WATERCOLOUR PORTRAIT OF CLARE BY WILLIAM HILTON (c.1820)

(CLARE, John) HILTON, William.

Three-quarter length portrait of a seated John Clare, facing left.

Date: c.1820

Image 19 x 16.5cm; the background varnished, with sl. crazing in places. In a handsome contemporary gilt frame, glazed, approx. 31.5 x 28cm, 4.5cm deep. The frame is a little rubbed, with chipping & repair to small section of ornamentation, upper left corner.

Note
Commissioned by Clare's publisher John Taylor in 1820, the original oil painting prompted a contemporary art critic to exclaim "What life in the eyes! What ardent thirst for excellence, and what susceptibility to the outward expression in the quivering lips". This smaller version shows a more romanticised version of the poet than is depicted in the original, having a gentler, slimmer, and less ruddy face. The portrait in oils was engraved by Edward Scriven as the frontispiece to The Village Minstrel. A pencil sketch and an 1860s photograph, together with a number of sketches in the Northampton Museum, record Clare after 1840, but the Hilton portrait is the only image of him as a young man. According to Professor Jonathan Bate, the biographer of Clare, this watercolour is one of three executed by Hilton at about the same time as the original oil - one for Clare's patron Lord Radstock, one for his friend Mrs Emmerson and one for his father, Parker Clare. If it was owned by the last, the portrait hung in Clare’s cottage for many years. Whether the other two watercolours survived is unknown. The picture clearly became ‘lost’ at some point in the nineteenth century: a printed label on the back of the frame states: ‘A Gentleman (James West?), three-quarter length portrait ...’. William Hilton, R.A. (1786-1839) was, like Haydon, a ‘history painter’ on the grand scale as well as a portraitist (following his father, William Hilton, the Elder). His acquaintances included Keats (his portrait of the poet after Severn hangs in Keats’ House), Lamb and Clare.

£15000

Offered by Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers