Completed Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 19th C 46 Is anything known about the artist 'T. Dinsdale'? Is the sitter William Baldock (1749–1812)?

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Topic: Artist

I am trying to place the painting in chronological context, since there is no date given and there are a couple of candidates for the sitter in my family history research. I suspect it to be William Baldock (1749–1812), the businessman and prominent member of ‘The Seasalter Company’ smuggling fraternity.

Does anyone know anything about 'T. Dinsdale', the artist?

The collection comments: 'We do not have much information about the picture, but we do know a little bit more about William Baldock. He helped pay for a new infantry barracks at Canterbury in 1798–1799. They adjoined the cavalry barracks in Northgate and were jointly funded by Thomas de Lasaux.'

Steve Baldock, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This portrait of William Baldock has been identified as a work by James Lonsdale (1777–1839). A misinterpreted signature brought about the former attribution to ‘T. Dinsdale’. The painting can be dated to c.1810, just prior to Baldock’s death in 1812.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.

45 comments

Manto Psarelli,

A quick internet search brought up both artist T.Dinsdale and sitter Baldock in Christopher Wright's British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections: An Index of British and Irish Oil Paintings by Artists Born Before 1870 in Public and Institutional Collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland (2006 edition).

Osmund Bullock,

Manto, those references in 'British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections' are to this portrait, and the very basic information given there is no more than we have already.

Martin Hopkinson,

A landscape painter T Dimsdale exhibited a Hertfordshire landscape at the Royal Academy in 1813 as no 'Cottage at Northaw' from Weat Place. City Road
Northaw is near Welwyn and Hatfield
He may be the Thomas Dimsdale who published prints from City Road, facing Peerless Pool

There was a well known collector of high quality Old Master drawings of the name of Thomas Dimsdale [1758-1823], the son of a famous doctor Thomas Dimsdale [1712-1800] The Priory, Hertfprd MP for Hertford 1780-90 . He was a pioneer of small pox vaccination and a partner in the bank Dimsdale, Archer and Byde.
Lugt should have information on the son

Baldock - if a voter he should appear in the Canterbury Poll Books - and he must appear in the local newspapers where also the artist if an itinerant painter may have advertised
However, the quality of this work suggests that he was mainly a metropolitan figure
A search in London street directories might be fruitful

Martin Hopkinson,

The style suggests that this may date from c. 1805-12

Martin Hopkinson,

The Royal Bank of Scotland has some of the records of Dimsdale's bank from 1774 onwards

Martin Hopkinson,

West Place, I think , lay just north of the present Old Street roundabout

Whaley Turco,

If T Dimsdale actually ever existed as a Portrait painter I can't find him. I have to say that is a very competent portrait. The proportions are correct, the face is good, the hands are good, the background fits well. Whomever did that painting could draw and paint. I Guess the artist could have dropped dead after one portrait. But, Highly unlikely. I think we are looking for a middle ranked Portrait painter from around 1800 or so.

Rbt Brown,

Looks like a highly skilled painter of portraits of the era.

Martin, we've been given the name "Dinsdale", rather than "Dimsdale". I asked for a detail of the signature so we can be sure. A "George Dinsdale" exhibited at the RA between 1808 and 1826, but he was purely a landscape painter. Your "Thomas Dimsdale" would fit better namewise if the spelling is Dimsdale, but he also seems to be a landscape painter. So a competent portrait painter awaits.

Here is chapter and verse on William Baldock of the Seasalter Company (and much else) courtesy of this publication by Peter Osborne. The remarkable Baldock certainly had enough money to hire a very good painter for his portriat.

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

Baldock's will should be consulted for names of other people and of banks
Canterbury should know when the painting arrived in its collection
Is there a connection between the Canterbury Union Bank and the Dimsdale Bank?
The composition is better than the execution in this portrait, which might suggest that this is by a highly talented amateur.
The address of the T Dimsdale recorded at the RA is not in an area well known for artists c. 1800, but not far from the City and banks.
Street directories need to be consulted
Clearly a detail of the signature is most desirable
The rolled up paper and the letter may well relate to the house. Can what seems to be written on the flap of the letter be deciphered?
The dress is fashionable and a costume specialist should be able to help us over the date.

Martin Hopkinson,

G Dinsdale of Upper Tichfield Street exhibited at the Liverpool Academy between 1810 and 1812, mainly landscapes including one of Kent in 1812, when he showed 20 works. This information from Timothy Stevens. Upper Tichfield Street was George Dinsdale's RA address
Baldock probably travelled up to London from the Swale from time to time in connection with his shipping business
G Dinsdale could well have been exhibiting watercolours and oils. So one should look for him in the watercolour societies as well
He could also be a miniaturist

Martin Hopkinson,

Walter Fawkes, one of Turner's patrons, was probably one of Dinsdale's patrons too.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Victoria and Albert Museum owns a lithograph by George Dinsdale of Cheltenham from Southam
In 1819 his address was North Street, Cheltenham

Martin Hopkinson,

George Dinsdale must have been quite a well known landscape painter as he exhibited landscapes in oil at the British Institution from 1808 to 1829, none of them of anywhere near Kent
The Liverpool 1814 exhibit was no 216 View in Kent near North Cray [quite some distance from Canterbury!]
No portraits seem to have been exhibited by Dinsdale
No record of him as a miniaturist or watercolourist either

Can we be sure that a totally different artist's signature has not been misread?

Martin, I mentioned George Dinsdale earlier as a landscape painter. Yes, I agree that we need to see the basis for the reading of the signature on this painting and I am sure when that comes forth, we will be on surer ground.

Martin Hopkinson,

The sale of the collection of the banker, our man's nephew, William Henry Baldock should be looked at.JP, Mayor and High Sheriff of Kent, He went bankrupt in 1841, following the failure of the Canterbury Union bank
He seems to have owned old master paintings
Portraits of the Dover banking families , Minet and Fector , should be looked at

Martin Hopkinson,

Is the portrait in the Dover collections by John Lewis Minet by the same artist?
Zoffany painted Peter Fector in 1810 [also at Dover]

Martin Hopkinson,

Could the Wilson's early 19th century oil Cheltenham from Leckington be by George Dinsdale? Compare his lithograph of Cheltenham in the Victoria and Albert Museum

Martin Hopkinson,

The portrait of John Lewis Minet [1766-1829] may be of John Minet Fector junior [1812-68] according to the online Lorraine Sencicle, The Doverian , Dynasty of Dover part vij, Fector-Jarvis posted 5 September 2015 - extracts from ? an unpublished book The town of Dover, England, author of Banking on Dover, Dover, 1993
If this is correct it will be a generation later than our portrait

Martin Hopkinson,

Could he be John Minet Fector senior [1754-1821], who would be of the right generation?

Jacinto Regalado,

Can we get a high-res close-up of the letter he is holding?

I would like to thank Craig Bowen, Collections Manager, Canterbury Museums and Galleries for the following message:

'Unfortunately the painting is one of those that has come into the city collection and not direct to the museum. We do look after it now, but it is housed in another building and there is very little information, or provenance that I can find. The best that I can do is a record from our insurers, probably from the 1970s:

"School of Henry William Pickersgill (1782-1875). Oil Painting - three quarters length portrait of Willian Baldoc of Petham, near Canterbury, Kent. Seated in an armchair with paper and inkwell to his side and holding a letter in his right hand. Canvas 50ins x 40ins. In contemporary gilt frame (later overpainted)."

I cannot find any more information than this at present so I am not sure where the Dinsdale attribution comes from. I will go down to Tower House, where it is displayed, next week and take some photos and close ups and send them on to you.'

Martin Hopkinson,

If Dinsdale is written on the letter, it could simply be the name of Baldock's correspondent over the roll of paper on the table, rather than the artist's signature

Martin Hopkinson,

The 'finial' - not the right term - at the end if the right arm of the chair is very distinctive - could it be a piece of furniture which survives?

Martin Hopkinson,

When the portrait is inspected , could the back be looked at as well for inscriptions, labels and stamps [of frame makers] ?
Are there any 19th century guidebooks to the contents of Canterbury's Guildhall?

Martin Hopkinson,

The attribution to Pickersgill=
Henry William Pickersgill did paint in Kent near the start of his career - paintings of Sheppey subjects at the RA in 1009 and 1810
Sheppey was a centre for smuggling

Pickersgill also exhibited a painting of Sheerness seen from the Isle of Grain at the British Institution in 1811, and 2 paintings of Rochester Castle ,and of the Medway in 1809

Are we sure that Dinsdale or Dimsdale was not the sitter rather than the artist? Baldock could well have had commerclal dealings with the Dimsdale Bank.

Martin Hopkinson,

Are the sitter's trousers datable by a costume historian?

Martin Hopkinson,

Samuel John Stump exhibited miniatures of the Dimsdale family at the Royal Academy later than this.

Martin Hopkinson,

Baldock sales including paintings held by Foster in London 21 July 1842 and 15-17 May 1845

Thank you to Craig Bowen for inspecting the painting and for the attachments enclosed with these comments:

'I have now had a chance to have a closer look at the painting and attach a couple of pictures of it that may be of use. The letter in the sitter's hand has the name "William Baldock" on it [and below it "Petham/ Kent"], but I couldn't see a signature on the painting anywhere. There did not seem to be anything on the back either.

I have also tracked down a file on the Corporation of Canterbury pictures (of which this is one). I attach some documents that list the Baldock painting and an excerpt from a booklet describing them all written in 1912. The latter is the earliest info I can find and still lists Dinsdale as the artist without explaining where that attribution comes from.

I don't think that puts us any nearer solving the question, but I will keep looking to see if I can find any more records.'

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, James Lonsdale seems quite plausible, but if his name was misread, it was either a signature on the picture (which may still be there) or a document connected to it (which may or may not survive).

Jacinto Regalado,

The identity of the sitter, however, appears to be settled by the name on the letter he is holding, presumably addressed to him.

Martin Hopkinson,

Scott Thomas Buckle 's suggestion seems likely to be correct

Andrew Shore,

William Baldock died in 1812 and eventually his estate seems to have passed to his nephew, William Henry Baldock. W. H. Baldock's will is available to read on the Ancestry website (probate date 1854), and there's a section that says:

'...the portrait of my late uncle by Lonsdale...' [original attached]

This seems to confirm that this portrait is by James Lonsdale.

1 attachment
E Jones,

I think that the painting was kept in the Delmar family until 1891. The Rev William Baldock Delmar of Rectory House, Elmstone donated the portrait to the Council to be hung in the Guild Hall. The Rev William Baldock Delmar was the son of William Delmar Esq and born in Petham. There is more information with regards to that branch of the family on the attachment posted by Barbara Bryant on 14/1/2020.

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - Sat Oct 17, 1891:
Gift to Canterbury

The Canterbury Journal and Farmer’s Gazette – Sat Nov. 7th
Gift of a Picture

2 attachments
Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Andrew and E Jones for digging those out - they provide the undoubted links and proofs needed to confirm Scott's brilliant bit of lateral thinking. Last night I'd thought he was very probably right, but feared we'd be unlikely to find the supporting evidence...!

Martin Hopkinson,

This splendid discovery and all the other information relevant to this portrait uncovered makes the portrait an attractive subject for a small exhibition devoted to it , perhaps borrowing the Minet portrait in Dover on East Kent smuggler bankers and their artistic interests . Perhaps the Beaney will consider this working in conjunction with the University of Kent's art history department? The Baldocks owned other paintings including a De Loutherbourg and works attributed to old masters
Copies of the Baldock sale catalogues of the 1840s which were owned by Ellis Waterhouse - the Mellon Centre might have photocopies

'Smuggler bankers' sounds a fascinating topic: its not a phrase I've heard before -though readily believable. While not my topic, the books on smuggling I've seen over the years have tended to be local, anecdotal ' four-and-twenty ponies' stuff, but it would be useful to hear of one giving reference sources on the matter. William Baldock looks like he could do with a bit of conservation attention (blooming varnish?) before he hangs, at least in any exhibiton...

This discussion has come to a brilliant conclusion, thanks to Scott Buckle's Morellian leap (if indeed it was the knee that did it). Andrew Shore most helpfully attached the follow up confirmation from the will of William Baldock's nephew and heir, W.H. Baldock. E. Jones has added some essential information about how the painting arrived in a public collection in Canterbury which shows that the mistaken attribution to "Dinsdale" goes back some way. The portrait is absolutely right for the prolific, Lancashire-born James Lonsdale (1777-1839) whose work is known through a wide range of royal, aristocratic and commemorative portraits before, during and after the Regency. His characteristic style is often somewhat dry and precise in execution with much incidental detail. He exhibited well over 100 works at the Royal Academy and elsewhere between 1802 and 1838 (but was never elected an RA or even an ARA). The portrait under discussion dates from before Baldock's death in 1812, so c.1810. And with that we can conclude. Rarely are our discussions tied up so neatly.