Mary Beale discoveries at Tate Britain (ctd.)

June 12 2013

Image of Mary Beale discoveries at Tate Britain (ctd.)

Picture: Telegraph

I mentioned earlier the exciting discovery of two oil sketches by Mary Beale, which have gone on display at Tate Britain. The sleuth who found them (in a Paris antiques shop) is art historian and connoisseur extraordinaire James Mulraine, and he has sent AHN some further insights on the pictures:

Bendor has very kindly invited me, as the guy who discovered them, to say something about Mary Beale’s two sketches of the painter’s son Bartholomew c.1660, unveiled in Tate Britain’s BP Walk Through British Art. I am honoured, tho Tabitha Barber’s brilliant online catalogue entry could not be bettered.

They hang with Tate Britain’s other Beale, Young woman in profile, perhaps the studio assistant Keaty Trioche c.1681. These pieces that Beale painted for herself and her family have in Bendor’s words a ‘casual familiarity not often seen in seventeenth century English portraiture.’ Tate Britain visitors described them to me as ‘everyday,’ ‘real’ and ‘modern’. 

How influential were they though? They were largely unknown outside the Beales’ circle and dispersed after their deaths. In the next gallery William Hogarth’s Heads of Six of the Artist’s Servants c.1750 – 55 has the same unpretentious humanity. Hogarth would have seen a set of Beale’s private work. His friend and patron Bishop Benjamin Hoadly married Mary Beale’s star pupil, Hogarth’s friend, the portraitist Sarah Curtis. Sarah brought nine Beales with her including a self-portrait, a portrait of Charles Beale Sr and ‘Two Children in a Landscape’, perhaps Bartholomew and Charles Jr.

Did Beale make an impression on Hogarth? If more of his work c.1740 was like the Stuart-retro Portrait of the Actor James Quin 1739 (Tate Britain) you’d say yes, quite probably. It’s not that simple. But there is an affinity of mood. The ‘sobriety, energy, directness and sincerity’ that Mark Hallet sees in Hogarth’s mature portraits describes Mary Beale’s as well. Perhaps his visits to the Hoadlys nourished him when he was trying to create a distinctly ‘English’ portraiture. Their godly good cheer must have had a flavour of Charles and Mary Beale’s household, and Sarah Hoadly would have preserved Beale’s memory as well as her painting.

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