Saturday, November 23, 2019

Gainsborough, Zoffany and Kew

This week I went to Kew twice - and did something I've been meaning to do for absolutely ages - tried to locate the plaque relating to a Botanick Painter to his Majesty" in the church near the entrance to Kew Gardens.

I am a perennial tracker down of places where artists have lived, painted and been buried. In this instance I visited St Anne's Church on Kew Green (latter links is the location on Google Maps)

St Anne's Church Kew Green 
- the path in the foreground leads down to the Herbarium in Kew Gardens where Bauer would have worked

My reason for visiting was that Francis (Franz) Bauer (1758 - 1840), who was the ''Botanick Painter to His Majesty' has a plaque inside the church.

What I didn't realise is that the church is also where two other important artists are buried - namely

Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy and also one of more important British artists of the second half of the 18th century - probably second only to Sir Joshua Reynolds who was the first President of the RA. He was particularly skilled in both portraiture and landscape painting and not surprisingly made a point of integrating the two which I guess was well suited to those who had the funds for commissioning a portrait

Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough
You can see the above painting at the National Gallery in London - along with a number of other portraits he painted
This portrait of Mr Robert (1725–1806) and Mrs Frances Andrews (about 1732–1780) is the masterpiece of Gainsborough’s early career. It has been described as a ‘triple portrait’ – of Robert Andrews, his wife and his land.
Behind Mr and Mrs Andrews is a wide view looking south over the valley of the River Stour. Robert Andrews owned nearly 3000 acres and much of the land we see here belonged to him. Gainsborough has displayed his skills as a painter of convincingly changing weather and naturalistic scenery, which was still a novelty at this time.
Below is the plague inside St Anne's Church at Kew Green and his grave in the southern part of the churchyard. Gainsborough particularly wanted to be buried near his friend Joshua Kirby.

Plaque recording the life and death of Thomas Gainsborough "the eminent painter"
It appears his grave and reputation were rescued by EM Ward, who was a member of the Royal Academy and an English Victorian narrative painter who regarded Millais's style of painting as "un-british"(!) and whose son became the caricaturist 'Spy'! Such are the things you find out when you start "digging around" in graveyards!
Thomas Gainsborough's tomb on the south side of the church 

This is the map of the graves in the graveyard which shows where those who are like me can find Gainsborough and Zoffany

Location of the graves of Gainsborough and Zoffany - I couldn't find Bauer on the map.

Johan Zoffany

Johan Zoffany's tomb stands proud and next to the road. His name is very clear on the side - but doesn't reproduce so well in the photo below.

Zoffany's tomb on the east side of the church
(looking north along the A205 towards Kew Bridge over the Thames)

Zoffany initiated a very complicate type of painting known as "the conversation piece" - a portrait of an informal group of people. This is one of his better known paintings - "The Tribuna of the Uffizi"- which is in the Royal Collection - read more about it here
In the summer of 1772 Zoffany set off for Florence with £300, letters of introduction and a commission from the Queen to paint highlights of the Grand Duke of Tuscany's collection shown within the Tribuna of the Uffizi Palace.
Johan Zoffany - The Tribuna of the Uffizi
Oil on canvas | 123.5 x 155.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)
(Royal Collection)

Francis / Franz Bauer

I didn't find Franz Bauer's grave but I did locate his plaque inside the church. It was one of biggest and in one of the more prominent locations. I guess being "Botanick Painter to his Majesty" at Kew Gardens has some perks!

Note the palette and brushes at the bottom - which is interesting to me as most of his artwork was done in watercolour and he probably spent most of his career mixing his colours in oyster shells!

Plaque commemorating the life of Francis Bauer

Now all I need to do is transcribe what is says for my web page about this artist!

Erica fascicularis by Mackenzie after Franz Bauer
(595 x 482mm., numbered '6')handcoloured, engraved and etched print
The above artwork is a fine art contemporaneous print of Bauer's painting of an Erica and is currently on show in the Modern Masterpieces of Botanical Art exhibition at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens. It was probably once part of Delineations of Exotick Plants cultivated in the Royal Garden at Kew.

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