Not currently on display at the V&A

A Seated Man with a Dog; Mr Nicholas

Oil Painting
late 18th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This oil portrait of a ‘Mr Nicholas’ in full dress, depicted as if resting during a country walk, is typical of late-18th century British portraiture. The tradition of the country gentleman in nature is particularly epitomized in the early work of Thomas Gainsborough. Wilson was a Leeds-born portraitist, engraver and scientist. Upon settling in London, he befriended the likes of William Hogarth and David Garrick and set up his own successful portrait practice as well as painting theatre pieces. Although he exhibited rarely, he was appointed Sergeant Painter to the monarchy and painter to the Board of Ordnance. Later in life, he became a renowned chemist, earning a fellowship of the Royal Society for his work on electricity.


Object details

Categories
Object type
Titles
  • A Seated Man with a Dog; Mr Nicholas (generic title)
  • Mr. Nicholas (popular title)
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Oil painting, A Seated Man with a Dog; Mr Nicholas, by Benjamin Wilson, British School, late 18th century
Physical description
Full-length portrait of a middle-aged man, seated in a landscape with a dog, turned slightly to the left and looking to the right. He is holding a cane in his right hand and is wearing a glove on his left.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 12.75in
  • Estimate width: 10.625in
  • Height: 32.4cm
  • Width: 30cm
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Style
Credit line
Bequeathed by Claude D. Rotch
Object history
Bequeathed by C.D. Rotch.

Mr. C. D. Rotch, of Wimbledon, London, was a collector with a particular interest in furniture. Like other furniture collectors of the early 20th century he was influenced by the furniture connoisseur and dealer R.W. Symonds. Following the prevailing taste of the time, his collection focused on early to mid-Georgian carved mahogany examples and was later bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum on his death in 1962 (see R.W. Symonds, 'Mr. C.D. Rotch's Collection of Furniture', Country Life, 7 June 1924, pp.937-39). At the time, his bequest was described by the authorities as "The most remarkable single gift of English Furniture ever presented to the Museum". The bequest also included just over twenty 17th, 18th and early 19th century portraits and figure studies, in pastel and in oil, as well as a selection of still lives and animal pictures.
Historical context
This is an oil portrait by Benjamin Wilson of a country gentleman identified as ‘Mr Nicholas’ of whom nothing further is at present known. The sitter is depicted as if resting on a country walk, in full fashionable dress, and prominently wears two gold fob seals hanging from his waistcoat, indicating his gentlemanly status. The composition is balanced and ordered, with the head of ‘Mr Nicholas’ forming the apex of a triangle formed by the slope of his right arm and leg and the back of the dog on its hind legs.

The image of the country gentleman in a natural setting, with a dog acting as his faithful companion, is typical of late-18th century British portraiture. It recalls another portrait by Wilson, Charles Ingram, later 9th Viscount Irwin, (Temple Newsam, Leeds). The tradition is epitomized by the work of Thomas Gainsborough (see for example The Gravenor Family, B1977.14.56, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven; and the famous Mr and Mrs Andrews, NG6301, National Gallery, London).

Benjamin Wilson was a Leeds-born portrait painter, engraver and scientist who moved to London when his father fell on hard times. Here he trained with the portrait painter Thomas Hudson, became acquainted with, among others, the painters William Hogarth, George Lambert and the actor David Garrick. He quickly established a successful portrait practice, as well as painting theatre pieces. He exhibited rarely (four portraits in 1760 and 1761 at the Society of Artists and one history painting in 1783 at the Royal Academy of Art) but held key artistic appointments as Sergeant Painter to the monarchy and painter to the Board of Ordnance. He also became a renowned chemist, earning a fellowship of the Royal Society for his work on electricity.
Production
The sitter is said to be a Mr. Nicholas.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This oil portrait of a ‘Mr Nicholas’ in full dress, depicted as if resting during a country walk, is typical of late-18th century British portraiture. The tradition of the country gentleman in nature is particularly epitomized in the early work of Thomas Gainsborough. Wilson was a Leeds-born portraitist, engraver and scientist. Upon settling in London, he befriended the likes of William Hogarth and David Garrick and set up his own successful portrait practice as well as painting theatre pieces. Although he exhibited rarely, he was appointed Sergeant Painter to the monarchy and painter to the Board of Ordnance. Later in life, he became a renowned chemist, earning a fellowship of the Royal Society for his work on electricity.
Bibliographic reference
Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1962. London: HMSO, 1964.
Collection
Accession number
P.39-1962

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Record createdFebruary 14, 2007
Record URL
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