Order and Revolution
British and Irish Art 1740-1840 from the Ulster Museum Collection.
The period between 1740 and 1840 is generally considered a ‘golden age’ in British and Irish art.
Some of the finest portraits in the Ulster Museum collection, by Reynolds and Gainsborough, along with landscape painting, sculpture and furniture, illustrate the order and formal elegance of the period. After 1750, a new and restless spirit, now termed Romanticism, started to appear in European art and literature. It became fashionable to admire the wildness and untamed quality of nature. By the early 1800s artists such as Lawrence and Turner had evolved a revolutionary manner of painting based on their individual response to nature.
This highlights tour gives some further insight into the lives of sitters in some of the portraits and also a further look at the landscape tradition.
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) Virgil's Tomb, 1785. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U2368 ©National Museums NI
Arthur, 1ST Marquis of Donegall 1739-99
Arthur Chichester was the 5th Earl and 1ST Marquis of Donegall. He became Baron Fisherwick in 1790 and then a Marquis the following year. He was born and raised in England and educated at Eton and Oxford. He inherited land from his father and uncle in Wexford, Antrim, Donegal and Down, including the town lands of Belfast.
Although he never lived in Ireland he did want to make Belfast a reflection of his wealth and status. He commissioned St Anne’s Parish Church and the linen exchange at White Linen Hall, which was on the site where Belfast City Hall now stands. He donated £60,000 to complete the Lagan Canal and gave land for the Assembly Rooms and the poor house. The land on which the Ulster museum now stands was also owned by him. He was considered by some as the founder of the modern city of Belfast. Donegall Square is named after his family.
This portrait reflects Chichester’s relationship with landscape and Gainsborough’s.
Chichester devoted much of his energy and money to Fisherwick Park, his estate in Staffordshire. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown. He was awarded a medal from the Society of the Arts for planting over 50,000 trees, .
Gainsborough preferred to paint landscapes, but portraits were an easier way to make a living. He often painted landscapes in the background of his portrait studies, as seen here.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) Arthur, 1st Marquess of Donegall 1739-99, c.1780. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U35 ©National Museums NI
Harriet Anne Butler, Countess of Belfast 1799-1860
‘Nobody is more attractive in everyway than Lady Donegall and until her health secluded her from the world, nobody was so courted or admired in it.’
Harriet Anne Butler was the eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Glengall. She spent much of her childhood in France under the care of Empress Josephine.
She married Sir George Hamilton Chichester, the Earl of Belfast. He later became the 3rd Marquess of Donegal. Her great-grandfather was Arthur Chichester, the 1st Marquis of Donegall.
There is a bronze statue of George and Harriet Anne’s son at Belfast City Hall. He was Frederick Richard Chichester, the Earl of Belfast. There is also a marble sculpture showing the young earl on his deathbed, with his mother crying over him . Harriet Anne had this made after he died on the grand tour in Naples at the age of 25.
This painting may have been an engagement or wedding portrait. The rich colour of her dress, relaxed body language and dramatic background create an air of Romanticism.
Her hair style is typical of the time, but unusually she is wearing little jewellery. This may have been at the instruction of the artist, along with the style and colour of the dress. He would have told her what to wear in order to capture his classical vision for the portrait.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) Harriet Anne, Countess of Belfast 1799-1860, c.1822-23. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U83 © National Museums NI
James Stewart of Killymoon 1741-1821
‘A very gentlemanlike young man, and also very amiable. I know no gentleman better liked than he has been in every town he has passed through’.
James Stewart was the eldest son of William Stewart of Killymoon (near Cookstown Co. Tyrone) and Eleanor King, daughter of Sir Henry King, 3rd Baronet, of Rockingham, Co. Roscommon.
Like many privileged young men James Stewart went on ‘The Grand Tour’ of Europe. His father made him return home to stand for parliament . He was elected MP for County Tyrone, a seat he held from 1768 until 1812.
James Stewart sat for this painting whilst in Italy on ‘The Grand Tour’. He was painted in Rome by Pompeo Batoni, one of the most celebrated portraitists of his day.
Batoni’s success was down to his remarkable ability to capture thw likeness of the sitter. He often painted them against a classical backdrop created using studio props. The prop seen in Stewart’s portrait is thought to be one of the most important and was used by Batoni in many of his portraits. It is a copy of the Roman bust of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, the original of which is still in the Vatican today.
It is interesting that Stewart has been painted with such an important prop. Maybe it was to make the young Captain look more grown-up or grand? He was only in his early twenties in the portrait.
Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) James Stewart of Killymoon, Co. Tyrone 1741-1821 (1767). Oil on canvas. BELUM.U5047 © National Museums NI
Theodosia Magill 1743 - 1817, afterwards Countess of Clanwilliam
Theodosia Magill was the only daughter and heiress of John Hawkins Magill of Gill Hall, Dromore and his wife Lady Anne Bligh. Anne was the grand-daughter of the Earl of Clarendon and was closely connected to the English Court.
Theodosia grew up at Castleward estate on Strangford Lough. Following her mother’s second marriage to Lord Bangor, of Bangor and Castleward. Bangor and his new wife disagreed when building the new property, which still stands today. Lord Bangor wanted the classic style, which southwest side of the house is built in. Lady Anne preferred the gothic style, which was chosen for the northeast side of the building.
Theodosia became very wealthy at the age of two, inheriting her father’s small fortune. It included the manors of Rathriland, Gill Hall and the Burenwood estate.
In 1765, at the age of twenty-one, Theodosia married Sir John Meade. His family owned large estates in Cork and Tipperary. Due to his gambling and extravagant lifestyle he lost these estates by the time of his death in 1800. This resulted in only Theodosia’s side of the fortune being inherited by their ten children.
Both of these portraits were painted around the time of Theodosia’s marriage to Sir John Meade. The Gainsborough portrait depicts her in the style dress of the time, whilst the Reynolds is in a more classical style. It is thought that Theodosia’s nose was straightened in the painting a few years after it was first painted to give a more classical look.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) Miss Theodosia Magill 1743 - 1817, afterwards Countess of Clanwilliam, 1765. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U5067 © National Museums NI
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) Miss Theodosia Magill 1743 - 1817, afterwards Countess of Clanwilliam, 1765. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U692 © National Museums NI
Imaginary View of Roman Ruins with Figures Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765) and studio , Oil on canvas
This system of placing many scenes and objects in one image is a Capriccio. The different sections are from the artist’s experiences and imagination.
When this was painted little was known about classical and Roman antiquities. Information came from literature and the beginning of the excavations by archaeologists.
Virgil’s Tomb: Sun Breaking Through the Cloud 1785 Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797, oil on canvas
Joseph Wright travelled around Italy sketching landscapes. Mainly in the countryside outside Rome and near Naples. Virgil’s Tomb, the subject for this painting, was an important site for those on ‘The Grand Tour’.
Education at that time included a lot of classical literature and the poetry of Virgil. This is another example of how literature was an influence on painting and history. As it was before gathering of evidence from archaeological excavations.
Landscape with Bandits, c.1755-58 Richard Wilson (1713/14-82), Oil on canvas
Like Joseph Wright of Derby Wilson travelled around Italy. He compiled his sketches on his return to England through paintings. This painting shows another classical view of Italy.
Wilson started as a portrait painter. He was inspired by the geology and light of Italy, leading him to landscape painting. This later influenced his style when painting the landscapes of England and Wales.
This dramatic painting shows two travellers being robbed. This was a risk for travellers on ‘The Grand Tour’.
Wilson was influenced by Joshua Reynolds’ method of painting. This method came from the style now called ‘The Grand Manner’.
Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765) (and studio) Roman Ruins and Figures. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U117 © National Museums NI
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782) Landscape with Banditti, c1755-58. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U6 © National Museums NI
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) Virgil's Tomb, 1785. Oil on canvas. BELUM.U2368 © National Museums NI