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oil painting

© Geffrye Museum, London

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Oil on canvas, group portrait of Henry Clark's mother-in-law, Mrs Davies, and four of his children in the drawing room of his home, 186 High Street, Homerton, in a reproduction oil gilded frame. It is by William Holman Hunt and dates from c. 1846.
Object type: oil painting
Object number: 41/2006

More Information:

Detailed Description: +/-

Title/Model: Group portrait of Henry Clark's mother-in-law, Mrs Davies, and four of his children in the drawing room of his home, 186 High Street, Homerton (descriptive title)
Physical Description:
Oil painting in a reproduction oil gilded picture frame.
Materials & technique: oil on canvas in a giltwood frame
Dimensions: Height 101cm (frame)
Width 87cm (frame)
Height 75cm (view)
Width 62cm (view)

History: +/-

Date: c.1846 (painted)
Period: Victorian (1837-1901)
Artist/Maker Names: William Holman Hunt (artist)
Place: Homerton, London, England (painted)
Object History:
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.
References:
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).

Subject/Content: +/-

Content Description:
This painting depicts a female figure in black with a white bonnet and shawl, holding a book and seated in an interior with four children. She is seated on a carved wooden upholstered sofa or daybed with a coloured rug or shawl beside her. To her left there are two young children seated on the floor which is covered with a patterned design. A white cat is seated on the carpet in the foreground. To the right of the composition is a black grate and marble mantel with a gilt frame. Beside the fireplace two children are shown standing by the fireplace, one wearing a red smock and holding a hoop and the other a girl wearing a blue dress with white trimmings, her hair curled in ringlets. The walls are papered with a red design of foliate scrolls, with gilt-framed paintings and a door to the right.
Themes:
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