQUET.
SIR.- I was highly gratified in perusing the columns of your paper last week, to see that an Exhibition of Ancient and Modern Paintings is about to be established in Whitehaven, the promoting of which is highly creditable to Mr. Johnston, and will evince sure indications of a refined taste, and a love for the Arts, in the Ladies and Gentlemen who may come forward to aptronise and encourage it. The love of Painting, like Poetry and Music, is rational and praise-worthy; neither does it (like some pursuits too prevalent in the Nation) derogate from the service of that Being, who has endowed us with all the powers of body and intellect which we possess. On the contrary, it is no uncommon circumstance to find persons who have a knowledge of the Fine Arts more amiable, virtuous, and engaging, and even in some cases to have more exalted ideas of "things sacred and divine." The pious Cowper, whose writings were only exceeded by his exemplary life, has spoken of painting in the most commendable terms-
"To teach the canvass, innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet;-
These, these are Arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time,"
It was gratifying to the encouragers of Arts, to see the Carlisle Academy last year attended by the highest personages in the city and its environs, some of whom enriched the Exhibition with the most valuable gems of Art which they possessed, from the pencils of the most distinguished Artists, ancient and modern; and with a liberality highly laudable, purchased paintings which they thought possessed merit, executed by young Artists, thus the young men received a remuneration for their labour, and were stimulated to bring forward their productions another year. He who is the means of rewarding and bringing forward talent and genius to public observation, is a national acquisition, and an honourable ornament to the country in which he lives; for wherever the Arts have been fostered and cultivated, they have tended in some degree, to refine the knowledge and meliorate the manners of the people-
"Ingenuas didicisse fideliter Artes
Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros."
Institutions of this nature require the hand of opulence and respectability to bring them into general notice, and I trust that the one now before us will be countenanced and supported by our influential neighbours.
Cumberland Pacquet, 8 Aug 1826
FINE ARTS.- The opening of the Exhibition of Paintings in this town, is unavoidably deferred until Monday the 28th instant.- See the advertisement.- As we anticipated, the undertaking has obtained the patronage of all the principal gentlemen in this town and neighbourhood.
Cumberland Pacquet, 15 Aug 1826
It has been very justly observed by a celebrated writer, that the art of painting has seldom or ever flourished except where artists have either been encouraged by hope or excited by emulation. To encourage and to excite the young artist, it is necessary that his productions should be brought before the public, and we trust that in Whitehaven there is public spirit enough to support an exhibition of Paintings, and liberality enough to reward the artist whose productions may be brought to the exhibition for the purpose of sale. An Institution of this kind, when patronized by a liberal Public, will answer three very important ends: it will cultivate public taste- be a source of considerabe gratification to all who may visit it- and finally, will be the means of bringing into public notice, humble merit, and of rewarding talent wherever it may be found. With this view of the subject, we most sincerely wish success to the present undertaking, and hope that Mr Johnson's exertions to gratify the public in this way will be duly appreciated. We have already announced to the public that the opening of the exhibition has been postponed (for very beneficial reasons) till the 28th Instant. We are anxious to keep the subject alive in the public mind. Several influential friends have stept forward, and every thing promises well. The rapid progress which the Carlisle institution has made towards celebrity, has encouraged the admirers of the fine arts in Whitehaven- in the hope that there is nothing wanted but a little exertion on their part, and a spirited appeal to the public, to secure to this institution a similar degree of success.
Cumberland Pacquet, 22 Aug 1826
EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS, &c.
THE above Exhibition will be opened to the Public on MONDAY next, the 28th Instant, and will remain open until further Notice.
Hours of attendance, from Eight o'Clock in the Morning until Dusk.
Admission, One Shilling.- Tickets for the Season, Three Shillings.- Catalogues, 6d.
Cumberland Pacquet, 29 Aug 1826
The Exhibition of Paintings in this town was opened yesterday, and certainly, although we had but a hurried glance at the collection, that glance was sufficient to call forth our warmest admiration, mixed with no slight degree of astonishment. To have procured so many works of art, all of such excellence, must have cost Mr. Johnson the most indefatigable assiduity, and we hope his exertions will meet with their due reward. We dare say the project at first may have appeared visionary to many, and to ourselves its success has at times appeared rather doubtful, but incessus labor omnia vincit; and whatever opinions may have been formed at its outset, only one can prevail at its completion- that of superior excellence. The arrangement of the pictures is highly creditable, and the tout-ensemble on entering the room is extremely beautiful.- It is pleasant to see Whitehaven joining in the praiseworthy struggle to partake of the honour which a cultivation of taste and art never fails to confer. The results of such pursuits are uniformly more glorious than victories, more "durable than brass." We shall endeavour, in our next, to give our readers some idea of the respective merits of the pictures, and of the nature and extent of the collection. In the mean time, however, we earnestly recommend them to visit the Exhibition themselves, from which they cannot but derive the highest gratification.
Carlisle Journal, 2 Sep 1826
The Whitehaven Artists Exhibition commenced its career, on Monday last under the auspices of Mr. Johnson. We understand a tolerable collection of paintings. We hope that it will succeed; but we cannot help thinking that a more appropriate season of the year might be found than the very period when the Carlisle Academy is about to open.
Cumberland Pacquet, 5 Sep 1826
[No continuation of last week's poem in this or any other issue of the Pacquet]
[Please note that the following list of paintings in the Whitehaven exhibition has been compiled and rearranged from articles spread over the 5 and 12 September issues of the Pacquet; I have left gaps for paintings not described, in the hope that a copy of the printed catalogue may some day be found.]
EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS, WHITEHAVEN
We now fulfil the promise made to our readers last week by entering upon a slight review of the merits of the different pictures, and shall begin with
|2||A Fish||A. Dalzell||A picture of very considerable merit: the Salmon in particular is one of the finest representations of nature that we have ever met with; the Haddocks' heads too, seen at the corner, are excellent.|
|3||Views in St. Michael's||amateur||Had the young lady with the reticule been dispensed with, we should have called this a very sweet little picture; as it is (despite her little taper foot and ancle) we cannot help thinking she spoils the scene.|
|4||The lucky Sportsman||"after Morland"||This is indeed after Morland, and a very long way behind him; the length of the lady's legs make them quite natural curiosities; the sportsman himself and his dog are better.|
|5||Portrait of a Gentleman||I. Heard||Whoever has once seen the original of this portrait cannot for a moment hesitate about the resemblance. It is painted by a native artist, now in London, and is highly creditable to his abilities.|
|7||A Bacchante||G. Sheffield||This is no doubt a copy after Romney, and the original of the picture is the Lady Hamilton, of notorious memory. She is, in our eyes, one of the loveliest beings that ever had the misfortune to be brought into this world of ours, to participate in its follies and its vices.|
|8||Landscape||W. King||A very beautiful scene and no less ably executed. The piece of water in the corner is beautifully clear and transparent.|
|9||The taking of La Clorinde||Whitcomb||A very sweet little marine picture. The sky and water are exquisitely painted.|
|10||View of Whitehaven from the South||W. King||Very correct; and with a little more attention to aerial perspective would have been a very pleasing picture.|
|11||An affair with the Spanish Gun-Boats off Gibraltar||J. Gunson Esq.||This is an exquisite drawing: the sky, the smoke from the brig, and the hazy effect in the distance, are proofs of the very highest genius, and the whole picture exhibits a composition which it would be difficult to find excelled.|
|14||Craigmethen Castle||Miss A. Havens||[with 17] Two pretty drawings. The former we believe is the original of the Castle of Tillitudlam, in the tale of Old Mortality.|
|15||The departure of Joseph into Egypt||Brown||This is surely a misnomer in the catalogue: it must be the departure of Joseph into Cumberland, for it is assuredly a view in this county. We question whether there were any arched bridges in Egypt in those days, or printed books, yet Joseph is apparently reading the Bible, but what edition of it we will leave to those more learned in such matters to determine. These anachronisms apart, however, it is really a very beautiful picture: there is a fine warmth of tone over the whole, and the penciling of the foliage is extremely well done.|
|17||View in Venice||Miss A. Havens||[see 14] "pretty drawing"|
|19||Eli and Samuel||_||The head of Eli would be invaluable to a Craniologist: that bump (we beg pardon, organ) on the forehead is of the most magnificent dimensions.|
|20||Landscape||Capt. Wilson||A beautiful little picture,- very freely and effectively painted.|
|21||The Mendicant||Chisholm||The figure of the old blind man is very good: of the little girl we cannot speak so highly.|
|22||Virgin and Child||Carlo Maratti||This is a very fine picture. The blue drapery and the infant are in the very highest order of art: if there be a fault, it is that the face of the Madonna is too young, and wants the inspiration which is naturally expected to be found in it.|
|25||Fruit||Gray||[see 28] "... of the finest specimens of fruit painting we have ever seen"|
|28||Fruit||Gray||[with 25, listed at that number] These are two of the finest specimens of fruit painting we have ever seen: the bird's nest in the latter is completely deceptive: in fact, in looking at this picture, we almost forget the flat surface, and fancy the presence of nature.|
|29||Head of St. Antonio||Murillo||A very fine specimen of this great master.|
|30||Moonlight Scene||amateur||The ruddy light from the forge presents a fine contrast to the pale moonlight, and altogether produces a very agreeable effect.|
|31||Cattle||Le Cave||[with 53] The best picture we have ever seen by this unfortunate man. There is also No. 53, by the same Artist, but very inferior to No. 31.|
|32||The visit from the Poor Relations (after Stephanoff)||J. M'Clellan||We have seen the original of this picture, yet notwithstanding can look upon the copy with very near the same satisfaction. [describes the scene, which also featured on prints of the period] The execution of every part of the picture is excellent, and we cannot point out any particular feature which is less ably treated than another. [more description] We say to Mr. M'Clellan- "go on, and prosper:" and would strongly advise him to attempt something original. He has all the requisite abilities for the mechanism of his art, and we should like to see his genius and talent exerted in a composition of his own.|
|33||Twelve Portraits of the most eminent Ancient Masters, with a Madona and Child in the centre||unknown||The portraits are perfect gems; the Madona in the centre seems to be the work of another and inferior artist.|
|37||original drawing in Indian ink||Owen||This is a very interesting picture, and executed in a free masterly style, giving all the requisite effect with little or no apparent labour: the female with the child at her breast is delightfully drawn.|
|38||Encampment of Gipsies, moonlight||J. Williams||The effect in this picture is excellent: the dark and wild appearance of the sky possesses all the truth of nature. The idea of the lad frightening another with a burning brand is well managed. There is rather too great a volume of smoke for the nature of the fire- being nothing but a few red embers; but this might have been overlooked had the smoke itself been better managed .|
|39||Cattle (after Le Cave)||amateur||[with 40] Very excellent copies, and ably executed|
|40||Cattle (after Le Cave)||amateur||[see 39]|
|41||Rosthwaite, in Borrowdale||A Lady||[with 52] In the leading article of a late number of Blackwood's Magazine, they say- "Gallantry forbids but truth commands to say, that young ladies are sorry sketchers. The dear creatures have no notion of perspective. At flower-painting and embroidery they are pretty fair hands, but they make sad work among water-falls and ruins … [etc. on female representations of animals and people; it's worth mentioning, however, that the article, in the July 1826 issue, titled "Hints for the Holiday. No. I." and its sequels- written by Wordsworth's friend John Wilson, aka "Christopher North"- do include some interesting observations on Lake District landscapes]" Now this is all extremely witty, no doubt, and in many instances we dare say it may be very correct, but in the Lady (a native of Cumberland and proprietor of the scene depicted in No. 41) who painted these two pictures, we see a bright exception; for these works betray all the energy and feeling, all the taste, execution, and judgement both of drawing and colouring, which stamp her at once a mistress of the art. No. 41, in particular, is a picture which it would be impossible to excel: the colouring shows a complete attention to nature, of which it is a most faithful resemblance.|
[It was this description which first attracted my attention to the 1826 exhibition. There is a high probability that the artistic "lady" owning property at Rosthwaite in Borrowdale is Miss Mary Barker, friend to Dorothy Wordsworth, Robert Southey and others; although by 1826 she had moved to France, tax records indicate that she still owned the home she had created in Borrowdale (later converted to become the Scawfell Hotel).]
|42||Landscape||J. Gunson, Esq.||A delightful water-colour drawing: the foliage is executed in a most spirited manner, and the general effect is beautiful.|
|43||Dutch Boats in a Calm||J. Gunson, Esq.||This is equally good: the water and haze in the distance are capitally managed.|
|45||Trout||E. Bradley||With what delight old Isaak Walton would have gazed upon this picture ! he would have seen and appreciated the truth of nature, which is so apparent in every touch. It is infinitely superior to any thing of the kind we have ever seen.|
|46||Landscape, and Horses watering||unknown||A very beautiful picture in the style of Morland. The effect of the light among the trees is very fine.|
|47||An Assassin||J.T. Dutton||[with 89 and 112] A clever little picture.|
|50||Portrait of Sir Christopher Sandford, Bart.||Vandyke||[This was presumably a Sandford of Howgill Castle, Westmorland, but none of the Baronets in the family was named Christopher] This has every appearance of once having been a Vandyke,- but alas for the barbarity which could dictate, and the Goth who could so far deface it as he has done with his abominable vermilion.|
|52||Scene in Wales||A Lady||[see 41]|
|53||Cattle?||Le Cave||[see 31] very inferior to No. 31|
|54||Line of Battle Ship on shore||J. Gunson Esq.||[with 80] This is another proof of the talent which this gentleman possesses for marine subjects.|
|55||Girl at Cottage Door sewing||R. Westall, R.A.||An excellent little specimen of the style of this eminent artist: it is nature throughout.|
|60||Study of a Female Head||Romanelli||This is certainly the finest picture in the Exhibition: the longer we look at it the more we admire its perfections. The colouring is flesh itself.|
|61||Dutch Courtship||Ostade||A very clever picture, but not equal to the generality of the performances we have seen of this celebrated master.|
|64||Sybil||H. Howard R.A.||This is a most fascinating picture; how sweetly contemplation is here depicted,- what delicacy of beauty,- what expression in those eyes,- and what a hand and arm!- we would withdraw from touching them as from committing a profanation!|
|65||Study of a head||Schedoni||This is a splendid piece of art: 'tis beyond our praise.|
|66||Madonna and Child||Carlo Maratti||We should rather feel inclined to question the authenticity of this picture: nevertheless it is very beautiful.|
|67||Landscape, in Turpentine colours||J. Gunson Esq.||[with 75] A most admirable specimen of a very pretty and rather novel style of painting.|
|69||Children mocking Elisha||Van Ort||A most powerful representation of the effects of disrespect to old age.|
|70||Coast Scene near Dover||Morland||Here is nature,- and in her loveliest clothing. 'Tis a sunset, and such a sunset as poets love to gaze upon, and with which contemplation could feast its fantasies to overflowing.|
|71||Landscape and Cattle (after Le Cave)||Brown||A most excellent copy. This artist is particularly happy in pencilling his foliage; that in this picture is most effectively touched.|
|73||The Village Politicians (after Wilkie)||J. M'Clellan||The original of this picture is so universally known and so enthusiastically admired by all who are capable of appreciating its beauties, that it were useless entering into any detail of its merits. The copy does Mr M'Clellan great credit, and induces us to repeat to him our advice contained in a former remark upon his picture of "The Poor Relations". [i.e. No. 32]|
|74||View in Cumberland||Capt. Nesfield||A most admirable little drawing. The effect of the sky is very beautiful.|
|75||water colour drawing||J. Gunson Esq.||[with 67] There is also a delicious little water colour drawing, No. 75, by this Gentleman, which exhibits the complete power he possesses of giving the most beautiful effect with the utmost ease and freedom, and totally exempt from all affectation.|
|77||Fish||E. Bradley||What a triumph of art are those lobsters' claws! were it not that they are boiled we should really hesitate about committing our fingers between them: the prawns too, at the right hand corner, and the flat fish, are actually faultless.|
|79||Dead Jay, &c.||H.P. Parker||The Jay is capital, and the composition of the whole picture excellent. Mr Parker is an artist who is fast approaching to the very highest eminence of his profession.|
|80||A Lugger in chase by a Gun-brig||J. Gunson Esq.||[with 54] a very superior performance.|
|84||Fishing Boat going out||Ibbetson||A very fine picture: the sea and sky are particularly worthy of notice.|
|87||Portrait of Henrietta Maria||unknown||How astonishingly that little ringlet- that love-lock, which the softest zephyr's sigh would wave, is painted! it is altogether a very beautiful picture.|
|89||Smacks working into the Downs||J.T. Dutton||[with 47 and 112] "... do him credit"|
|100||Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy (after Sir Joshua Reynolds)||J. Sutton||An excellent portrait of Garrick, so at least we have been told by those who have seen him- we alas! had never that felicity. 'Tis easy to perceive which way he will be led; Comedy is evidently gaining the ascendancy; and who could resist the witchery of her smile- the humour which is lurking in her every feature?|
|101||Landscape, a Storm||Capt. Wilson||This is a most capital effect of storm- every thing is effected by it, and in the whole is highly creditable to the artist.|
|102||Eaton House, Cheshire, the seat of the Right Hon. Earl Grosvenor||J. Finlinson||A very pretty architectural drawing, exhibiting considerable taste and judgement in the execution.|
|112||Princess Charlotte, Indiaman, going out of Liverpool||J.T. Dutton||[with 47 and 89] "... do him credit: the drawing of the latter is very correct."|
|114||Landscape and Cattle||amateur||The sky and distance in this picture are both admirable: there are perhaps a few imperfections in the drawing of some of the cattle.|
Cumberland Pacquet, 12 Sep 1826
EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS, WHITEHAVEN
We resume our remarks on the Exhibition this week, by noticing a few pictures which have been added to the collection since the catalogue was printed.
|---||Belisarius (after Vandyke)||Reed||We are much inclined to doubt the fact of this picture having been painted by Reed, it is so much superior to any of the numerous works we have seen by him. It is a very fine painting, both in expression and execution: the compassionate look of the soldier on beholding the state to which his general has been reduced, and the beseeching look of the girl begging (changing into delight at sight of the money which the female she is addressing, is about to give her) are very fine. The head, hands, and indeed the whole figure of Belisarius, are also excellent|
|---||The Death of General Wolf (after Benjamin West)||G. Sheffield||The high finish of this picture is wonderful, and must have cost the artist many a day of unremitting labour. The faces (portraits, no doubt) of the various and numerous officers, and the native chief ion the foreground, are beautifully painted.|
|---||Douglas Bay||R. Soloman [aka Robert Salmon]||[with next] Two spirited sketches, exhibiting a fine effect of light and shade.|
|---||Douglas Head||R. Soloman [aka Robert Salmon]||[see last]|
Carlisle Patriot, 16 Sep 1826
THE EXHIBITION [i.e. the Carlisle annual art exhibition]
The Exhibition of Paintings, &c. the work of British Artists, will open at the Academy in Finkle-street, on Monday next. We have already been favoured with a sight of a portion of the pictures; and we feel no hesitation in saying that the present year's exhibition greatly exceeds in talent and variety all that preceded it, distinguished as the second and third undoubtedly were.
The catalogue will contain about 300 pieces. ...
Cumberland Pacquet, 19 Sep 1826
The Exhibition of Paintings in this town will continue open during the present week only; and for the accommodation of such persons as cannot conveniently attend in the day time, the room will be lighted up at night.- See Advertisement.
Carlisle Patriot, 23 Sep 1826
The Whitehaven Exhibition of Paintings closes tomorrow. The collection was small; but, according to the Whitehaven Paper, many of the works possessed considerable merit. The Leeds Exhibition closes at the same time.
Cumberland Pacquet, 26 Sep 1826
The Exhibition of Paintings closed here on Saturday, and we are sorry to say, that its success has by no means been such as to warrant the expectation of its being again attempted in Whitehaven: our proverbial apathy in regard to such matters must still cling to us. We did hope that with such a stimulus, an impulse would have been given to our improvement, which a succession of such Exhibitions would have brought to maturity, but we have been deceived. We are enabled to state that the receipts will by no means meet the expenditure, independent of the time and trouble which has been lost to the projector. Mr. Johnson, for the purpose of giving an opportunity to those who were engaged during the day of seeing the Exhibition, for the last week lighted it up in the evenings, and, strange to say, not a single individual visited the Room! Our Theatre is on the eve of being opened, and with facts like these before us we cannot but sympathise with the manager, at the indifferent prospect he has of success in his career.
Carlisle Journal, 29 Sep 1826
... the Whitehaven Exhibition has, we are sorry to say, in one short season, terminated its career without a prospect of a revival. The receipts have been by no means equal to expenditure.
[I have checked 18th and 19th century catalogues of the paintings at Whitehaven Castle, none of which appear to have been supplied to the exhibition. I have not checked the other Lowther family residences elsewhere, which had much larger and more distinguished art collections.]