The artist was a painter of genre subjects and landscapes who exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1826–1846. His domestic interiors are characterised by a meticulous technique inspired by Dutch genre painting. This painting is particularly interesting in that it accurately depicts the drawing room of the house shortly after it was completed in 1836. More importantly, in relation to the collections of Lancashire County Museum Service, it is a unique record of a room splendidly furnished by the well-known cabinet-making firm Gillows of Lancaster, in which individual pieces can be identified in the surviving Gillows' Estimate Sketch Books as having been made for Thomas Greene of Whittington Hall. These include the window cornice (or pelmet), the armchair in the left foreground and the settee between the windows.
The figures in the painting are known to be Thomas Greene's wife Henrietta (facing away from the spectator), her daughter Henrietta immediately to her right, an aunt Miss Russell near the window, and on the far right another daughter, Rose. They are shown in recreational activity, and have a literary significance which transcends the socio-historical interest of their presence in the painting. A close friend of the Greene family was the Reverend William Carus Wilson, Rector of Whittington and founder of the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge. Charlotte Bronte attended the school up to 1832 and, it is said, modelled the character of Brocklebank in her novel ‘Jane Eyre’ on Carus Wilson and his teachings. Mrs Greene, through her friendship with Carus Wilson, played an active role in secular and religious schooling in the district. In the early 1840s she herself founded a separate girls' school at Whittington. Not content with assisting in the school, ‘she brought the girls into her Whittington Hall drawing room to teach them sewing and singing.’ Although Charlotte had long since left Whittington, here in this painting we are given a momentary glimpse of a source of inspiration of one of the great novels in the English language.
Where to see this painting?
Judges' Lodgings, Lancaster
Church Street, Lancaster, Lancashire, England, LA1 1YS
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.
More on this painting
purchased from Gurr-Johns Ltd, Fine Art Dealers, with the assistance of the Art Fund and the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, 1997
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