Chinese street scene with figures
- Place of origin:
Chinnery, born 1774 - died 1852 (painter (artist))
- Materials and Techniques:
Oil on canvas
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Claude D. Rotch
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
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.
George Chinnery (1774-1852) was born in London, the son of a writing m aster with artistic ambition, who exhibited portraits at the Free Society of Artists in 1764 and 1766. George established himself as a miniature painter (small portraits in watercolour on ivory), exhibiting miniature portraits at the Royal Academy from 1791 to 1795. In 1796 he moved to Dublin, where he had some relations, marrying there in 1799. He began to paint landscapes and large portraits in oil. The abolition of the Irish parliament in 1800 led to many of Dublin's wealthier inhabitants to leave the city, and perhaps for this reason, fearing the loss of potential patrons) Chinnery also departed the city. In 1802 he received permission from the East India company to travel from England to India, where he worked as a painter, leaving his wife and children behind in Britain. He was initially based in Madras with his elder brother, a merchant and employee of the East India Company. Gradually he received more prestigious portrait commissions, and by 1812, he was established in Calcutta as the principal Western artists in the capital of British India. His wife rejoined him there in 1818. While in India he made many sketches in pencil of local life, people engaged in their everyday activities, and painted scenes of local architecture in watercolour. Although he was successful and well paid, he was often in debt. In 1825 he abandoned his wife and creditors and sailed for China. He was based in the Portuguese enclave of Macau, which was to be his home for the rest of his life, apart from visits to Canton (modern Guangzhou), Whampoa and Hong Kong. Trade between China and the West was centred on Canton, but Western merchants were only allowed to stay there briefly, and their families were based in Macau. As in India, Chinnery sketched local scenes in pencil, painting finished topographical scenes in watercolour and in oil back in his studio. He received commissions however for portraits of British merchants, especially those associated with the firm of Jardine, Matheson, and also painted Chinese, Portuguese, American, Swedish and Parsi sitters. Chinnery's Chinese sitters included many Cantonese "hong merchants" who were responsible for all dealings with Western traders. As Hong Kong developed in the 1840s the Western traders and their families began to move from Macau to the new settlement. But Chinnery chose to stay in his home in Macau and died there in 1852 from a stroke.
During Chinnery's last years in China he had a number of Chinese followers, who painted in the European style. As these artists frequently copied his pictures, both portraits and landscapes, and Chinnery himself painted copies of his own works but rarely signed his paintings, inevitably there have been difficulties in securing attributions to Chinnery. The attribution of this painting to Chinnery however has not been questioned.
Chinnery moved to Macau in 1825 at the age of 51. From 1803 until 1830 he had sent no works for exhibition at the Royal Academy, and when he began exhibiting again in 1830, from China, he sent only portraits rather than street scenes such as this one. Chinnery spent much of his time in Macau observing and painting the landscape and life around him, sketching in pencil and working up watercolours and oils in his studio. However, even these worked up paintings were usually on a small scale, partly perhaps because there was a fashion for paintings that could fit the small rooms of the houses of his customers in Macau, Western merchants in the Chinese trade, doctors and the military. It has also been suggested that it was because of his weakened health, though it may also have been the expense of paying for imported materials. But it has been noted that as his works became smaller in scale they became more simple and delicate even when painted in oil. Street scenes such as this one and P.38-1928, were painted either for his own interest or for the expatriate market in and around Macau.
Painting showing a Chinese street scene with figures. Slightly left of the centre is a stall serving food, around which figures are gathered. In the right foreground a man is sitting on the ground and eating from a bowl. In the background are buildings.
Place of Origin
Chinnery, born 1774 - died 1852 (painter (artist))
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Height: 24.1 cm without frame, Width: 20.3 cm without frame, Height: 308 mm framed, Width: 268 mm framed, Depth: 45 mm framed
A Chinese street scene with figures. Oil painting by George Chinnery, 1825-1852.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1962. London: HMSO, 1964.
The full text of the entry is as follows:
"CHINNERY, George (1774-1852) […]
Chinese street scene with figures.
Oil on canvas. 24.1 x 20.3 cm. P.28-1962
Bequeathed by Claude D. Rotch"
Patrick Connor The Flamboyant Mr Chinnery. An English Artist in India and China Bangkok: River Books Co Ltd, 2010. ISBN: 978 616 7339 12 2.
Portugal and England: an historic alliance (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon 20/11/1994-20/01/1995)
George Chinnery and Art in Canton, Macao, and Hong Kong in the 19th century (Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, Japan 01/12/1996-28/02/1997)
This painted would have been made after 1825 when the artist was living in China.
Oil paint; Canvas
Street; Food; China; Stall