|This painting appeared in the exhibition Home and Garden Part Two, 1830-1914 at the Geffrye Museum (9 March 2004-18 July 2004), and in the publication Home and Garden: paintings and drawings of English, middle-class, urban domestic spaces, 1675 to 1914, edited by David Dewing (London: Geffrye Museum, 2003). This painting was catalogued by Eleanor John (catalogue number 21, pp.62-63). See the Comments field for extracts from the catalogue entry for this painting.
This painting depicts the mother-in-law with four of the eight children of Henry Clark, a 'button and trimming warehouse' owner based at 60 Aldermanbury in the City of London. The setting for this painting is likely to be drawing room of the Clark home at 186 High Street, Homerton, where the family is recorded as living in the 1851 census. In 1851 Henry Clark’s profession is listed as a ‘Clark to General Merchant’ and the household is made up of Henry, his wife Sarah, 2 daughters and 6 sons. The existence of separate home and business properties suggest the Clark family’s prosperity. The 1861 census lists the Clark family as living at 29 High Street, Homerton.
Clark was an important early patron for William Holman Hunt. According to his grandson, Clark, 'took kindly to the young Holman Hunt and helped him. He had the use of one of the rooms at my grandfather's and grandfather furnished him from time to time with brushes, paints and other materials’. See 'Family History of Clark and Abbott', a typescript account written by a grandson of Henry Clark, quoted in Jeremy Maas, Holman Hunt and the light of the world (London: Scolar, 1984), p.40. The portraits commissioned by Clark are included in Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: a catalogue raisonné (New Haven and London: published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2006).
The sitters in this painting were identified in Bronkhurst's catalogue raisonné (2006). In the 1870s Hunt described the painting as showing Clark's mother, but Henry Clark's grandson identified her as Clark's mother-in-law, 'Mrs Davies of Wormbridge Court, Hereford'. There is some doubt about the precise identity of the children. Very unusually for a painting of this date, it is possible to identify many of the objects and furnishings shown in the room with Clark’s family, offering an insight into the importance and value of their ordinary possessions. In his will, Clark’s son Alfred bequeaths this painting along with 'the articles of furniture depicted therein and which belonged to my father namely (a) the gilt framed Overmantel (b) The coloured framed print (c) The carved fender (d) The horse hair couch with mahogany ends (e) The China Vase.' For a transcript of the will, see Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt (2006).
This painting, and The Appointment by Rebecca Solomon, were featured in the Geffrye Museum Newsletter, Issue, No. 14, January 2004. A copy of the newsletter is on the object's history file.
Recent discussion has suggested that further work may need to be done on the timescale and stylistic differences between this painting and William Holman Hunt's first Pre-Raphaelite paintings. It was also noted that this painting merits comparison with John Everett Millais' portraits of the Wyatt children.
|Home and garden: paintings and drawings of English, middle-class, urban domestic spaces, 1675 to 1914, edited by David Dewing (London: Geffrye Museum, 2003)
Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt: a catalogue raisonné (New Haven and London: published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2006)
Jeremy Maas, Holman Hunt and the light of the world (London: Scolar, 1984)
Oil paintings in public ownership in London: North & East. Coordinator: Elizabeth Heath; Photographers: Doug Atfield and Andy Johnson (London: Public Catalogue Foundation, 2013).