This essay explores the material production of a single work of art, The Disgrace of Wolsey by Henry Monro (1791–1814), in the collection of Tate, in order to provide an historical perspective on the issues of artistic labour and art-educational access, which have been at the fore of contemporary cultural debates. It combines art history, sociology, and technical analysis to provide a case study in the social economics of artistic labour. Although he died young, Monro has a well-established biography and many of his works and associated documentation have been preserved. Most remarkably, there is a detailed work diary, which provides, among other things, a daily record of the production of The Disgrace of Wolsey. From this diary, we can deduce with some precision the people and materials, the time and the locations involved in the making of this painting. In its level of chronological detail, the work diary provides an exceptional insight into the working methods of a young artist in the early nineteenth century. The essay considers the social and economic factors involved, and provides a detailed commentary checking the textual record of the diary against the physical evidence of the painting itself. Technical analysis including X-radiograph, cross-sections, and surface examination are compared to technical painting treatises of the period. The essay concentrates on the compositional areas worked each day, recording a chronological account of activities. It gives insight into how the composition was built, developed, revisited, and adjusted, and suggests some of the wider lessons to be drawn from this unique documentary record about the practice of art in the early nineteenth century.
Who can Afford to be an Art Student?DOI
The economics of artistic labour is a major theme in contemporary cultural debate. The operations of the creative and cultural industries have been accorded exemplary status in relation to broader societal change, embodying—depending on what perspective is taken—the bold new freedoms, or the oppressive delusions and deceptions, of late capitalism.1 Many people are drawn into situations where “the conceptual opposition between work and non-work, activity, employment and their contrary” are muddled in ways which have clear provenance in the notions of an artistic, creative lifestyle which have prevailed at least since the end of the eighteenth century.2 The experience of precarity and zero-hours contracts, immaterial labour, and the apparent economy have started to inflect formal discussion of art practices and institutions, heightening our sense of “a classed artistic subject”, and bringing home the deceptively obvious point that “access to an infrastructure of production (funding to buy materials and labour power, time to access knowledge, new trends in theory and so on) is not equally distributed to all labouring subjects that self-identify as artists”.3 There are blunt questions which have taken on a new urgency in the present context: who can afford to be an artist? Who can afford to be an art student?DOI
This essay offers a case study of the production of a single work of art, in an attempt to provide an historical perspective on these issues. Contemporary discussions of artistic labour rarely have a foundation in any great depth of historical understanding, their authors finding it sufficient instead to refer to broad-brush concepts such as the transition from artisan to artist in the Renaissance and the emergence of the “Romantic” artist, and often taking as a structural given that the modern artist is poor and his (or less often, her) lifestyle precarious.4 In doing so, this essay seeks to combine social-historical—more precisely, dispositionalist art history of the sort outlined by Pierre Bourdieu—and technical analysis and observation.5 Bourdieu challenges as a universalistic illusion the idea that time is a neutral category, exterior to social experience: “Different ways of temporalizing oneself”—how time is experienced, whether with a sense of expectation or dread, hurriedly or with forbearance—need instead to be related “to their economic and social conditions of possibility”.6 The work of painting is, arguably, fruitful ground for pursuing such an enquiry: whether an artist works quickly or slowly, whether they can experiment or feel compelled to be decisive, how they may apply or scrape away layers of paint, work impatiently or with measured restraint, provides evidence of such socially determined experiences. Such fundamental elements in painterly technique as the use of glazes or painting wet-in-wet, painting big bold forms in simple colours, intricate details or repetitive shapes, give expression to different temporalities and to choices which may appear spontaneous or burdened by indecision and anxiety. The further dimension to consider is the degree to which these dispositions are manifested in self-conscious or instinctive ways, either as, in the terms set forward by Bourdieu, channelling Edmund Husserl, “a conscious aiming at the future”, or “protention, a prereflexive aiming at the forth-coming”.7 “Protention” can be illustrated simply by the example of the competent tennis player, who is able to position themselves on the court in anticipation of the appearance of the ball even before their opponent has struck it. It is in attending to the evidence of the varied temporalities of artistic labour, and the material and symbolic investments whether conscious or pre-reflexive, these expose, which we hope may help secure a more thoroughgoing integration of technical and social art history, and of the internal and ostensibly autonomous and personal, and the external and ostensibly impersonally social, dimensions of the work of art.DOI
We are able to do so on this occasion because of an extraordinary documentary record relating to a single work of art from the early nineteenth century: The Disgrace of Wolsey by Henry Monro (1791–1814). Although he died young and never developed into a figure with real art-historical impact, Monro has a well-established biography and a surprising number of his works and the associated documentation have been preserved. Most remarkably, there is the survival of a detailed work diary which provides a daily record of, among other things, the production of this extant painting.8 From this diary, we can deduce with some precision the people and materials, the time and the locations involved in the making of this painting. In its level of chronological detail, if not necessarily transparent technical information, the work diary provides an exceptional and possibly unique insight into the working methods of a young artist in the early nineteenth century, and the foundation for a micrological analysis of artistic labour (Fig. 1).
The Artist and his WorldDOI
Henry Monro was the second son of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), physician, and his wife Hannah Elizabeth, was the daughter of the Rev. Edward Woodcock LLD, vicar of Watford (Fig. 2).9 Thomas Monro specialised in mental health care, taking on from his father Dr John Monro the management of a private asylum, Brooke House in Hackney, and in 1792 the role of Principal Physician to Bethlem Hospital. John Monro had inherited the role at Bethlem from his own father, James Monro, a Scottish physician who had moved to London in 1728. Although embroiled in considerable controversy about his methods of care, Dr Thomas Monro enjoyed a prestigious career and, besides his public role at Bethlem, was one of the doctors responsible for the treatment of George III during his bouts of mental ill health.
The eldest son, Edward Thomas, went to Harrow and Oxford, where he graduated as Doctor of Medicine in 1814. He took over his father’s role at Bethlem in 1816. Henry Monro’s course through life was less predictable. After dinner with the Monro family in January 1807, the landscape painter, diarist, and friend of the family Joseph Farington recorded “Dr Monros 2d son, a youth 15 years of age, now attends the Royal Academy regularly.— It had been his father’s intention to educate him for the Navy, but the inclination of the Son prevailed”.10 He had apparently spent two years at Harrow, “not exhibiting very great desire for the attainment of the Greek and Latin languages.”11 And he had, indeed, tried out the navy, spending a few days as a midshipman moored at Portsmouth before finding that a life at sea was not for him and being bailed out by his father. Although he later contemplated joining the army, at a time when a romance led him to think about a more settled income and had a civil service appointment lined up for him, he persisted with his art studies. All this with the indulgence and sometimes active encouragement of his father, notwithstanding his original intentions for his son.DOI
The Monro family’s London home from 1794 was no. 8 Adelphi Terrace (Fig. 3). This row of large houses facing onto the Thames was part of the prestigious Adelphi complex, built by the Adam brothers in the 1760s and 1770s as a commercial speculation. The project failed as a business, almost bankrupting the Adams and leading to a lottery of properties (including no. 8) in order to balance the books in 1773. But it transformed the view of the Thames and provided high-end houses with commodious rooms, decorated with elaborate ceilings and fireplaces. After the Monro family finally moved out in 1820, no. 8 was advertised as a:
Superior Family Residence … admirably adapted for a family of the first respectability, many years in the occupation of Dr Munro … containing seven pleasant bed chambers, and a laundry, very noble large front drawing rooms, 30 feet by 20 feet; back ditto, 20 feet by 16 feet; capital large dining parlour, 30 feet by 15, and library 20 feet by 16, the offices are most abundant, and consist of kitchen, servants’ hall, housekeeper’s and butler’s rooms, with bed chambers to each, store rooms, larders, pantry, scullery, capital cellaring, &c.12 (Figs 4 and 5).
The neighbours in Adelphi Terrace included other successful doctors, lawyers, MPs, wealthy merchants, and the widow of the celebrated actor David Garrick (Fig. 6). Individual houses were valued at over £3,000 in the Adelphi lottery; no. 8 had been valued at £3,600. Judging from their income tax paid when this was introduced in 1799, Mrs Garrick at no. 5 had a healthy annual income over £1,200, and Sir John Mitford at no. 1 had a massive £10,500 a year.13 John Thomas Batt at no. 6 was one of Britain’s wealthiest men.14 The amateur artist and collector John Henderson was reported to have £1,600 a year when he married Georgiana Keate, also an artist, and moved into Adelphi Terrace.15 This was very much the cream of London’s professional and commercial world, with a dash of celebrity and a portion of enthusiasm for the arts. If not a community as such, there was certainly social interaction within the terrace. The physician Sir John Turton was professionally linked with Monro; Henderson lent drawings to Monro; Georgiana Henderson called on Turton and Mrs Garrick; the former mariner Sir Brook Watson who took on no. 4 when the Hendersons left was a family friend of theirs (this was the Brook Watson who had famously lost a leg in the shark attack painted by John Singleton Copley).16
As everywhere in elite Georgian society, behind this façade, there were darker stories. Physically below the Adelphi Terrace there was Adelphi Wharf, with its dark archways: heavy industry and the labouring classes were quite literally under the feet of the residents of Adelphi Terrace, though largely out of sight. The Hendersons drew in rents worth £700 a year from their extensive estates of substandard housing in the East End of London.17 Dr Thomas Monro became notorious for the harsh restraints applied to patients in his care at Bedlam. Put under official scrutiny, Monro admitted that the chains and straitjackets in use there (but not among the private patients at Brooke House) were “fit only for Pauper lunatics: if a gentleman was put in irons he would not like it.”18 Threaded through many of these wealthy households are the investments in and exploitation of distant imperial territories. Batt’s wife inherited West Indian plantations. Edward Hyde East at no. 10 was born in Jamaica, where his family were major slave plantation owners; he came to England where he became a lawyer and after a political and legal career in England became chief justice of Bengal.19 Sir John William Anderson at no. 9 was the owner of a slave factory in Africa.20DOI
DOI As well as the London home, Thomas Monro maintained houses in rural settings just outside London, first at Fetcham, Surrey and then from 1805 in Bushey, Hertfordshire, which he and his family habituated generally during the summers (Fig. 7). All these residences were notable for the presence of art and artists. Farington recorded of no. 8 Adelphi Terrace in 1797: “Dr Monro’s house is full of drawings. In the dining parlour 90 drawings framed and glazed are hung up and in the drawing room 120. They consist of drawings of Hearne, Barret, Smith, Laporte, Turner, Wheatley, Girtin.”21When the collection was broken up by sale in 1833, after Thomas Monro’s death, the auction took five days (and this did not include the works poignantly singled out in his will, “executed by my deceased son Henry which I desire may be divided amongst my children”).22 Besides collecting, Thomas Monro was an amateur artist himself, and was unusually prominent as a patron and self-appointed mentor of artists. Monro famously organised drawing sessions in the evenings at the Adelphi, with painters regularly engaged in copying landscape watercolours and drawings owned by him or borrowed from his neighbour John Henderson. The nature of the young artists’ labours at the Monro “Academy” remains moot. Monro was not having these works manufactured for commercial sale (he hardly needed the money), but neither is it clear that there was a genuine pedagogical purpose in play, notwithstanding the anecdotal evidence of instruction by the physician and sketching trips. This was not the kind of self-motivated artistic brotherhood that were beginning to be formed in various European contexts at this date.23 Nor was Monro, a physician, credibly qualified to serve as the “master” of a workshop on the Renaissance model, charged with carefully cultivating among his pupils the stringent technical skills which he possessed in abundance. The various drawings of artists at work in the Academy suggest a degree of studied laboriousness to their labours: heads down, Turner and Girtin and Hearne work away with what might be interpreted as servile dedication, certainly when compared to many of these individual artists’ self-images, or indeed Henry Monro’s self-portraits (Figs 8 and 9).
If the working relationship between the young artists associated with the Royal Academy at the Adelphi and Thomas Monro was unclear, there should be no doubt about the social distance separating them. Thomas Girtin was the son of a brush-maker; J.M.W. Turner was the son of a barber; Henry Edridge was the son of a butcher who died while he was an infant; Thomas Hearne’s father had also died young; John Linnell’s father was a carver and gilder, albeit one with strong connections with the art world; and William Henry Hunt’s father was a tinplate worker. These were not young men obviously destined for a life in art, and their route into the art world was often considered notable by early commentators, and described in terms of chance encounters and accidents rather than social destiny.DOI
As a student at the Royal Academy from 1807, Henry Monro encountered and befriended several young artists who were already known to the family, including John Constable (who continued as a student though he had registered in 1799), David Wilkie, and Benjamin Robert Haydon. He was well connected with a wider circle of students, including George Lukin, Lascelles Hoppner (son of the Academician John Hoppner), Charles Lock Eastlake, and Martin Cregan. Monro was marked out even in this company of serious-minded young men as an unusually dedicated student, and a central figure in one of those basically polite and well-behaved break-out groups of Academy students, which pop up in its early history.24 Having initially set up a studio in the attic space at Adelphi Terrace (presumably at the rear of the house, with the north light clearly indicated in the Adams’ section of no. 5, whose floor plan corresponds with no. 8)—where his labours were supported by local boys he termed “ays de camp”25, a term which might suggest they served as assistants as well perhaps as models—in October 1810, he noted he had moved into rooms “at Vinsons”. This was accommodation at 16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, above the shop of the frame-maker William Vinson, an extended property with workshops.26 At this time, he also returned to study at the Academy having lapsed in his studies. By 1811, he had moved to the end of the same street, 1 Henrietta Street (Fig. 10). The occupier was Thomas Wetherfield or Weatherfield, a fruiterer. From contemporary views, the ground floor appears to be in commercial use, presumably as a fruit shop.27 Here, the accommodation was located on the favoured first floor and it seems, especially adapted to, or at least convenient for, artists’ use. After Monro’s untimely death, the lease was advertised: “To Artists—To be Lett, a First-floor, with extra light, late Henry Monro, Esq, deceased—No.1, Henrietta Street, Covent-Garden”.28 From contemporary views, the added advantages of this address for an artist are clear. This was a property on the corner of Henrietta Street and Southampton Street, facing out onto the open Piazza (the site was cleared for the Southampton Street Hotel in the 1880s and is now occupied by the Ivy Market Grill).
There were multiple commercial premises on Henrietta Street and several public houses; but there were also bankers and lawyers (Fig. 11). The Henry Thomas Austen at no. 10 was a recently widowed banker and the brother of the novelist Jane Austen, who had moved into an apartment above his bank’s headquarters on Henrietta Street.29 The novelist’s letters record her often visiting him there while she was in London. Of his accommodation, she noted in September 1813:
No. 10 is made very comfortable with Cleaning & Painting … The front room upstairs is an excellent Dining & common sitting parlour—& the smaller one behind will sufficiently answer his purpose as a Drawg room.—He has no intention of giving large parties of any kind.—His plans are all for the comfort of his Friends & himself.30
This was, on the evidence of Horwood’s plan and the estate plan, a wider and deeper property than no. 1 or even no. 16, but Austen considered it appropriate only for private gatherings rather than entertaining. Henrietta Street served, on this evidence, as proper if not long-term accommodation for the younger sons of genteel clergymen or physicians, rising in their professional life.31 As the literary historian E.J. Clery notes, if not disreputable, it was “bracing … a noisy, lively precinct with linen drapers and mercers as neighbours, and just a stone’s throw from the pubs and coffee houses of Covent Garden piazza.”32
In 1812, Monro exhibited at the Royal Academy a life-sized self-portrait in oils, stated by him in the diary to be the “first as large as life I ever did” (Fig. 12). It is an image brimming with self-confidence and a sense of destiny, showing the young artist in an anachronistic costume, with a cloak and wide white collar, and wide-brimmed hat, evoking, surely, the well-known self-images by Rubens showing the Flemish artist as a dashing courtier in similar head-gear (held in the Royal Collection), and the more immediate example of Reynolds’ academically robed self-portraits (such as that presented by him to the Royal Academy in 1780). At the Henrietta Street address, he developed a series of historical compositions, exhibiting a Shakespearean subject, Othello, Desdemona and Iago at the Royal Academy in 1813 (Fig. 13). This was well received in the press, with the American art student Samuel F.B. Morse noting that his large canvas of the Dying Hercules had been paired with Monro’s in the press as signs of two rising geniuses in the art (Fig. 14).33 Over the summer of 1813, Monro was trying out ideas for subject paintings: “Hamlet in the play scene” sketched 20–23 May, with a self-portrait study for the composition (20 June) but apparently taken no further, as on 3 July he had the “First thought of painting King John 3rd act 3rd scene. Hubert Arthur and Elinor”, which he took as far as an oil sketch and portrait head study over the next couple of weeks, before embarking on the subject of The Disgrace of Wolsey, which was to occupy him for several months and secured him posthumous celebrity.
This was an auspicious moment for history painting. Monro had met Benjamin Robert Haydon in 1808, before that slightly older painter achieved sudden critical success with the exhibition in 1809 of his Dentatus, which seemed to herald the arrival not just of a major new talent but also a renaissance for the grand style. In 1812, when we know Monro visited to copy paintings, the Gallery of the British Institution was dominated by Benjamin West’s vast canvas of Christ Healing the Sick (now in the Tate). This had been commissioned for the Philadelphia Hospital, but effectively “export stopped” by the Directors of the British Institution. As a patriotic act—war between Britain and America had broken out in 1812—the Directors paid West a massive 3,000 guineas so that the painting would remain in the country. The artist was thereafter able to produce a replica for the Hospital, so effectively sold this large painting twice. Given the long history of public and commercial indifference towards history painting, these developments seemed to signal that there might now be support for such hitherto unmarketable paintings. This was the context in which Monro, in summer 1813, embarked on what proved to be his final monument: The Disgrace of Wolsey.
The Disgrace of WolseyDOI
The subject is historical, with Henry VIII presenting Cardinal Wolsey with the papers that precipitated his fall from power (and clearing the way for the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon), but as stated when the painting was exhibited in 1814, the source was literary, in the form of Shakespeare’s play. Although little performed today, Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII was in regular performance in the early nineteenth century. A production featuring Kemble as Wolsey opened in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in February 1814, as the painting went on display at the British Institution.34 Although Kemble’s performance was reportedly a bit underpowered, and the audience disruptive, the scene of Henry passing the letters to Wolsey was picked out as “one of the most interesting spectacles we ever witnessed”.35 “Cardinal Wolsey’s Downfall” was excerpted from the play and performed in composite performances, including by Kemble.36 The play’s popularity rested upon the opportunities it afforded for eye-catching pageantry, rather than for its strictly literary qualities. Monro was, we know from the diary, a theatregoer, but also not a great reader, so the profile of the play may have especially suited him. There was also a more immediate prompt in the publication in 1812 of John Galt’s “Life of Wolsey”, though there is no evidence that Monro used that text. While the attention to the details of costume and props may strike something of a new note—pointing to the sort of antiquarian history painting which was to flourish in France and Britain in the coming years—the narrative content and the picture’s fundamental ambitions can be related to a half-century of ambitious British history and literary painting. It bears some comparison to the scene painted by Richard Westall for John Boydell’s famous Shakespeare Gallery, and that artist also produced a drawing matching Monro’s conception more closely, at least in its compositional elements (Fig. 15). But in its pictorial effect, Monro is self-evidently aspiring to a kind of Venetian glitter and richness, with dominant golds, and reds, and flesh tones contrasting with punctuating flashes of silvery blue. The upright composition, and the overall grouping of figures within the vaulting architectural arena, are ostentatiously indebted to Venetian examples, and quite specifically to the Veronese painting that he recorded in his diary as copying at the British Institution in October 1812 (Fig. 16). A further important point of reference was Reynolds’ portrait of Master Crewe in the guise of Holbein’s Henry VIII, originally exhibited in 1776 but also included in the British Institution’s retrospective show of his works in 1813, an exhibition attended by many artists and students including Monro, who noted going to a special viewing “by lamp light” (Fig. 17).37
The positioning and stance of Henry VIII in Monro’s picture mirrors that seen in George Vertue’s print of a lost Holbein painting of King Henry VIII, a characteristic stance that has been regularly repeated (Fig. 18). For the background detail of the portrait of Catherine of Aragon, Monro seems similarly to have relied on a graphic source, in this case, the Houbraken print after Holbein’s portrait of Louise de Savoie, then identified as of Catherine (Fig. 19).
Monro continued such research, drawing and producing studies in oil, before turning to make a “large study of my intended picture from Harry the VIII in pen chalk etc.”38 The scaling-up (the methodology of which is not stated) is followed by a “careful sketch of my picture”, indicating refinement after establishing scale.39 After this, studies were worked in oil paint, both created with focus on particular elements and to explore the whole of the composition, highlighting a period of development, experimentation, and modification, which led Monro to conclude at the end of the month, “Began a 2nd sketch of the scene in Henry 8th. I intend to paint in oil.”40 For the next few weeks, with a concept and design in progress, Monro met individual models who sat for him as he practised different figures within the composition, using the same models several times and noting their sitting number thus implying a period of reflection, developing or honing likeness, expression, positioning, as well as an opportunity to experiment with painting technique, handling or colour choice. Life studies dominated the first half of September until: “September 14th: Tom sat 1/2 a head of profile. Sam sat for Wolsey and I began upon the canvass.”41DOI
The “Tom” here is his brother, Edward Thomas Monro. The “Sam” was the professional model Samuel Strowger, a former soldier who was a porter at the Royal Academy. The diary records Charles Cranmer, the other main model and porter at the Academy, being hired to sit at least eight times. At other times, he records engaging the models named “Ben” and James Geddes, noted as from “the workhouse”, who presumably received some small fee. The latter can be identified as a 51-year-old “pauper”, who was entered into the St Martin’s Workhouse on 10 September 1813 and died there a year later.42 It does seem likely that Monro’s Wolsey is a likeness of Ben as his notes suggest: his Cardinal has rather harder features and is noticeably slimmer than the figure characteristically circulated in print and paintings (Fig. 20). The figure in armour on the far left is identifiable on purely visual terms as the coachman, who sat for Monro for the figure in his Othello and Desdemona (Fig. 13). Whether household servants like this were paid a fee, or simply felt obliged to comply with the requests of their employer’s young son is not known; and the friends and family who sat for other figures presumably did so freely.
From mid-September until the end of December, Monro’s journal recorded working almost exclusively on The Disgrace of Wolsey, while continuing to attend the Academy in the evenings, a programme interrupted by days of leisured inactivity rather than anything more productive (or, indeed, materially profitable). The text concentrates on the compositional areas worked each day, recording a chronological account of activities without much in the way of comment or reflection. It gives insight into how the composition was built, developed, revisited, and adjusted. Most entries are clear but there are ambiguities for which a degree of interpretation is required.
The Support and PreparationDOI
Monro’s diary maps his progress from idea, to concept, to physical realisation, but with scant reference to materials and techniques employed beyond generic expressions of medium choice and supports. The only reference in the diary to the chosen support was the vague statement on 14 September 1813: “I began upon the canvass”, with no discussion of the canvas’ preparatory stages prior to painting.43 The Disgrace of Wolsey is executed on a plain weave linen canvas, it is unlined and remains stretched over its original stretcher (Fig. 21). The overall dimensions of the painting are 1910 x 1225 mm. However, Monro did not use the entire area available for the composition, instead choosing to leave two bands of exposed ground at the top and bottom.44 They are not equal in size, measuring approximately 90 mm and 58 mm high at the top and bottom respectively, reducing the size of the painted image to 1750 x 1225 mm (Fig. 22). The canvas is not of a standard size available at the beginning of the nineteenth century in England, with no evidence as to the source of the support.45 It is not clear whether Monro actively decided on this size and format before executing the painting and purchased it as such, or whether it was a large support made available to him by other means.DOI
The canvas is sized with proteinaceous material, likely glue size, before the application of an off-white ground across the entire surface extending to the tacking margins. The commercially applied ground has a thick lower layer of chalk bound in oil over which a thin layer of lead white was applied within the smaller dimensions noted, this later layer possibly by the artist.46 It has a pronounced granular and uneven texture retaining the brush marks from application (Fig. 23).47 A thin brown imprimatura is present across the painted image, absent from the top and bottom strips, functioning as a mid-tone and base layer for darker paint in the background.48
There is little written in the diary and insufficient technical evidence to establish precisely how the composition was marked on the canvas. A range of drawing materials recommended in technical painting treatises of the period are referenced elsewhere by Monro, including pencil, pen, ink, chalk, watercolour, and oil paint.49 Having worked on painting the central figures for a few weeks, the background was constructed:
September 28th: Completed the rubbing in of my picture.
September 29th: Having discovered the new vanishing point, crost my picture in all directions.
September 30th: Nearly completed drawing the architecture of background the Academy opened and I went.
October 1st: Completed chalking the perspective of my picture. Acad.
October 4th: Outlined in paint the architecture of my picture.50
Infrared images did not reveal any carbon-containing underdrawing that is not already visible in normal light, such as the black diagonal lines noted in Catherine of Aragon’s face, thought to be pentimenti relating to the stone structure (Figs 24 and 25). This does not mean underdrawing is not present but rather the materials used may not be detectable using this technique. Many technical sources prior to the 1840s advocated the use of “white chalk” or “pipe clay” for first sketching in a composition onto a coloured ground, to which the “chalking” mentioned could relate.49 It is also possible the design was painted directly with dilute oil, as seen along the top edge where brown painted lines extend into the unpainted strips (Fig. 26).52 The separation of these entries on 1 October and 4 October may support Monro’s division of the drawing stage and painted outlines as two distinct phases, as recommended in the technical painting treatises. The brown paint varies in width of line, thickness of paint, and accumulates in the troughs of the ground texture and bears material resemblance to the brown wash over the ground (Fig 27).53 It could be, as would be more typical for the period, dead-colouring, applied with thick brushes to work up the composition while moderating light and dark, building form without precise detail.54 On top of the warm brown imprimatura, there is an additional cool grey layer painted for the stone walls and floor; this is not present in the archway, picture of Catherine of Aragon, figures in the foreground, and is clearly absent from the unpainted top and bottom strips (Figs 28 and 29).55 This application likely corresponds to the initial architectural painting Monro carries out after first laying-in and drawing the design, which at this stage does not incorporate the window change and therefore does not extend further upwards into the unpainted strip (noted with grey arrows on Fig. 22).
Painting and CompositionDOI
The Disgrace of Wolsey is executed in a swift, direct manner, capturing forms with single, discrete brushstrokes and blending multiple colours wet-in-wet directly on the canvas, combining opacity and transparent glazes. In the background, thin brown toning layers sit adjacent to bodied impasto on figures, costume highlights, and furniture ornamentation.56 Overall, the detailing is crude and lacks refinement, effective from a distance but without precision on closer inspection. The detailing of windowpanes or embroidery is applied over modelled sky or drapery, yet forgoes the same modelling, instead executed in singular, flat colours. The palette used is typical of the period; bound in oil, pigments include earths, vermilion, mars orange, Naples yellow, a bright yellow ochre, Van Dyke Brown, Prussian blue, lead white, carbon black, and lamp black.57 A range of drying phenomena are visible across the painting, most prominently soft-edged, wide drying cracks revealing a variety of paint colours beneath, as well as wrinkling and exudates of lower paint layers penetrating up between cracks. This could indicate insufficient time between the applications of layers to allow the lower ones to dry, working lean over fat, or the inclusion of resin, megilps, or slow-drying materials.58 Many artists were experimenting with materials and their effects in this period, and with some reference in contemporary manuals as to the effects of pigment choice, paint thickness, and positioning within the layer structure affecting drying times, as well as tips for trying to accelerate drying.59 That Monro worked across the picture in different areas could imply equally that he was participating in this experimental culture and, more simply, that he lacked experience in the practicalities. And we could also consider that both—experimentation and inexperience—could be in play in the making of this picture.DOI
The order of painting, according to the diary, concentrated first on the main figures: Wolsey followed by Henry VIII. The boy holding the crozier was added, with the two cross-bearers introduced prior to the construction of the background. Monro then returned to the King and worked on the foreground before turning to the lords. He recounted working on smaller sections sporadically throughout the process. After considering the painting finished and applying glazes, Monro altered the lower left corner. Diary entries and compositional areas were compared to determine how closely the written text corresponds to technical and observational findings and in general many parallels and consistencies were found, including major revisions specified in the text also observed on the painting. Monro uses the term “painted” to describe general activity and making, with “altered” often preceding changes. The repositioning of the cross-bearer to incorporate another figure is alluded to, alterations to the costume of boy holding the crozier gleaned through technical imaging, showing the change from a nipped, tighter dress robe into an A-line hem with a billowing sleeve. Very few observational changes can be seen in the central figures, Wolsey and Henry being carefully constructed ahead of painting but repeatedly mentioned in the diary, including the occasional reference to reworkings that are not visible using the technical methods used. Monro bounces around the painting throughout the diary, and while working on the background alters the structure of the pictorial space moving the window into a recessed position by reangling the window ledge and elevating the quatrefoil. Perhaps the most specific change in the diary and well defined in X-ray is the omitted dog, drapery, and staff from the lower left corner, introduced at an early stage of development and removed from the picture after Monro had already considered it “finished”. That a number of alterations are covered in the text perhaps illustrates a student reflecting on his composition, while working on sketches and studies alongside the picture and influencing his change of mind. Though Monro uses phraseology such as “rubbed it out again”, observations show little indication of rubbing out or scraping back, instead, the alterations appear to be painted directly over existing passages.60 In some technical painting treatises of the period, the practice of painting over passages is termed “retouching”,61 but Monro only uses this term once at the end of the work diary.62 Perhaps this distinction in his terminology indicates that he perceived “painting” to be the general process, “altered” to highlight an active decision to change the composition structure, and “retouching” to signify amendments after finishing.
The Elements of the Composition in DetailDOI
As the first figure Monro placed upon the canvas and the eponymous character of the picture, there is little variation noted between Wolsey and the diary accounts. Surface observation indicates Wolsey’s choir dress robes were painted in sections: the upper red pellegrina initially created with modulated red tones, providing shape and form before being overlaid with a decorative floral design. In the diary, Monro documented painting the upper half of Wolsey’s dress and returned to the lower half on the next day, then approximately a month later “painted the Cardinal’s cloak afresh”.63 Technical evidence does not suggest any major revisions to the shape or structure, instead, this entry could refer to painting the decorative elements or applying further paint layers or glazes. White detailing finishes the edge of the cape, a small detail Monro decides to record sometime later on 21 November; this is the last entry specific to Wolsey and white is the uppermost paint layer observed here.64
Beneath the biretta, Wolsey’s head was painted in full, inclusive of an ear and locks of hair. This is clear from the drying phenomena in the red cap showing the dark brown background and varying shades of grey hair beneath (Figs 30, 31, 32). Monro first mentioned painting the head of Wolsey on 14 September and two days later wrote “A 2nd time on Wolsey’s head in picture”,65 before returning on 22 October to “[paint the] hands of Cardinal Wolsey and the cap.”66 In the painting, the boy holds a second hat for Wolsey, a much larger wide-brimmed galero, which is mentioned on 31 October notably after the addition of the biretta. The form is constructed around the boy’s legs and later drapery revisions. It is unclear whether Monro modelled Wolsey’s head fully following the earlier studies he made of models to depict Wolsey, or whether the hat shape could have played a part.
The boy holding the crozier and the dark-haired cross-bearer are mentioned in the early stages of painting:
September 16th: … slightly sketched the boy holding crozier and man holding cross from Tom.
September 21st: Sketched croziers at the Museum from Wickliffe of New Coll. Oxon. Made some studies of an old print of a crozier among some prints said to have belonged to my grandfather, now at the museum…
September 22nd: Made a study and painted the drapery on Cross-bearer. Ed.Smith sitting for it.
September 23rd: … Tom sat for Cross-bearer 2nd time & I nearly completed it.67
The reference to “Wickliffe of New Coll. Oxon.” is an error, although whether Monro’s or his transcriber's is uncertain. For the founder of New College was William of Wykeham. His crozier was preserved (at New College, Oxford), and indeed engraved, but does not resemble the item in Monro’s painting. As the British Museum did not at this date have croziers, it may be that the first reference is also to prints; the “old print” more explicitly referred to cannot now be identified, though it is the case that his grandfather, John Monro, had been a donor of prints to the Museum.68 There is a range of antiquarian prints of croziers which he might have referred to, and also early prints of saints and bishops including croziers, but a more precise point of reference is not clear at present. It is also worth noting that Cardinal Wolsey’s hat did survive, in the collection of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, where it remained until the sale of that collection in 1842 (it is now in the collection of Christ Church, Oxford; Fig. 33). The colour and form of the hat though were well known through readily available visual images.
Monro specifically remarks returning to paint the drapery for the boy holding the crozier on separate occasions, writing:
September 19th: … painted shirt of boy holding crozier.
October 29th: Painted white shirt and blue stockings of boy. Acad.
October 30th: Painted the sash on Crosier-bearer. Acad.69
The X-radiograph shows differences in density in the boy’s costume; the skirt was changed, falling in the opposite diagonal and gaining length. The arm holding the crozier was first painted as a solid, thin limb and altered to a softer, billowing sleeve (Fig. 34). The extension of the drapery away from the nipped waist to a straighter A-line results in differences in appearance on the painting’s surface: those painted over the initial lay-in of the drapery appear brighter and textured with a fine wrinkled surface, with the later extension over the dark background providing a cooler tonality to the white (Fig. 35). Furthermore, there are variations in the design of the sash: a dark reserve in X-ray echoes the curved waist not seen in the final image. It is not possible to conclude whether these alterations correspond to the diary entries because their details are not explicitly written. The golden crozier was the last addition to this figure, consistent with the diary account on 12 November.70
The two cross-bearers are positioned closely together; the older man is turned in semi-profile towards the scene and the younger tilts his head upwards. The X-ray reveals the first cross-bearer (the one on the right) was originally arranged lower in position (Fig. 37). The text states Monro added the second cross-bearer at a later stage, specifically mentioning the first cross-bearer was near completion two days prior to the addition of a second figure.71 They have the same arrangement in both versions but the inclusion of the latter and his placement likely prompted revision to the first cross-bearer. Monro returned to both figures a few weeks later:
October 12th: Painted the head of the Cross-bearer from Sam immediately behind the Cardinal…
October 13th: Painted … Tom as one of the Cross-bearers.
October 14th: Painted blue drapery of Cross-bearer.72
The shift is clear in X-ray and photomicrographs of the surface show flesh paint of the earlier head was not fully dry before the upper blue drapery was added, with skin tones visible exuding through drying cracks (Fig. 38). Monro recorded that three different models sat for the cross-bearers, which may have also had a bearing on the changes observed. It is a few weeks later in November that Monro mentioned Edward Smith (his cousin) sat for him again, though this time to concentrate on hands.73 The repositioning of the cross-bearer is not specifically mentioned in the diary, perhaps surprising in the context of the alterations Monro chose to pen.
Architecture and Background
In much of the architectural setting, the paint is thinly and economically applied; earth pigments bound in oil capture the deepest flat shadows of the arch using the brown imprimatura, while the stone walls have modulated additions of lead white and black pigments, with black outlines to depict stone edges. Monro mentioned in the diary a specific amendment to the background: the change of pictorial space behind the gallery from a flat, continuous wall to one with a recessed window on the perpendicular plane. According to the diary, the lords and gallery had not been painted when the change was made on 22 October.74 Visible in X-ray is the change of the angle to the window ledge, in the first version.
It is visible as it rises on the right, following the same plane as the picture of Catherine, but is later revised to rise on the left, perpendicular with the back wall (Fig. 39). Photomicrographs also show variation in the surface texture here, the pale grey clouds penetrating through cracks where the dark ledge is extended (Fig. 40). In altering the window, the quatrefoil moves higher and the peaks of the pointed arches beneath shift, it then extends over the top strip with the absence of the lead-containing material in the preparatory layers. This change could be the cause of the compositional increase in size by 50mm (Fig. 22).
King Henry VIII dominates the left side of the composition, his powerful figure leaning back while his left arm extends to deliver Wolsey’s fate. Henry’s regal, fur-lined, red cloak and a tunic embellished with gold have been applied in a fluid and relaxed manner, bordering on crude in its execution as the forms, shadows, and modelling—to give volume to his body in the lower paint layers—are not mirrored in the flat, hurriedly applied gold detailing. More than for any other figure in the diary, Monro noted the time spent and areas worked on with Henry.75 Very few changes are visible except for a slight enlargement to the width of Henry’s calves and a refinement of the papers in his hand seen in X-ray. Early in construction, Monro stated he “arranged Harry anew on the canvass” likely to mirror the stance seen in Vertue’s print.76 An earlier posture is not visible with the technical methods used here; furthermore, the context and date of this entry suggests the change likely corresponds to preliminary drawing stages with the position fixed once Monro started to paint.DOI
Surrounding King Henry VIII are the lords. The diary recorded Sir Thomas Lovel was first introduced on Henry’s left,77 followed by Lord Chamberlain on the balcony,78 then the man in armour,79 and lastly, the man leaning on the gallery talking to Lord Chamberlain.80 Of note due to his absence in the text is the man in profile behind Sir Thomas Lovel, who is the only figure in the painting not specifically identified or mentioned by Monro’s diary (Fig. 41).
Dog, Footstall, and Staff
The lower left corner of the composition bookends the work diary, where in the early stages of construction Monro included a dog, drapery, and a staff which he revisits after considering the painting “finished”:81 “September 20th: Did not paint but completely settled the left corner of my picture instead. To put a dog and a staff I saw in the Tower of Henry VIII.”82
DOI The staff mentioned here seems to be King Henry VII’s walking staff which served as a mace and incorporated hidden firearms, and which was on display at the Tower of London as a notable curiosity (Fig. 42).83
Almost two months later, Monro first mentions painting the area: “November 17th: Dog sat to me two hours—painted dog, drapery, and staff on floor. Acad. November 18th: Painted drapery round staff 2nd time & gilding to stool. Acad.”81 It is not until after the supposed completion of The Disgrace of Wolsey, that Monro pens: “December 4th: … & altered the corner of my picture. Acad. […] December 6th: Having put out dog from my picture I painted in a staff and footstool in the left corner. Acad.”81
The staff and toppled footstall can clearly be seen in The Disgrace of Wolsey. Surface variations including the extension of a dark shadow relating to a lower paint layer and a variety of drying phenomena alluded to the mystery of forms beneath the surface. Diary entries are corroborated by the X-ray where a dog, drapery, and alternative staff can undoubtedly be seen clearly (Figs. 43 and 44). The dog’s head is bowed, its back arching and holding the drapery in its pointed snout, as the fabric wraps around a longer staff. It is not clear how finished these elements were prior to painting out, though diary accounts, forms, and brushwork seen in the X-ray, as well as the range of colours visible between drying cracks, could imply they were highly worked or fully formed.86 Once one is aware of its presence, the ghostly shape of the dog’s back is just noticeable in normal viewing conditions due to the dark underlayer and variations in surface texture. Additionally, where the drapery had been executed, the upper paint surface is smoother with fewer drying cracks, also drawing some attention to its form (Figs. 45, 46 and 47). In revising this area, Monro repainted a large portion of the stone floor. The X-radiograph and transmitted light image show a density not comparable with the surrounding more thinly painted area, but this is not discernible in normal viewing conditions as the colours and tones are consistent with the neighbouring stone (Figs 26 and 27). No evidence of scraping back or rubbing out can be seen, implying the corner was altered directly over the existing composition. Though this significant change recorded in the diary is supported by technical evidence, Monro does not discuss the reasoning nor impetus behind it.
In the final stages, Monro writes the painting was “glazed”, likely referring to the application of transparent pigments in a medium to modify the surface.87 It is mentioned as a general, overall action to the painting rather than to specific areas, bar Henry’s head, and entries capture applying layers daily and in quick succession without leaving the advised two to three days between applications recommended by contemporary sources, implying an energy to Monro’s activity in the final stages, and perhaps a “dry” enough surface on which to work:88
November 26th: Glazed right side of my picture, Wolsey etc. Acad.
November 27th: Glazed nearly all my picture but Harry’s head. Acad.
November 29th: Painted and glazed Harry’s head and retouched all the picture.
November 30th: Glazed part of my picture.
December 1st: Painted and glazed part of my picture but considered it as finished today. Acad.81
Based on contemporary artists working in this period, it is unlikely these entries refer to the act of varnishing and there is no diary entry explicitly related to this.90 Varnishing in this period often occurred after some time had passed, and if the painting was exhibited, it may have occurred on the wall of the gallery as per the well-documented “varnishing days” at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.91 Physical evidence of varnish is difficult to assess due to the unknown conservation history of The Disgrace of Wolsey prior to entering Tate’s collection.92 The painting currently has at least three separate layers of discoloured natural resin varnish; not all layers extend onto the unpainted strips top and bottom. Without access to the original surface, it is not possible to speculate on Monro’s varnishing practices but only to suggest that, based on contemporary material, it was likely to have been varnished some time after the painting was deemed finished, whether it was applied by Monro or posthumously at the British Institution is not clear.
Framing and LegacyDOI
Monro wrote a solitary diary entry in relation to a frame: “November 10th: Frame home.”93 In an earlier entry, Monro stated he was “finishing my figure for the medal”, which highlighted his intention to enter the picture for consideration in the prize offered for history painting by the British Institution.94 It is interesting to note that this occurred after the alteration to the window and the possible extension of painting along the top edge but before the frame arrived.95 It is clear he was constructing this work as an object to exhibit.DOI
The painting is displayed in an ornate gilded frame with moulded and pressed decoration, and punched gesso background (Fig. 48). Though unusual in its design, the style is consistent with the early nineteenth century and is likely contemporary with the painting.96 Its dimensions, 222 x 165 cm, correspond closely to the framed dimensions stated in the original catalogue when the painting was exhibited at the British Institution in 1814, of 7’3” x 5’6” (221 x 167 cm). The frame is made from a single plank of softwood with a tampered chamfer to the sight edge. The applied decoration to the large scotia is water-gilded and burnished, which is unusual among English frames of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, some of the decorative elements do not follow English recipes for composition.97 The styling has elements of contemporary French frame design, which suggests that the maker and/or place of manufacture was French. These continental features are intriguing, for it seems likely that the framer above whom Monro had first lodged in Henrietta Street, Vinson, was French, although we know little of his practice.98 The remainder of the surface is entirely water-gilded, bar two compositional strips at the back and sight edge which are oil gilded. It has standard right-angle corners, which would have been a practical choice for display at the British Institution among its tightly packed walls. There is no evidence to indicate the frame was reduced or enlarged, and it accommodates the unpainted strips at the top and bottom with large, deep rebates.99
The final diary entries for The Disgrace of Wolsey are made in late December: “December 24th: Made drawing for my etching of picture. December 25th: Xmas Day. Etched my picture.”100DOI
Several impressions of this etching survive (Fig. 49). They are a mirror image of the painting, like for like in detail with the final version of the painting, albeit with a tighter crop along the top edge. The etchings are signed in the lower left corner, “Monro fecit 1813”, though the painting is not.
At the beginning of 1814, Monro fell gravely ill, suffering from what was probably pneumonia and perhaps originating from the illness which had struck him badly in 1811 after a fall from his horse when on a trip to Scotland. On 3 March, Farington heard from Edward Thomas Monro that “His Brother Henry Monro the Artist, was then confined in bed and had been in much danger from an inflammation of the windpipe or Lungs caused by a Cold.”101 He died, at the age of 23, on 5 March 1814. There were brief notices in the press.102 Still a student himself, he was held up as a model for others. At the annual dinner of the Artists Benevolent Society Fund on 1 April, the wealthy brewer and patron of artists Samuel Whitbread:
noticed the professional merit of Henry Monro, a young man under 23 years of age, who died on the 5th of March having at that early age acquired posthumous fame. This instance He held up as an example to excite emulation in those youths who had devoted themselves to the study of the Arts.103
So, who could afford to be an art student?DOI
Monro’s diary relays the production of his final painting as a complex, labour-intensive set of parallel activities: drawing from the model at the Academy, sketching figures and faces at home, studying in the Academy library, sketching, painting, revising. If nothing else, this indicates the time-consuming nature of history painting pursued on this method, with the preparation of every element studied from printed, living, or sculptural models. History painting, as Haydon was to set out, was a high-risk venture compared to other kinds of art-making:
No Architect builds a house, no Sculptor makes a monument, no Portrait Painter paints a Portrait unless they are positively ordered, unless half the price of what they are to be paid is given them to defray the necessary expenses of their respective works. Thus their minds are at ease, & their bodies in comfort, & they work in security & delight. Whereas the English Historical Painter has no positive, certain demand; he risks his existence & reputation on great works, begun without the desire of others & continued without applause.104
In 1812, John Bryant Lane—an artist who enjoyed the support and patronage from Lord Dunstanville—outlined the issue to Farington:
so great have been His expences to enable Him to proceed in His practise that He has been obliged to live most penuriously in other respects. “I have lived,” sd. He, “three months successively upon tea & bread & butter only, at my own expense, never having eat animal food but occasionally when invited by some friend to His table”. Such are the difficulties of Young Artists who have no established support.105
On another occasion, Lane had reported to Farington that Haydon “expended near £300 in paying men to sit to him as Models & in purchasing plaister figures &c.”106DOI
Haydon was notorious for his extravagance in this regard, but the cost of raw materials alone were an expense than any student had to face. In general, art supplies seem to have cost students something over £10 a year, although it could be much more where big pictures and frames were involved. The Scottish student Andrew Robertson reckoned art supplies (“painting things, etc and perhaps masters”) at 5s. a week (£13 a year) and his costs overall a guinea a week.107 William Drury Shaw, a Royal Academy student from 1809, who came from a materially well-placed background, claimed he:
lived as frugally & economically as possible, upon my income, & what I have laid out upon my profession is very trifling: I have calculated & find that it lays me in about £10 or £11 p Ann for every thing whatever appertaining thereto.108
Samuel Morse in painting his Dying Hercules, comparable to Monro’s The Disgrace of Wolsey as a student history painting but one-quarter taller and one-third wider, spent £20 on the frame alone:
My greatest expense, next to living, is for canvas, frames, colors, etc., and visiting galleries. The frame of my large picture, which I have just finished, cost nearly twenty pounds, besides the canvas and colors, which cost nearly eight pounds more, and the frame was the cheapest I could possibly get.109DOI
Monro had ready access to models, being able to hire privately the Academy’s models, Samuel Strowger and Cranmer, and using family members and servants as well. He called into service Ben and James Geddes from the workhouse, the kind of men who his father might otherwise be clapping into chains at Bedlam (and who could never afford to go to the private asylum at Brooke House, where they might be better treated). Paint and paper and canvas cost money. Monro did not hesitate; his diary indicates that he drew incessantly. He had a range of materials at his disposal: pencil, charcoal, coloured chalks, stained papers and sheets of various sizes, oil paints, and canvas, and eventually a large and elaborate frame. Assuming the costs were strictly scalable, the material cost of painting and framing The Disgrace of Wolsey must have been about £20, compared to Morse’s Dying Hercules (and probably much more, given the quality of his frame). Not a fortune, but such a sum equates to what a good portion of the annual household income of a labourer and perhaps twice what a domestic servant could expect to earn in a year.110 There is the striking diary entry on 21 September, as he was gathering the historical reference materials: at the British Museum, he “Made some studies of an old print of a crozier among some prints said to have belonged to my grandfather.” His grandfather, Dr John Monro, was like his father a prominent physician and art collector; he had given prints to the British Museum, and it was these that Monro seems to have studied on his visit.111 The Keeper of prints and drawings at the Museum was William Alexander, a friend of his father and a member of the Academy. It was Alexander who had admitted Monro to the Museum “to make drawings” in January 1809, and who provided the necessary reference for him to draw from the antique there.112 He had the same level of access to the collections as any other student of the Academy; but what does it mean that the thing he went to see was once a family possession? How different the sense of connection, the sense of proprietorial right?DOI
In all, Monro recorded dedicating ninety-six days to working on the picture over a period of five months, so over half the available time (he did paint on Sundays), with the remainder generally being “idle” or at Bushey. If he could go home to the Adelphi regularly for meals, and the transport out to Bushey and back was courtesy of the family coach, there was rent and clothes, regular meals and bills, let alone theatre tickets and exhibitions to visit. The cost of living was a simple factor, of course, Morse split the rent of £65 a year for rooms in Great Titchfield Street with another American art student, Charles Robert Leslie, the latter recording:
We have two large rooms, a chamber and a painting room, very well furnished, for which we pay 25 shillings per week, that is 12s & 6d each. We breakfast and sup in our painting room, making tea [and] or coffee ourselves; we dine at a chop house where we can get a very good dinner, consisting of a plate of <hot>meat & vegetables, a plate of pie, & a pint of porter, for about eighteen pence.113
Thus, eating out would have cost each of them a bit under £28, if they stuck to that routine. Leslie noted, though, “there are all grades of eating houses in this great place. We once dined at one which was frequented by porters, coalheavers, &c where our dinner cost us sixpence.”113 Morse noted to his mother that, as Leslie also indicated, they “make our own coffee (which, by the way, is very cheap here)”.115 In 1800, another American art student, John Blake White, initially paid 10s. a week for rooms on the “third floor” (so £26 a year), then 14s. a week for rooms on the “second floor” (over £36 8s.). He seemed to have breakfast and tea made for him by the landlady but would eat out at an unnamed “Coffee House”. White, too, noted his frugality.116 The move physically down the house floor-by-floor seems to be a reliable indicator of status: when Haydon seemed in 1809 to be becoming established as an artist Fuseli counselled him that “you may vainture now upon a first floor”.117 Robertson looked at “a garret room” near to Somerset House in 1801 that was only 6s. a week (£14 12s.), noting “First and second floors are extravagant” but necessary to entertain clients; he secured two rooms on the first floor of a house in Surrey Street, off the Strand for 10s 6d. a week (£27 7s. a year) with dinner provided by the landlady.118 He then moved to shared rooms in Cecil Street, splitting the rent of 60 guineas a year.119 In 1807, another student, Samuel Lane, investigated renting “two rooms” in Leicester Square previously occupied by the successful portrait painter Thomas Phillips that cost £100 or £150 a year, before settling on lodgings at 41 Charing Cross costing about £80 per annum.120 He then moved to “Lodgings in Greek Street at 90 gns a yr including the use of a servant.”121 On the same date, Farington noted an artist hiring a painting room only in Bond Street for £70 a year.122 Location clearly made a big difference.DOI
Thus, renting rooms which could be used for painting in would cost at least £25 per year; while more extensive lodgings, which could be used as studio space and accommodation would be £80–100. General costs for student living in London could be reckoned as adding up to at least £50 a year but seems in many cases to have been more like £100–200 a year. Taking all this into account, The Disgrace of Wolsey would have cost Monro well over £100 in materials, models, and living costs—a sum that a journeyman or small-scale shopkeeper would expect to earn in a year. These were sums quite simply out of the reach of the vast majority of families. London households with over £200 annual income were in a small minority, 2–3 per cent, the middle-ranking with incomes between £80 and £130 were 16–21 per cent, and the “working population” formed 75 per cent, and their annual income was perhaps more like £50.123 By the reckoning of the social statistician, Patrick Colquhoun, in 1814, a physician, as Monro’s father and older brother were, could earn £300; the careers that Monro considered, as a naval officer or an army officer, would bring in £250 or £200 a year, respectively; if he had taken up the civil service role that was available to him, he might have earned £300.124DOI
Yet, Monro’s progress was not especially purposeful over the five months that he worked on The Disgrace of Wolsey, a picture which demanded resources only readily available to the top echelon of London society. As the technical description undertaken with the work diary in hand makes clear, the painting was a testament to indecision. It seems that while he had some notion of the overall composition, the figures were painted in before setting the architectural context in place. The number of figures varied, as did their positions. The overall dimensions of the composition is unclear; the bare strips of canvas at top and bottom, accommodated by the frame, reflect a degree of uncertainty. There are figures and passages of the highest accomplishment, such as the head of the boy to the right. “There are,” as the distinguished art historian and curator Andrew Wilton noted when the picture was exhibited in 1976, “passages … that show a feeling for paint more nervously alive than that of most of the artist’s contemporaries.”125 But then there are passages which are crude and mishandled. Within the single figure of Henry, we have a stock caricature taken from graphic sources, treated like a sort of signboard, and the single element of invention, in the changed position of the left arm, results in a distinctly wooden and disconnected appendage. Some of the figures are finely resolved, others are merely cardboard cut-outs: there is not the pictorial space to accommodate the Lords. On 26 September, he had admitted to himself in the work diary, “at a loss about the arrangement of the lords”. Monro wrote that he worked “for the last time” on the background on 5 October, but resumed work on that area later on. Henry’s head was painted, rubbed out, and repainted. He spent hours painting the dog, then discarded that feature. On 1 December, Monro noted of The Disgrace of Wolsey, that he “considered it as finished today”. But on 12 December, he “Touched my picture here and there”, and again on 15 December.DOI
The point is not to expose certain limitations in Monro’s abilities. He was still only 22 years old, and although a student of the Academy for seven years, had not received an extensive practical training. The Academy provided facilities for drawing from plasters and from the life, but almost no practical guidance for its students, and certainly no lessons in painting techniques. Painting in the Schools was only formally permitted from 1816. So how had he learned to paint in oils? Almost certainly not at home, for all that was a hive of artistic production. His father only drew, and scarcely dabbled even in watercolours. The copyists at the Adelphi Academy worked in drawing materials and in watercolour. There were oil paintings in the family collection, and Henry Monro himself sat to have his portrait taken in oils by John Opie, and would doubtless have witnessed other paintings in the medium being made. But the work diary is in part a record of his tackling new media, pastels, and only latterly oil painting: he didn’t work on a larger scale in oils until 1812. Monro was not apprenticed to any painter, or sent into a pupillage, or even as far as we know, sent to have lessons in oil painting. As Monro’s early biographer noted, the “very limited education afforded by that incorporated body” had to be supplemented by the “excellent school of colour, so liberally afforded by the Directors of the British Institution.”126 And that meant, in effect, teaching oneself, looking intently at old paintings and imitating them on canvas or paper. There were older artists around at the painting school and these doubtless offered advice as well as providing examples in their own activities, but they were not there to teach. On which the contemporary sociologist of the economics of art Pierre-Michel Menger observes: “The artist is, in fact, an autodidact who learns through the intermediary of a master … When it comes to transmitting rules and technique, teachers are readily interchangeable … and play a limited role.”127 The student could only ever become an artist in an endlessly contestable form, living, experiencing, embodying the durable indeterminacy which defines art as such in the modern era.DOI
At the same time that Monro renewed his studies at the Academy, William Collins, the son of a picture dealer and restorer (and therefore with his own social advantages in the world of art) was contemplating producing his own history painting for the British Institution, but worried that the investment of five months’ work when he had only recently “been able to maintain himself” would be wasted.128 Behind Monro’s painting, and Collins’ unrealised project, there was a universe of expressed and tacit investments, expectations, and choices. While it may be that students from relatively less-privileged backgrounds invested deeply in the idea of history painting, that should not distract from an understanding of the social determination involved:
Although this is something that is generally forgotten, those who must produce their market (i.e. create a market that does not exist as yet) must be able to carry on being productive for a certain period of time in the absence of a market.129
The young artist embarking on the complex and time-consuming work of producing a history painting would need either patronage or to have access to earned or inherited capital, or produce consciously commercial works: as prominent a figure as the history painter Henry Fuseli noted in 1791 his plans “for painting Small pictures to make the Large ones go on”.130 The alternative would be to live in poverty. If Monro’s ambitious pictorial enterprises are a testimonial to the special freedom he enjoyed in being able to endure the absence of the market, it is also the case that they speak too of the domestication and privatisation of history painting, for it was the resources of his family and his family position which were of paramount importance in putting these pictures together.DOI
For all his advantages, Monro died in debt, probably propelled as much by his predilection for expensively fashionable clothes as his dedication to the art.131 Farington heard from the landscape painter, Thomas Christopher Hofland, who had secured a premium from the British Institution in that year as well,
that Dr Monro had allowed both the pictures by His late son, Henry Monro, which were now exhibiting at the British Institution … to be sold, and Purchasers were a Gentleman who resides somewhere in the Country, and a Merchant who has a House at Walworth.—Hoffland sd. it was considered very extraordinary that Dr Monro should have let them do out of His family, as they did so much honour to His Son’s memory, & were the best of His productions.132
This was not the case: it appears that Monro had agreed the sale before exhibition, and the family bought the painting back after a few years. But it is the case that Monro, or Morse, who could spend a year working on a new submission for the Gold Medal at the Royal Academy after spending months working on the Dying Hercules, or the American painter Washington Allston, whose family were plantation owners in America, and who claimed the first premium for history painting ahead of Monro at the British Institution in 1814, could afford to spend time, without the loss of income that Collins feared. Another artist, less well disposed materially, might undertake the same task, but with greater personal suffering. Haydon spent extravagantly, struggled mentally and emotionally, and ended up in prison. John Bryant Lane complained, but had the backing of a reliable patron. Collins simply averred.DOI
Could we even start to sketch out some possible alignments between pictorial choices and technical preferences, and social origins, considered not as an absolute determination but as a determining force in the production of dispositions and the “conditions of possibility”?133 The hyper-productivity and virtuosity of, say, Turner, in a hurry to make a mark in every sense and enjoying a rapid ascent through the Academic hierarchy might then be compared with Constable, anxiously plodding away and waiting for years to get his Academic rewards, noting that the one was the son of a Covent Garden barber, the other of an affluent Suffolk merchant and miller.
Monro’s final diary entry reads: “A very bad cough. Did not paint, made a study of a bulldog. Went to the British Gallery. Slept and dined at home, left Gower Street.” He was buried in Bushey, alongside Thomas Hearne and Henry Edridge. A watercolour by another of Thomas Monro’s protégés, William Henry Hunt, puts the three memorials centre stage, children to the left examining the inscriptions in a dilatory fashion, Monro himself on horseback to the right (Fig. 50). This is contrived as a scene of melancholic reflection. There is, too, a kind of “social neutralism” effected here, which “cancels out the differences constitutive of the social space by treating uniformly all positions as professions, at the cost of a constant shift from the definitional point of view (titles and qualifications, nature of the activity, etc.).”134 The three buried men are gathered under the elder Monro’s gaze in some sort of equality as artists. We, in naming these three men as “artists” in our historical accounts, catalogue records, and exhibitions, equalise them as well. And what might be lost then, among other things, is the sense of their differentiated temporalities, the attrition or ease which accompanied their passage through the world, their labours at their art. And this involves not only the story of their individual lives, but the potent forces that might accumulate or dissipate over generations. As Bourdieu writes:
The social world is not a game of chance, a discontinuous series of perfectly independent events, like the spin of a roulette wheel … Without being, strictly speaking, rigged, the competition resembles a handicap race that has lasted for generations or games in which the player has the positive or negative score of all those who preceded him, that is, the cumulated scores of all his ancestors.135
The survival of such a quantity of drawings and paintings—and, indeed, a distinctly prosaic work diary—by such a short-lived and in many regards obscure artist may seem remarkable. But that situation arises because of the same social energies and material resources that secured the Monro family’s monopoly over mental health care at the Bethlem Hospital over four generations.
The authors would like to thank Rebecca Hellen, Joyce Townsend, Alastair Johnson, Mark Heathcote, Joe Humphrys, and Rod Tidnam, and the two anonymous readers for British Art Studies for their helpful input and advice.
About the authors
Anna Cooper is a Paintings Conservator at Tate. She read History of Art with Material Studies at University College London (2006–2009) before completing the Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art (2009–2012). Anna undertook a two-year internship at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge, after which she worked in private practice in London. In 2016, Anna was a Junior Clothworkers’ Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and later an Associate Lecturer before joining Tate in 2018. She has published on a range of topics including the conservation treatment and technical research of a large canvas painting by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, twentieth-century water-sensitive oil paints, and rolling a large contemporary painting for exhibition.
Martin Myrone is an art historian and curator based in London. He held curatorial roles at Tate Britain for more than twenty years and is currently convenor of the British Art Network based at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
He delivered a range of exhibition and display projects at Tate Britain, including Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (2006), John Martin: Apocalypse (2011–12) and William Blake (2019–20). He was founding co-convenor of the Tate Research Centre: British Romantic Art (2010–13).
The touchstone analyses from the dawn of the present century are the starkly contrasting commentaries by Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited (New York: Basic Books, 2012 ) and Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2018 ). See also David Hesmondhalgh, The Cultural Industries, 4th edn (London: SAGE Publications, 2018 ); Angela McRobbie, Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries (Cambridge: Polity, 2016); Mark Banks, Creative Justice: Cultural Industries, Work and Inequality (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017); and Oli Mould, Against Creativity (London: Verso, 2018).1
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge 2006), 101.2
Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd, “Introduction: ‘The Last Instance’—The Apparent Economy, Social Struggles and Art in Global Capitalism”, in Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd (eds), Economy: Art, Production and the Subject in the Twenty-First Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 27.3
The interplay between gender inequality and patterns of social opportunity is a major topic in its own right, and the gendering of creative labour is itself a topic within recent feminist criticism. For some suggestive starting points, see Robin Truth Goodman, Feminist Theory in Pursuit of the Public: Women and the “Re-Privatization” of Labor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).4
This is set out most fully across the lecture series published posthumously as Pierre Bourdieu, Manet: A Symbolic Revolution, trans. Pierre Collier and Margaret Rigaud-Drayton (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017).5
Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Polity, 2000), 224.6
Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, 207.7
F.J.G. Jefferiss, typescript records and biographies of the Monro family (ca. 1976) National Art Library, V&A London, 508.F.231 (Hereafter Jefferiss). Quotes from the diary are taken from this transcription, which Jefferiss took from a typescript version produced in 1922. The original diary has not been traced.8
On the Monro family, see F.J.G. Jefferiss, Dr. Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and the Monro Academy, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, Prints and Drawings Gallery, February–May 1976; Jonathan Andrews, “Monro, Thomas (1759–1833), Physician and Patron of Art”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 7 January 2010, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18981 (accessed 24 July 2019); W.C. Monkhouse and John-Paul Stonard, “Monro, Henry (1791–1814), Portrait and Subject Painter”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 September 2004, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18973 (accessed 3 January 2020); Mora Abell, Doctor Thomas Monro 1759–1833: Physician, Patron and Painter (Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2009).9
Kenneth Garlick, Angus Macintyre, and Kathryn Cave (eds), The Diary of Joseph Farington, 16 vols (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978–1984) (hereafter Farington Diary), Vol. 8, 2945.10
Annals of the Fine Arts, Vol. 1 (1817), 343.11
Morning Chronicle, 25 July 1820.12
Tim Hitchcock, Robert Shoemaker, Sharon Howard and Jamie McLaughlin, et al., London Lives, 1690-1800, www.londonlives.org (hereafter LL), LL ref: ahdsitp_18_1799; and LL ref: ahdsitp_24_2429.13
W.D. Rubinstein, Who were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders, Vol. 1, 1809–1839 (London: Social Affairs Unit, 2009–), 333, reference 1831/5.14
Susan Bennett, “I awleis admired your talent”: The Artistic Life of Georgiana Jane Henderson (nee Keate) (1771–1850) (Berlin: VDM Verlag Dr Müller, 2008), 87.15
For this network of connections, see Bennett, “I awleis admired your talent”.16
Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town (London: London County Council, 1957), 245–251, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp245-251#anchorn60.17
First Report: Minutes of Evidence: Taken before The Select Committee appointed to consider a Provision being made for the better Regulation of Madhouses, in England (London: ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 1815), 95.18
“Sir Edward Hyde East 1st Bart.”, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Database, UCL Department of History, 2020, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/16601.19
Nick Draper, “The City of London and Slavery: Evidence from the First Dock Companies, 1795–1800”, Economic History Review 61, no. 2 (2008): 432–466.20
Farington Diary, Vol. 3, 822.21
The National Archives, Kew, PROB 11/1819/121.22
See Nikolaus Pevsner, Academies of Art Past and Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940), 190–242; Keith Andrews, The Nazarenes: A Brotherhood of German Painters in Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); George Levitine, The Dawn of Bohemianism: The Barbu Rebellion and Primitivism in Neoclassical France (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1978); and Laura Morowitz and William Vaughan (eds), Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).23
In March 1809, Eastlake reported that: “On Friday night, Monro, Dr Monro’s son—a great friend of mine—proposed to me to have a model in the vacation so many times per week to draw from. This spreading about, sixteen students agreed to subscribe, and we all left the Academy and repaired to the Hall; and after a great deal of speechifying, clapping, &c, Monro and another were appointed to find out some convenient room for the students and model to sit in and draw.” Lady Eastlake Elizabeth, “Memoir of Sir Charles Eastlake”, in Contributions to the Literature of the Fine Arts. Second Series (London: John Murray, 1870), 14.24
Quoted in Abell, Doctor Thomas Monro 1759–1833, 52.25
Insured in 1809 under the name of William Vinson, “Picture Frame Maker & Turner” for the significant sum of £2,000 described as “Dwelling House & Workshops communicating Brick”, see London Metropolitan Archives, London (hereafter LMA) CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/448/836334. The property was redeveloped in a block with no. 15 Henrietta Street and 28–29 Maiden Lane in 1887, see LMA, E/BER/CG/E5/5/18).26
LL ref: t18090111-50; LL ref: ratebook_558-55824; LMA, MS 11936/453/844435; and LMA, MS 11936/528/1123498.27
The advertisement was presumably for the remains of a lease, being offered to help cover the young artist’s debts, for which see below.28
See Clive Caplan, “Jane Austen’s Banker Brother: Henry Thomas Austen of Austen & Co, 1801–1816”, Persuasions no. 20 (1998): 69–90; and E.J. Clery, Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister (London: Biteback Publishing, 2017), esp. 201–203.29
Deirdre le Faye (ed.), Jane Austen’s Letters, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 230.30
Both Austen and Monro were younger sons, and as such could not expect to inherit as substantially as the eldest son or even at all. The particular position of such young men in the social world of the early nineteenth-century genteel classes has been scrutinised closely, and with special reference to Henry Thomas Austen, by Rory Muir, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons made their way in Jane Austen’s England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019). Muir considers the church, law, the military, and commerce as the main options for younger sons needing to seek an independent source of income. He does not consider the profession of art. However, his research suggests the increasingly perilous position of younger sons brought about with the long wars with France and economic decline, and we can begin to suggest that the increasing gentility of the artistic profession after 1800 can be related to this new situation. The social composition of the population of London art students in this period is considered at length by Martin Myrone, Making the Modern Artist: Culture, Class and Art-Educational Opportunity in Romantic Britain (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, forthcoming).31
Clery, Jane Austen, 202.32
The Globe, 14 May 1813, quoted in Edward Lind Morse (ed.), Samuel F.B. Morse, his Letters and Journals, 2 vols (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1914), Vol.1, 106.33
Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 6 February 1814.34
Morning Post, 8 February 1814.35
Leeds Mercury, 30 December 1815.36
Farington Diary, Vol. 12, 4375.37
Jefferiss, 140 (4 August). A chalk drawing showing the composition quite resolved was with the Sabin Gallery in the 1960s (photographic record at the Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art). Henry Monro’s drawings descended through the family and do surface on the art market, and it seems likely that there are further surviving studies related to The Disgrace of Wolsey.38
Jefferiss, 140 (5 August).39
Jefferiss, 141 (31 August).40
LL ref. smdswhr_678_67902.42
The strips currently appear yellowish-brown due to the presence of discoloured varnish layers on top of the off-white priming, the number and thickness of which varies across the strips.44
Jacob Simon, “‘Three-Quarters, Kit-Cats and Half-Lengths’: British Portrait Painters and their Canvas Sizes, 1625–1850”, April 2013, https://www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/artists-their-materials-and-suppliers/three-quarters-kit-cats-and-half-lengths-british-portrait-painters-and-their-canvas-sizes-1625-1850/ (accessed 4 January 2019); and Leslie Carlyle, The Artist’s Assistant: Oil Painting Instruction Manuals and Handbooks in Britain 1800–1900 with Reference to Selected Eighteenth-century Sources (London: Archetype Publications, 2001) (hereafter Carlyle), 447. The painting is too small for a full length, too large for a half-length, and not of a standard width.45
J.H. Townsend, “Technical Analysis Report 2018”, Conservation Record, Tate. Unpublished, 2018. Cross-sections were taken to examine the layer structure showing differences in the ground structure within the body of the image and the top and bottom strips.46
The textures of commercially applied grounds are not specified in handbooks of the period, as discussed in Carlyle, 178.47
In the early nineteenth century, artists worked on a range of coloured grounds including warm buff, red, blue, and grey, while some preferred the luminosity of white, particularly favoured in the latter half of the century. Monro’s choice of a warm brown imprimatura or wash as a first stage relates to oil colour toning, an example of which materials used in literary sources is “burnt umber and drying oil”; Carlyle, 201. This ordering corresponds to the style of separating out functions and stages of painting typical in the early nineteenth century.48
Jefferiss, 143. The “new vanishing point” mentioned cannot be corroborated, with no clear changes seen on the painting or with the technical imaging used.50
Carlyle, 209. Underdrawing in paint, either using oil thinned in turpentine or watercolours (with a vegetable gum binder) were also referenced in technical painting treatises, without the requirement to sketch in chalk or charcoal first. Some contemporary sources recommended that after the completion of an initial drawing in chalk, it should be corrected with pencil or watercolour before being fixed with dilute oil; see Carlyle, 208–209; and Jefferiss, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and the Monro Academy, 5.52
The brown paint comprises of lead white and natural brown earths bound in oil.53
Carlyle, 200. Carlyle quotes John Samuel Templeton and his reprinted 1846 publication The Guide to Oil Painting as a clear description of the dead-colouring process.54
This can be seen from the variations in density noted in the X-radiograph and transmitted light photography, as well as the cross-sections.55
Nineteenth-century treatises detail the second application of colour after dead-colouring is used to create greater detail, light, shade, and depth. For some effects, the dead-colouring would be sufficient and therefore left; Carlyle, 201.56
Townsend, “Technical Analysis Report 2018”.57
Townsend, “Technical Analysis Report 2018”. Cross-sections revealed considerable formation of lead soap aggregates throughout the paint and ground layers, indicating the possible inclusion of lead driers in the paint.58
Carlyle, 201 and 213. Carlyle notes technical treatises only occasionally referred to painting “fat over lean” and this was often in passing and without emphasis on sound practice.59
Jefferiss, 143 (21 October).60
Jefferiss, 145 (29 November).62
Jefferiss, 143: “October 13th: Painted the Cardinal’s cloak afresh & Tom as one of the Cross-bearers.”63
Jefferiss, 145: “November 21st: painted white border to Cardinal Wolsey’s cloak.”64
Thank you to Naomi Speakman of The British Museum for advice on this point. The reference to visiting the “Museum” might possibly mean the collection at the Society of Antiquaries, or the Tower of London.68
Jefferiss, 144: “November 12th: Ben sat & I finished all the figures in my Henry 8th picture. Acad. I put the Cross and crosier in slightly.”70
Jefferiss, 142: “September 25th: Introduced a 2nd cross-bearer twixt Wolsey & the first.”71
Jefferiss, 144: “November 3rd: Ed.Smith sat for hands of Cross-bearer.”73
Jefferiss, 144: “October 22nd: … Altered the window marking it a recess.”74
Jefferiss, 142: “September 19th: Arranged Harry anew on canvass taking a hint from Vertue’s print of him with Henry VII and their Queens.”76
Jefferiss, 144: “November 4th: Painted Sir Thomas Lovel’s head. George sat for the part of head…”77
Jefferiss, 144: “November 6th: Painted Lrd. chamberlain”.78
Jefferiss, 144: “November 7th: Coachman sat for man in armour behind the king. Acad. November 8th: Painted man in armour behind the king. Acad.”79
Jefferiss, 144: “November 11th: Major Johnston sat for man holding up his finger to the Ld. Chamberlain … Ben sat for figure of Ld. Chamberlain.”80
The staff is described in innumerable guidebooks of the era, for example, B. Lambert, The History and Survey of London and Its Environs, 4 vols (London: Dewick and Clarke London Hughes, 1806), Vol. 4, 101. For a description and modern literature, see https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-3295.html.83
Cross-sections were also taken to compare the layer structures in this area.86
Carlyle, 233; and Rebecca Hellen, “‘Three Days or more …’: Turner’s Varnishing Day Practice and the Physical Evidence”, The British Art Journal 15, no. 2 (Winter 2014–2015): 47–53. Varnish was also used as a protective coating.90
Hellen, “‘Three Days or more…’”91
The restoration history of the painting is unknown prior to its gift to the collection in 1991.92
Jefferiss, 144. This occurred on 27 October.94
The relationship between the frame size and canvas size are unclear, and the three different possible composition sizes complicate this further.95
A. Johnson and S. Pascoal, “Frame Conservation Record”, Tate, London. Unpublished, 2005.96
Johnson and Pascoal, “Frame Conservation Record”.97
Vinson or Venson is noted by the Dictionary of Furniture Makers as at 16 Henrietta Street carver, gilder, and frame maker (1803–37); see British and Irish Furniture Makers Online, https://bifmo.history.ac.uk/. He was a client of the composition ornament maker and glue supplier George Jackson of Rathbone Place, as noted by Jacob Simon (qv. George Jackson in https://www.npg.org.uk/research/conservation/directory-of-british-framemakers/). He appears in the rate books for Henrietta Street from 1800 until 1838, but is otherwise obscure.98
Johnson and Pascoal, “Frame Conservation Record”. The rebates measure: right 11mm; left 17mm; top 135mm; bottom 55mm.99
Farington Diary, Vol. 13, 4460.101
The Morning Post, 8 March 1814.102
Farington Diary, Vol. 13, 4478.103
William Bissell Pope (ed.), The Diary of Benjamin Robert Haydon, 5 vols (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1960–1963), Vol. 1, 345.104
Farington Diary, Vol. 12, 4157.105
Farington Diary, Vol. 11, 4150.106
Emily Robertson (ed.), Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson MA (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1895), 45.107
University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Dr C 22/76. See also Bourdieu, Manet, 304.108
Morse, Samuel F.B. Morse, , his Letters and Journals, Vol. 1, 108. Morse, the son of a clergyman and geographer, was not actually obliged to be as penny-pinching as his letters sometimes suggest. Like other American art students in London, the pose of the struggling artist was adopted, at least in part, as a means of signalling creative authenticity and to help validate the pursuit of a career whose merits were much in question at home; see Erika Schneider, The Representation of the Struggling Artist in America, 1800–1865 (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2015).109
The interpretation of the historical evidence for household income is a complicated business, but from a variety of sources, it can be reckoned that a labourer in the building trades could earn £40–50 a year. The testimonials of domestic servants driven to pauperism indicate that they earned £7–10 a year, although with their lodgings provided by their employer. For incomes and their interpretation, see Leonard D. Schwarz, London in the Age of Industrialization: Entrepreneurs, Labour Force and Living Conditions, 1700–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 161–178. For examples of domestic servants stating their yearly income, see LL ref: WCCDEP358230110 and LL ref: WCCDEP358230118. Patrick Colquhoun estimated, in 1814, that “labouring people” would have household incomes (including wives’ earnings) of £45 a year, “Artisans” could expect £48. See the tables in his Treatise on the wealth, power, and resources, of the British Empire, in every quarter of the world, including the East Indies (London: Joseph Mawman, 1815), 124–125.110
Antony Griffiths, “The Department of Prints and Drawings during the First Century of the British Museum”, The Burlington Magazine 136, no. 1097 (1994): 531–544.111
See Martin Myrone, “Drawing after the Antique at the British Museum, 1809–1817: ‘Free’ Art Education and the Advent of the Liberal State”, British Art Studies, Issue 5 (2017), doi:10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-05/mmyrone.112
Leslie to Thomas Leslie, 2 February 1812, letter at Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, MSS 15 Series III.113
Leslie to Thomas Leslie, 2 February 1812, letter at Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, MSS 15 Series III.114
Morse, Samuel F.B. Morse, his Letters and Journals, Vol. 1, 75.115
Paul R. Weidner, “The Journal of John Blake White”, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 42, no. 2 (April 1941), 64–65.116
Tom Taylor (ed.), The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (London: Peter Davies, 1926), 64.117
Robertson, Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson MA, 43.118
Robertson, Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson MA, 54.119
Farington Diary, Vol. 8, 2959, 2961, 2966, 3056, and 3121.120
Farington Diary, Vol. 8, 3121.121
Farington Diary, Vol. 8, 3007.122
See Schwarz, London in the Age of Industrialization, 57.123
Colquhoun, Treatise on the wealth, power, and resources, 124. For a more finely detailed account of incomes in these professions, see also Muir, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune. These largely conform to Colquhoun’s estimates, though the modern historian is also able to elaborate the divergent opportunities for pay progression, bonuses, and other allowances among these different careers, as well as the different risks involved (including, of course, loss of life for those in the military). The costs of setting up in these different occupations, and the age at which a son could be expected to start working varied as well. Starting pay for clerks was £100 but could rise steeply with seniority; doctors could expect £400–500 but it could be much higher for a few fashionable or well-placed practitioners (as were the Monros). Naval officers would generally get £300 while on active service, and at least half that amount when on half-pay but could make fortunes through prize money (from the capture of enemy ships). Army officers would have an income of £100–300. Military service in the East India Company was not especially well paid, but there was the opportunity for valuable allowances. There were though extreme risks to health and well-being associated with life in India. See Muir, Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune, 48–49, 85–86, 177–178, 233–236, 258–260, 297–299, and 305–306.124
Andrew Wilton, “Dr Thomas Monro and the Monro Academy”, The Burlington Magazine 118, no. 878 (May 1976), 332 and 335.125
Annals of the Fine Arts, Vol. 1 (1817), 344.126
Pierre-Michel Menger, The Economics of Creativity: Art and Achievement under Uncertainty, trans. Steven Rendall et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 147.127
Farington Diary, Vol. 11, 3921. Collins’ son, speaking of the same period, cast his father as a studious and risk-averse student: “He neither cultivated a mustachio, displayed his neck, or trained his hair over his coat-collar into the true Raphael flow”; W. Wilkie Collins, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq, RA, 2 vols (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1848), Vol. 1, 32–33. Wilkie Collins’ image of his father contrasts intriguingly with Monro’s self-presentation in drawings and paintings as a raffish courtier or wild-eyed banditti.128
Bourdieu, Manet, 304.129
Quoted in Martin Myrone, Henry Fuseli (London: Tate Publishing, 2001), 43.130
This does seem to be a weakness among materially advantaged students. See also the detailed accounts of William Drury Shaw, a contemporary of Monro at the RA schools, sent to his uncle, who funded him through his studies (Shaw’s father, a landowner, has died, but the bequest was held up by a Chancery case): University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Dr C 22/1-79, notably Dr C 22/38 “Robert Shaw’s Account of Wm Shaw’s Debts May 1814”, which notes £45 owed to “Hawes Taylor Lambs Conduit Street 45” and £35.15 to “Shawes & Le Blanc”.131
Farington Diary, Vol. 13, 4479–4480.132
Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, 224.133
Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, ed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), 290, n. 10.134
Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, 214–215.135
Abell, Mora (2009) Doctor Thomas Monro 1759–1833: Physician, Patron and Painter. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing.
Andrews, Keith (1964) The Nazarenes: A Brotherhood of German Painters in Rome. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Andrews, Jonathan (2010) “Monro, Thomas (1759–1833), Physician and Patron of Art”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 7 January. Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18981 (accessed 24 July 2019).
Banks, Mark (2017) Creative Justice: Cultural Industries, Work and Inequality. London: Rowman & Littlefield.
Bennett, Susan (2008) “I awleis admired your talent”: The Artistic Life of Georgiana Jane Henderson (nee Keate) (1771–1850). Berlin: VDM Verlag Dr Müller.
Boltanski, Luc and Chiapello, Ève (2018 ) The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1991) Language and Symbolic Power, ed. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: Polity.
Bourdieu, Pierre (2000) Pascalian Meditations, trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity.
Bourdieu, Pierre (2017) Manet: A Symbolic Revolution, trans. Pierre Collier and Margaret Rigaud-Drayton. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Caplan, Clive (1998) “Jane Austen’s Banker Brother: Henry Thomas Austen of Austen & Co, 1801–1816”. Persuasions no. 20: 69–90.
Carlyle, Leslie (2001) The Artist’s Assistant: Oil Painting Instruction Manuals and Handbooks in Britain 1800–1900 with Reference to Selected Eighteenth-century Sources. London: Archetype Publications.
Clery, E.J. (2017) Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister. London: Biteback Publishing.
Collins, W. Wilkie (1848) Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq, RA, 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman.
Colquhoun, Patrick (1815) Treatise on the wealth, power, and resources, of the British Empire, in every quarter of the world, including the East Indies. London: Joseph Mawman.
Derrida, Jacques (2006) Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York: Routledge.
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- Anna Cooper, Martin Myrone
- 30 June 2020
- Review status
- Peer Reviewed (Double Blind)
- CC BY-NC International 4.0
- PDF format
- Cite as
- Anna Cooper, Martin Myrone, "The Social Economics of Artistic Labour: A Technical Case Study of Henry Monro’s Disgrace of Wolsey (1814)", British Art Studies, Issue 16, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-16/coopermyrone