North West England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C 21 Who painted this portrait of Canon James Slade (1783–1860)?

Canon Slade, Vicar of Bolton (1817–1856)
Topic: Artist

Another portrait of the sitter was painted by George Patten (1801–1865). The following is an excerpt from the Manchester Courier, Saturday 3rd October 1840, p.5:

‘BOLTON. Dinner to George Patten, Esq. On Wednesday George Patten, Esq., A. R. A., met the committee and a party of the subscribers to the Vicar of Bolton's portrait at dinner, at the Swan Hotel. The magnificent painting of the Rev. J. Slade occupied a prominent place the room, and, along with proof of the exquisite engraving from it by Thomas Lupton, Esq., elicited the warmest approbation of the subscribers and their friends.’

A DNB entry for James Slade says the painting had hung in the Church of England Educational Institution at Bolton. A description of the Slade painting by Patten features in the Monthly Magazine v.1, 1839, p.625 ‘painted in his surplice at the altar of the parish church of Bolton le Moor’, so it would seem that this is not the Patten version but a later version. The attached image seems to match the description of Patten's earlier portrait.

A later portrait is referred to in the Cheshire Observer Saturday 9th February 1856, p.8: ‘the parishioners have shown their high appreciation of his [Rev Canon Slade's] eminent services [...] by presenting him with his full-length Portrait; and it is rather singular that within the last few days, we have met with the copy of a printed letter which he addressed to the secretary of the committee appointed upon that occasion, to superintend the execution of the work, and which vividly pourtrays his own character’.

Ray Lampert, Entry reviewed by Art UK

1 attachment

21 comments

Martin Hopkinson,

Lupton's mezzotint after Patten's full length portrait can be found on the British Museum database 1931,1211.72. The portrait under discussion here is quite evidently by a different artist.

Osmund Bullock,

The direct link to the Lupton/Patten print at the BM is here: http://bit.ly/2zQ5hAU

I wonder if what we have is the 1854 oil portrait of Slade "by Mr T. Whalley of Preston" which was "procured" (?commissioned) by J Menzies of Bolton, and exhibited at his Picture Gallery from December that year. He published a low-cost steel engraving after it by "John Lacont of Edinburgh" at the same time, enabling him to sell the prints much more cheaply (between 5 shillings &10s; 6d) than the Lupton/Collen mezzotint - in Dec 1856 (after Slade's retirement) the latter was being offered by John C Grundy of Manchester at prices between one and four guineas, in competition with both Menzies and another dealer (presumably also offering the Le Conte/Walley one). See attachments 1 & 2. The errors in Menzies' first advertisement had been corrected in further ones in January 1855 - the original artist is now given as "Mr Walley" [Thomas Walley, 1817-1878], and the engraver is "J. Le Conte" [John Le Conte, 1816-1877]. Attachment 3. The (original) portrait was exhibited in Bolton until mid-Feb 1855, and then moved on to Chester in early March (attachments 4 & 5). Menzies was still offering "a few copies still remaining" of the print in June 1860, shortly after Slade's death - the price had been reduced to between 3s and 5s (attachment 6).

But could this in fact be the testimonial portrait apparently presented to Slade by parishioners in Feb 1856? They could have easily have bought it off Menzies later in 1855. But the Le Conte print measured 15 in x 12 in - proportions of 1.25:1 seems unlikely to be right for a full-length (the Lupton/Collen is 1.6:1)...and if it was, then the "most truthful likeness" of his face must have been pretty small. Here's another print by Le Conte of about the same size: http://bit.ly/2irp1DL . It's true that his print of Slade is described as an oval, but I don't think this is a serious objection - oval prints based on rectangular portraits are not uncommon. But I am still unsure, and as well as looking at other portrait work by Walley, we really need to find a copy of the print.

Osmund Bullock,

On reading the full letter to the Cheshire Observer published on 9th February 1856 and part-quoted above, I believe Mr Lampert may have misinterpreted what is written there - see attachment.

My reading of it is that the writer is almost certainly referring to the 1839 Patten full-length portrait presented to the sitter in 1840, not to a new portrait, also full-length - hence the correspondent finding it "rather singular" (i.e. quite a coincidence) that while writing in 1856 about the desirability of testimonials to men like Slade, he had just come across a printed letter written by the same man "upon that occasion" when his portrait was being discussed (over 15 years earlier) that rather dismissed the value of earthly testimonials.

If I'm right, this gives support to the theory that our portrait is the one by Walley.

Martin Hopkinson,

Bolton Museum and Art Gallery's 1856 portrait of Dr George Wolstenholme J P by Thomas Walley gives some to Osmund's suggestions. Was the engraving also used as a frontispiece to a book written by Slade? An oval might have been thought better for a publication.

Martin Hopkinson,

Slade founded the Church Institute School in 1855 . Since 1944 it has been the Canon Slade Grammar School in Bradshaw see Gayle McBain , ' A School with a long history' , The Bolton News 4 December 2014

Osmund Bullock,

A reduced (?cut down) version of the Lupton/Patten print is in the NPG: http://bit.ly/2kpLxBi

There are two Walley paintings held by Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, one a comparable male portrait: http://bit.ly/2jkdrey
Actually, according to Wright & Gordon's 2006 'British & Irish Paintings in Public Collections' Bolton should have a third, an 1865 portrait of Richard Harwood, Mayor Of Bolton in 1863/64. Its inventory number in 1999 was 1888.12 (and in a 1903 catalogue it was number 62) - why isn't that on Art UK, I wonder?

Four other portraits - two of children, and two of women (very possibly family) - went through Bonhams Oxford in 2015: http://bit.ly/2km4FA6 & http://bit.ly/2jlSYq2

There is an extensive biography of Canon Slade here...but sadly no portrait: http://bit.ly/2zQVdro . There is also a fuller memoir of him written in 1892 by his successor as Vicar of Bolton, J A Atkinson, that would be worth checking for an illustration, but I can't find it online. There must surely be copies of the Le Conte/Walley print in public collections - perhaps it has no inscription, and they languish unidentified? A long job for someone there, perhaps, going through the BM collection looking for anonymous oval portraits of C19th clergymen...

Martin Hopkinson,

In the school joined up with St James C of E High School in Farnworth to become an academy Bolton News 3 May 2016. It is possible that the Patten portrait is now in one of the Academy's buildings. It is now the Bishop Fraser Trust. Its librarian might be able to provide more information

Osmund Bullock,

Excellent thought, Martin...and I've been busy on the phone. The Canon Slade school still exists (and will remain) as a separate entity, but is now an academy and "part of a (very small) multi-academy trust" (Bishop Fraser). The school librarian put me on to the Clerk to the Trustees, Simon Rees, and he has been exceptionally friendly and helpful (I've just spoken to him) - yes, they've got the full-length Patten portrait...and also another smaller one. I've got to dash out now, but will write further when I get back.

[Sorry, some of my info overlapped with Martin's when we were posting at the same time - and note that in my first long post above I wrote about the 'Lupton/Collen' print a couple of times by mistake instead of 'Lupton/Patten'.]

Martin Hopkinson,

I think that a picture of the Richard Harwood portrait by Walley can be found unidentified on pinterest

Osmund Bullock,

I can't find that, Martin - have you a link?

Mr Rees is going to take some snaps of their two (oil) portraits of Canon Slade (one, I think, being the Patten full-length), and see if he can find any info about the other on the picture itself or elsewhere. He's also sending me a biographical pamphlet they have about Slade which includes a portrait of some sort. He thinks there may also be a picture (?print) in the parish church.

However...further discoveries in the BNA lead me to suspect that our portrait of Slade is not the Walley portrait after all! Further articles [attached] in the (weekly) Bolton Chronicle from Dec 1855 talk about yet another, then very recent oil portrait of the Canon by Joshua Horner [1812-1884] of Halifax – this was also exhibited by Menzies in Bolton. It was said to be “life-sized”, but presumably not full-length (such a huge size would surely have been mentioned?). Measuring the proportions of our portrait’s image, I calculate that the sitter’s head is about 23.5 cm high – and that is indeed pretty much life-size.

Osmund Bullock,

Most significantly, though, in the last of those pieces (15 Dec) the Walley portrait is also mentioned, and described as representing the vicar "as he appears in the pulpit" – in our portrait the sitter is unquestionably in “mufti”, *not* in the full clerical robes he’d have worn when taking a service. So I think Horner is now the front-runner for our portrait’s artist.

There, however, we have a slight problem. Though there is a certain amount online about Joshua Horner, I can find no images of his work other than the small group on Art UK attributed to him that is held by Calderdale B. Council ( http://bit.ly/2jlmigm ). It is clear, though, that these cannot all be by the same man – the quality is wildly divergent, and the two self-portraits of 1839 & 1850 must surely be different people. Horner was from an artistic family, and his sons (John and another Joshua) are said to have also painted portraits – possibly, too, his father (?)John. I would guess that these have all been mixed up, and heaven knows which one painted Slade (I will try and get to the bottom of the genealogy in due course). Joshua has slightly emerged from obscurity of late as the supposed artist of a c1830 portrait of Anne Lister, Britain’s “first modern lesbian”, as the BBC & Guardian have excitedly described her.

Osmund Bullock,

Could we ask the Collection if they have any further information on who gave them this portrait in (?)1913, and also (as ever) if there is anything - labels, inscriptions, etc - on the back and/or the frame?

I wonder, too, if they have an image of the missing 1865 portrait of Mayor Richard Harwood by Thomas Walley, accession no (apparently) BOLMG:1888.12.

As so much information has come forward, this discussion is worth reanimating. Did the collection ever reply with snaps Osmund mentioned?
And could the collection check its records and the back of the picture to see if there is anything, however seemingly insignificant, which might help.
Canon Slade certainly seems to be older in the Bolton portrait than he does in the one by George Patten of 1840, so we are looking at a work that most likely dates from the 1850s, and which might well be the one by Joshua Horner of 1855 referred to by Osmund.

Kieran Owens,

The Royal Academy exhibition catalogue for 1839 shows, on page 18, that George Patten's portrait was exhibited in the Middle Room as item number 317, and was described as 'Portrait of the Rev. James Slade, Vicar of Bolton-le-Moors and Prebendary of Chester. Painted at the request of the inhabitants of Bolton'.

It still seems worthwhile keeping this discussion going. If Bolton could oblige with some photographs of the back of the painting or an account of what is there, it might help.
Osmund has told us something about Joshua Horner (son of the landscape painter John), but we need to know more. He would seem to be the same young artist whose letters from his travels on the continent were published in 1841 (having originally appeared in the Halifax Express). His tour in Europe suggests an artist who gained competency at a young age. But he did not exhibit at the Royal Academy, nor at the British Institution, although he clearly had a reputation in Halifax and was known to have painted copies of Old Masters while abroad. He painted a portrait of a Halifax banker in 1866. The London Gazette reported that Joshua Horner had died in 1881. Can he be considered a viable candidate as the painter of the portrait of Canon Slade?

Matthew Watson, Collections Access Officer at Bolton Library and Museums Service, has emailed:

'The painting is hanging on the wall so it is not possible to take a photo of the back. I doubt very much it would reveal anything interesting anyway. If there was any information on the back it would have been noted on our database.

We have very little information about the portrait beyond the fact it was donated to the museum by a Mr J. Harrison, an accountant, who lived in Great Lever, Bolton. He donated it in 1913.

We don’t have an image of the missing Richard Harwood but we do have the attached (BOLMG:1999.122). https://bit.ly/2QecMNG

Dr Wolstenholme, who was the first house surgeon at the Bolton Dispensary, Nelson Square. First Certifying Surgeon under the Cotton Mills Act.

Thomas Walley was a portrait painter from Blackburn who was commissioned to do portraits of several mill-owners, so it is not inconceivable that he may also have been commissioned to paint Canon Slade around the same time.

Kieran Owens,

'The painting is hanging on the wall so it is not possible to take a photo of the back. I doubt very much it would reveal anything interesting anyway. If there was any information on the back it would have been noted on our database.'

Wow! What a worryingly dismissive set of statements. Firstly, if the painting is hanging on a wall, what impediment is there to simply talking it off the wall, photographing the back, rehanging it and making that image available to this discussion? Secondly, numerous examples of Art Detective observations contradict the notion that an examination of the back of a painting would not reveal anything interesting. And thirdly, now is it that Bolton Library etc cannot definitively confirm that all the relevant information to be found on the back of the painting has not already been meticulously and professionally recorded on their database? Attention to these three points might help significantly reduce the time taken by voluntary contributors to the Art Detective service to speculate about sitter identifications and artist attributions.

I have received an email from Matthew Watson, Bolton Library and Museum Services. Matthew explained that the Portrait of Canon Slade currently features in a display in the museum called Faces of Bolton. It is displayed high up on one of the grand staircases leading up to the museum floor. The painting could be not taken down without the construction of scaffolding, which would be costly and very time-consuming. He would like to reassure readers of this thread that the museum maintains meticulous records of paintings in the collection including any inscriptions on the back of paintings, so he is confident that the back of the painting does not include any reference to the artist who made it.

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