Completed Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 19th C 10 Can anyone confirm the attribution of William Gush (1813–1888)?

Topic: Subject or sitter

We believe that this is a portrait of David Cargill's second wife, Augusta Bicknell. In 1841 David Cargill had returned from Fiji to London where he had his portrait painted, probably by William Gush, married Augusta Bicknell and then returned to the South Pacific with her. It is possible that this portrait was painted in the same year by William Gush as a companion piece, as both were donated by the same person and appear to be in a similar style.

Can anyone confirm that this work is painted by William Gush (1813–1888)?

N. E. Dennis, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This portrait and its companion are now listed as by William Gush (1813–1888). A date of c.1841 has been added for both paintings.

These amendments will appear on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Tim Williams,

The portrait of David Cargill can be upgraded to an autograph William Gush as it was engraved by R. Smith (probably in 1841):

(although the image has cropped it, the lettering says R.Smith / W. Gush)

This engraving would have been published in a book at the time opposite the frontis - possibly the Memoirs of his Wife (1841).

The picture of Augusta is the same size and I can't see why it isn't the same hand.

Tim Williams,

"But now it is time to return for a moment to John Jackson RA, the celebrated portrait painter (whose self portrait painted around 1823 is still in existence at the National Portrait Gallery in London). As already mentioned, he was commissioned to paint the portraits of many Methodist ministers and engravings taken from these portraits were published as the frontispieces of the monthly Methodist Magazine. In 1831 John Jackson died, it was rumoured as the result of catching a chill whilst attending the funeral of Lord Mulgrave, his patron. A small stock of his paintings remained to be used, but then the Methodist organisation had to find a successor to John Jackson and the timing could not have been better for William Gush. He was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Rev Richard Treffry and the engraving by J Thomson of this painting appeared in the Methodist Magazine in May 1834. The painting obviously reached the required standard and so began William’s connection with the Methodist movement, which was to last for over thirty years. During this time he was the principle contributor of the frontispiece illustration of the magazine and to this end he painted over 270 portraits. Our kindly gentleman mentioned in the first paragraph is the Reverend John Rigg and the engraving of his portrait appeared in the April 1841 edition of the Methodist Magazine."

From the excellently researched biography of Gush here:

I think it's odds on that Gush painted the portrait of Augusta - he definitely painted the companion picture of her husband:

and 75/76 x 63cm is a size he used on many other portraits (so its highly unlikely he painted one of the portraits to match a pre existing portrait, that doesn't rule out that another artist painted Augusta, but when you put all the elements together its seems highly unlikely):

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

I would suggest that this image dates exactly for the early 1840s. See the attached Godey's fashion plate of 1841 – the figure on the right especially – and allow for a year for style diffusion... Thus, the grey silk dress is dateable in particular by the complex style sleeves, which show the last stage of the collapse of the huge balloon sleeves of the mid-1830s. It could well be from 1842.

As R.E. Dennis suggested, the female portrait at the University of Aberdeen paired with that of the Rev. Cargill (given by the same individual, Captain Pitman) is most likely to show his second wife Augusta. Tim Williams makes an excellent case for an attribution of the portrait to William Gush, particularly since that artist painted her husband Rev. Cargill in a similar, somewhat brushy, style. As Tim showed the oil portrait of Cargill is certainly by Gush, and the portrait of his wife is almost exacty the same size and has the same provenance, which suggests the two paintings are a pair.

David Cargill (1809-43) was a noted Wesleyan missionary who went out to Fiji. HIs first wife died in 1840 while they were living on Fiji; back in the UK in November 1841, he married for the second time to Augusta Bicknell, the subject of the portrait under discussion. This is the likely point when two portraits would have been painted, especially since the Cargills sailed for the South Pacific and his new mission in Tonga in 1842. He died there in April 1843. The remarkable peregrinations of Cargill are told in an article in the Aberdeen University Review (1921) where it is stated that the Pitmans were descendants of Cargill. As to date, the portraits of Augusta and David Cargill must date from c.1841 as they were married for less than two years. As Lou has noted, the costume suggests a date of the early 1840s.

I agree that William Gush is the likely artist. He was a prolific portrait painter based in London who exhibited from the early 1830s through to the 1860s and into the 1870s. He is first noted as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1833, the next year he won a medal from the Society of Arts for a miniature portrait. He spent time in Rome in the mid 1840s and later in Canada.

Gush had a wide clientele, including members of the aristocracy. He was in demand for institutional portraits, but is best known, as Tim Williams has helpfully pointed out, as a portraitist to the Methodists and his imagined portrayal of Charles Wesley preaching was very well known. Although Gush does not appear in the ODNB, there is an excellent and quite recent Wikipedia entry ( with details of his life.

Even if there were a supposition that the portrait of a woman showed Cargill's first wife Margaret, this can be put aside because he married her in September 1832 and they sailed for the South Pacific in October the same year--hardly giving time to arrange for portraits to be painted. And rather too early in Gush's career for him to have executed them.

Thanks,Tim, for your excellent work. I recommend we close this discussion with an attribution to William Gush and a date of c. 1841 for both portraits.

Edward Stone,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.

Edward Stone,

The collection comments:

'This was a very helpful discussion that has pretty unambiguously identified both sitter and artist. With many thanks, I will arrange for the museum catalogue record to be amended and support similar for the Art UK database.'