Saturday, February 13, 2016

Portrait of a Lady - Francis Swithin Anderton

If there's one thing I'm more inclined to spend money on than books, it's art (if there's a thing I wish I'd worked harder at, as well as having more natural talent for, it's also art - but never mind) maybe in part because I grew up with a plenty of it around. My great grandfather (Francis Swithin Anderton) was a painter, he died in 1909 when he was 41, just before my grandfather was born, regrettably all I really know of him is a handful of portraits that my father has, a few photos of more portraits scattered around the family, and more contemporary photos that show him and others dressed up - presumably prior to being painted, but maybe just for fun.

It's more than enough to be intriguing but sadly it's all I have. Well, almost all I have. One of the portraits that dad had - a small study on board of an unknown woman's head - got damaged when something went badly wrong with a boiler and the cupboard she was stored in got flooded. Since then she had been stuck at the back of more cupboards and had probably come to feel quite neglected. Then over new year she came up in conversation and we agreed that if I got her restored I could keep her (no more cupboards). 

A few days after we got home she arrived in the post. Unwrapping her was a nervous moment, partly because it was a long time since I'd seen her and I couldn't remember how bad the damage was, and partly because I've seen how my postman treats books. Fortunately he takes better care of pictures. After that it was a case of finding a restorer.

Dad recommended someone good in the borders but I wanted someone local - once I'd got my hands on her I was impatient to start the process and to get her back, but it also needed to be someone who came with decent recommendations. In the end I called a couple of galleries and when they both suggested the same person I was happy to go to her. 

So then it was off to the rather more local Oakham and the expert ministrations of the restorer, 2 weeks later she was ready to pick up and this is what I got back...

I was not disappointed with the result, and even happier that the eventual cost was comfortably below the initial quote. The next step was to get a frame, I remember her on the wall when I was a child, but not her frame. Dad recalled something ornate and gold coloured, and with luck one day I might come accross a suitable period frame, but for now I wanted something reasonably broad but also plain. D doesn't like my choice, but after spending quite a lot of time with the framer exploring different colours, widths, and styles, I'm happy that I made the right choice.


And here she is (sitting on a table, I don't have panelled walls). I really am pleased with the results, she's something beautiful for me to look at which is very satisfying, but it also feels good to have rescued a little bit of family history for posterity (or at least having saved dad the cost of doing so). 

18 comments:

  1. That's brilliant Hayley. It's a beautiful painting but the story that goes with it makes it really special. Well done for rescuing it.

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    1. I'm trying to work out who she might be now. I think she must have been a relative but no idea who.

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    1. I'm so pleased with how she's turned out :)

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  3. Very lovely and how nice that it is by a relative. I would love to have more money and wall space for art, but it will be lovely one day to have my Mum's excellent paintings on my walls.

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    1. I find the problem is wall space now - though a larger budget would be fun too. Having your mothers paintings will be wonderful, nothing beats that personal connection.

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  4. I can't begin to express how happy I am with her, not least because looking at her takes me back to childhood and very early art appreciation

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  5. I think you made the perfect choice of frame; an elaborate gold one would have not suited her at all. How lucky you are!

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  6. Beautiful. Priceless. A real treasure. I think she is happy to be restored and out of the cupboard.

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  7. It's gorgeous and I like your choice of frame too. I bet she is pleased to be giving so much happiness. And also to be the recipient of so much care and attention.

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    1. I hope so! I'm really curious about who she might be now. We have a habit of assuming any portraits of women by Francis Swithin are my great grandmother, but this was painted before they met, done on board which has a rough landscape on the other side, and doesn't look like it's been primed. It was in my great great uncles house and I'm rather assuming was painted whilst F. S was on holiday there. It's clearly someone they were both fond of, but not a sister. When I'm next at dads I'm going to have a good hunt through old photos and such to see if I can find any clues.

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    2. Oh how exciting! I hope you do find her. Keep us all posted, won't you? Nosy types like to be informed... :)

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    3. It's safe to assume I will keep you posted!!

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