SIR WILLIAM BEECHEY R.A. (Burford 1753-1839 Hampstead)
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN, POSSIBLY ROBERT GRANT ESQ., M.P. (1780-1838)
Oil on canvas, London 1823
Giltwood frame (108 x 87,5 cm)
Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) was one of the leading lights of 18th-century British portraiture. A student of Johan Zoffany, Beechey entered the London Royal Academy School in 1772, and participated at the Academy exhibition since 1776, where he exhibited his colorful, lively portraits, throughout his highly successful career. A favorite of the fashionable elite, Beechey was named portrait painter to Queen Charlotte, and elected Associate Member to the Academy in 1793. His work for the royal family in the following years culminated in the great group portrait King George III Reviewing the Dragoons (London, Royal Collection, destroyed in Windsor Castle fire in 1992). He gained full membership by being elected at the Royal Academy in Juanuary 1798, and was awarded knighthood in May, and was the first Royal Academician to have achieved that honour since Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1769. His Career has fully taken off.
Beechey's portraits of the turn of the century are considered to be his most colourful and lively. They are closer to the flamboyant and free techniques employed by his younger rivals, John Hopner and Sir Thomas Laurence.
Royal patronage resumed in around 1813, when Beechey was appointed portrait painter to Prince Willliam Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, and culminated with his appointment in 1830 as principal portrait painter to King William IV. In 1836, Beechey retired to Hampstead and on 9–11 June that year, the contents of his studio along with his collection were sold at Christie's.
During a prolific career spanning half a century, Beechey painted many of the leading figures of his day.
Robert Grant (1780-1839) is portrayed in a setting with muted tones often used by Beechey for his male portraits. The drapping of a reddish-brown fabric closes the background of the composition, which opens, in the upper right corner, on the base of a column and a small patch of dark sky. Sitting next to a desk covered with a red velvet and a few books, the model strikes the pose having just interrupted his reading. The book he holds in his right hand and an unsealed letter placed on the corner of the desk compose the foreground of the painting. The various books and the letter refer to the public and private activities of Robert Grant, a Member of Parliament, but also the author of sacred poems, to be published after his death by his elder brother Charles Grant, Lord Glenelg (1778-1866). Grant was described, in a written portrait of the leading members of the House of Commons as a man of medium stature and robust constitution, with a full and ruddy face. An excellent speaker his language was always chaste and eloquent and his manners graceful .
The edge of the blue-grey book placed behind his shoulder is inscribed "Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society / Twenty third year / 1822-1823", an annotation which allows us both to date the painting from 1823, the year of publication of this annual report, and to recall the links of the Grant family with the Church Missionary Society, an evangelical Anglican organization founded in 1799 under the name of Society for Missions to Africa and the East, at the initiative of the father’s sitter Charles Grant Esq. (1746-1823), a Scottish statesman and philanthropist, chairman of the East Indian Company. Charles Grant an influential member of the Clapham Sect was associated with Wilberforce and other philanthropists of the period in Anti-Slavery efforts and was a promoter of evangelicalism in the East. Vice-president of the Church Missionary Society, he was one of its seven governors when it was founded and advanced the idea of moral conquest of India through missionary activities, to ensure the evangelization and education of the local populations, in reaction against the brutal policy carried out in these territories by the Powerful East Indian Company. His son Robert Grant wears a black ribbon in his buttonhole as a sign of mourning, probably in memory of his father who died in London in October 1823.
Robert Grant was born in India in 1780 while his father was superintendent of the East Indian Company for the trade in Bengal. He Returned with his family to the United Kingdom in 1790, where the family settled in London. He joined Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1795, from which he graduated with honours in 1801 and was called to the bar in 1807. Elected Member of the Parliament for the Elgin Burghs in 1818, he sat at the House of Commons between 1818 and 1834, where he distinguished himself by advocating for the removal of the disabilities of the Jews, and twice carried bills on the subject, in 1830 and 1832, which were not finally adopted by the two chambers until 1858. At the age forty-nine years old, he married in 1829 Margaret Davidson (1808-1885), Daughter of Sir David Davidson of Cantray (1788-1816), with whom he had four children.
In 1834 he was knighted by William IV (GCH, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Guelphs) and was appointed Governor of Bombay. Following in his father's footsteps, Sir Robert Grant led in India, on his own, an ambitious policy aimed at reforming the English policy. He died in Dapodi on July 9th 1838 and is buried in St. Mary Church in Pune, Maharashtra. His young widow married secondly Lord Josceline Percy in 1848, son of the Duke of Northumberland.
Delevery information :
Please contact us upon this matter. For delivery abroad, we will ask door to door transportation to be quoted by independant shipping companies,