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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 92 1/2 x 56 1/2 inches (235 x 143.5 cm)
Signed in ochre paint, upper left corner: "R. Burnard pinxit"
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Accession Number B2001.2.66
Collection Paintings and Sculpture
Curatorial Comment 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, 2007-01
Link to This Record
Subject Terms animals | boy | brother | children | costume | dog (animal) | dress | girl | horse (animal) | portrait | siblings | sister | sky | top hat | whip

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, , Tate Publishing, London, 1978, pp. 284-89, no. 309, Colour Pl. 37, ND1383 G7 B75 OVERSIZE (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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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

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

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

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)

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)

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)

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

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