<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

 
Creator:
Robert Burnard, 1800–1876, British
Formerly attributed to John Zephaniah Bell, 1794–1833, British
Formerly attributed to Jacques-Laurent Agasse, 1767–1849, Swiss, active in Britain (from 1800)
Title:

John Gubbins Newton and His Sister, Mary Newton

Date:
ca. 1833
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 92 1/2 x 56 1/2 inches (235 x 143.5 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Signed in ochre paint, upper left corner: "R. Burnard pinxit"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B2001.2.66
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
boy | brother | children | costume | dog (animal) | dress | girl | portrait | siblings | sister | top hat | whip
Access:
Not on view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:41226
Export:
XML

These children—John, at seven years old, and Mary, aged eleven—were the only son and daughter of John Newton and his wife, Charity (née Gubbins), who lived at Millaton House in Devon. With its glassy, smooth finish, cold flesh tones, grave formality, and meticulous, almost obsessive attention to detail, this painting is a remarkably idiosyncratic example of early nineteenth-century British portraiture. Robert Burnard was not identified as the artist until the painting was cleaned in 2001, revealing his signature near the upper left corner. Burnard was a Cornish portrait painter who sailed with his family to Adelaide, South Australia, in 1840. He was given free passage with his wife and six children by a government keen to increase the population. Once there, Burnard seems to have set up a house painting, plumbing, and glazing business with his eldest son, although records suggest that he continued to paint portraits and still lifes that are now lost. This is the only painting by Burnard known to survive.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016



These children were the only son and daughter of John Newton and his wife, Charity (née Gubbins), who lived at Millaton House in Devon. With its glassy, smooth finish, cold flesh tones, grave formality, and meticulous, almost obsessive attention to detail, this painting is difficult to place within early nineteenth-century British portraiture. When Paul Mellon acquired it, the picture was attributed to Jacques-Laurent Agasse, the Swiss animal painter, who came to work in England in 1800. The present attribution was established after the painting was cleaned and a signature was discovered near the upper left corner. It has since emerged that Robert Burnard was a Cornish portrait painter who in 1840 sailed with his family to Adelaide, South Australia. This is the only known portrait painted by Burnard in the West Country prior to his emigration.

Gallery label for An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)



The children were the only son and daughter of John Newton and his wife Charity Gubbins, who lived at Millaton House in Devon. With its strange, almost naive appearance -- the awkward poses, the blocky modeling in the faces and clothing, the meticulous attention to detail in passages such as the hair -- the portrait is difficult to place within early nineteenth-century British portraiture. When Paul Mellon bought it from the dealer Jeremy Maas in 1961, it was attributed to Jacques-Laurent Agasse, the Swiss animal painter who worked in England. The present attribution to Robert Burnard was established in a recent cleaning, when the inscription "R. Burnard pinxit" was discovered near the upper left corner. Burnard was a provincial portraitist who was born in Cornwall in 1800 and presumably worked mainly in southwestern England; in 1840 he emigrated to Adelaide, Australia.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
These children were the only son and daughter of John Newton and his wife, Charity (née Gubbins), who lived at Millaton House at Bridestowe, in Devon. Based on the birth dates of the Newton children (John, in 1826, and Mary, in 1823), the picture cannot have been painted before 1833. Although much is known about the sitters and their wealthy parents, until recently there were no clues in the provenance to help answer the question of attribution. In 1963, Basil Taylor attributed the picture to the expatriate Swiss animal painter Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767–1849), noting that “before settling in England in 1800, Agasse studied under David and the strong clarity of his forms and the closely integrated organization of his design [i.e., of the Newton portrait] derive as much perhaps from that source as from the Swiss tradition to which he obviously belongs.” Only these, or sources equally distant from Cornwall, were sufficient to account for the “mesmeric force” of the painting's realism, its “clarity and precision of detail.” The picture did not seem English enough. “It stands quite apart from the romantic bravura and exaggerated expressiveness of the typical portraiture of its time, dominated as that was by the style and spirit of Sir Thomas Lawrence” (Taylor, 1963, p. 276).

In 1978 Egerton devised an ingenious and, in many ways, better argument, linking this somewhat isolated West Country subject with the Scottish portrait and history painter John Zephaniah Bell (1793–1883). Echoing Taylor’s thoughts about Agasse, Egerton cited in Bell’s favour the “clarity, strong lines and quasi-heroic composition [that] link it rather with the portraiture of David and his pupils, presupposing some continental training in the artist” (Egerton, 1978, pp. 286–87). But, in this case, notwithstanding her own view that the portrait “stands quite apart from the typical British portraiture of its time,” Egerton based her attribution on the Newton painting’s close resemblance to an 1829 father-and-daughter portrait by Bell, “David Ogilvy, 9th Earl of Airlie, and His Daughter, Clementina, Aged Nine” (Earl and Countess of Airlie, Cortachy Castle, Kirriemuir, Angus), further suggesting that the Newton portrait might have been painted in London (Egerton, 1978, pp. 286–87). This would account for Bell’s otherwise conspicuous lack of West Country clientele.

Both hypotheses turned out to be wrong. In preparation for the 2001 exhibition “The Paul Mellon Bequest: Treasures of a Lifetime”, the Newton portrait was cleaned by the paintings conservator Lance Mayer, who discovered the signature of Robert Burnard lurking in the foliage in the upper left corner. This is the only surviving portrait that has been securely ascribed to Burnard from the period prior to his immigration to South Australia, though its sophistication surely suggests that others may yet be identified.

Angus Trumble

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy: a passion for British art: masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 292, no. 106, pl. 106, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)



The children were the only son and daughter of John Newton and his wife Charity Gubbins, who lived at Millaton House in Devon. With its strange, almost naive appearance - the awkward poses, the blocky modeling in the faces and clothing, the meticulous attention to detail in passages such as the hair - the portrait is difficult to place within early nineteenth-century British portraiture. When Paul Mellon bought it from the dealer Jeremy Maas in 1961, it was attributed to Jacques-Laurent Agasse, the Swiss animal painter who worked in England. The present attribution to Robert Burnard was established in a recent cleaning, when the inscription "R. Burnard pinxit" was discovered near the upper left corner. Burnard was a provincial portraitist who was born in Cornwall in 1800 and presumably worked mainly in south-western England; in 1840 he emigrated to Adelaide, Australia.

Malcom Warner

Warner, Malcolm and John Baskett. The Paul Mellon Bequest: treasures of a lifetime. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art, 2001, p. 61

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 292, no. 106, pl. 106, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Judy Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings 1655-1867: A Catalogue, The Paul Mellon Collection , Tate Publishing, London, 1978, pp. 284-89, no. 309, Colour Pl. 37, ND1383 G7 B75 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Michael Glover, Scenes from Afar, The Times (London), Saturday, September 22, 2007, p. 28, Available Online : Times Digital Arcive Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML)

Jeremy Maas, Victorian painters., Barrie & Rockliff, The Cresset P., London, 1969, pp. 72, 75, ND467 M26+ (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, pp. 70-71(v.1), no. 254, pl. 3, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, v.1, p. 149; v.2, plate on p. 13, no. 283, v.2, pl. 13, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's legacy, a passion for British art : April 18-July 29, 2007 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 2007, Verso-title pg., V 1735 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Graham Reynolds, Posing on Four Legs, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue No. 4072, April 17, 1981, p. 445, Film S748 (SML) Also Available OnLine in TLS Historical Archive (ORBIS)

Duncan Robinson, At home to sporting art : the Brick House, Essays of Friends of British Sporting Art, no. 33, The British Sporting Art Trust, Summer 1997, p. 6, N8250 .B751 (YCBA)

Basil Taylor, The Intimate English Portrait, Apollo, v. 77, no. 14, April, 1963, p. 273, 276, pl. II, N1 A54 + (YCBA) Another Copy also available in Vertical File : V 1168

Angus Trumble, Who was Robert Brunard, Apollo, v. 160, no. 511, September 2004, pp. 84-87, N1 A54 160:1 OVERSIZE

Malcolm Warner, The Paul Mellon Bequest : treasures of a lifetime, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 61; cover, N5247 M385 P28 2001 (YCBA)

Giles Waterfield, Mr Mellon, RA : the magazine for the Friends of the Royal Academy, No. 96, Autumn 2007, p. 71, V 1905 (YCBA) Detached from RA, no.96 (2007:Autumn)

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, v.1, p. 1; v.2, plate on p. 3, no. 3, v2: pl. 3, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)


If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.