Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Bit More Family Art

Having established that I have no idea who the woman in my painting is, and no information at hand that might help me work out who she is, I asked my father if he had any clues. He says not, but still though she might be his grandmother. I can say for sure she isn't, the date of 1896 means it was painted when she would have been between 14 and 15 years old, which was before she had met her future husband. Also hair and eyes are the wrong colour, she's much blonder in every other painting I've seen of her. 

It's an intriguing mystery that I'd love to solve. My unknown lady was in the house I grew up in, in Shetland, which had belonged to my great great uncle (I'll call him by his initials - H.F.A). He bought it in the late 1880's essentially for summer holidays and family gatherings. The back of my picture has a rough seascape in it, and the panel doesn't look like it had much done in the way of priming or preparation which makes me think it was painted on one of those family holidays. So. Not a wife, not a sister, but someone close enough to go all the way to Shetland for a visit, and for lifelong bachelor H.F.A to keep a portrait of... 

Meanwhile I've got some very bad photographs of pictures of the two brothers painted by Francis Swithin Anderton (F.S.A) which from memory both date from around 1900 which were also in the house. Next time I see them I must get better photos. I particularly like both of these for different reasons.

First up is H.F.A painted by his brother as the respectable business man, JP, and general pillar of the community that he was. It strikes me as an affectionate portrait as well as one that wouldn't have looked out of place on a board room wall, and though you wouldn't know it from this picture, it's a really nice bit of painting. The phot below shows him again, the giant bird and a clear struggle not to giggle make him look like rather more fun.

And then there's this beauty - it's how F.S.A chose to show himself... 

In life the colours are even more vivid, the suit (which looks like it's velvet) a deep wine colour, and the overall impression is of a man fresh from a debate with Oscar Wilde on the correct shade of carnation one could wear with such an outfit. There are discernible pentimenti so he obviously went to quite some trouble over this self portrait. The two pictures are also the same size with matching frames, and clearly meant to hang as a pair. The photo below (almost certainly not a mug shot) is him again. I really want to know him better. 


  1. He certainly looks like a fascinating and complex individual, and I hope you do find out more about him! Looks quite the bon viveur, with a sense of humour.

  2. I would love to know more about him, even just see another portrait. When I look at this one I feel like he's chosen to caricature himself - it really is a very camp portrait and makes me think he must, as you say, have had a sense of humour.

  3. Thank you for posting this online its really interesting to see the portraits and find out more about the Andertons. I am researching Swithin Anderton 1803-1860 I wondered if there is a portrait of him anywhere or if anyone had written about him. Thanks Steve

  4. Your Swithin Anderton sounds like my Francis Swithin Andertons grandfather. I haven't seen anything written about him, but I know that his Grandson, Herbert Foster Anderton was keen on genealogy so it's possible that there might be something somewhere. There is an email address in my profile link if you would like to contact me directly. I'd be really interested to hear anything about what you have found so far.

  5. Dear Desperate Reader, my great grandfather was Francis Swithin Anderton. I know a bit about him, but my Aunt Lucinda (Chubb), his grand daughter, knows a lot more and is in touch with Marjorie (your cousin?).

    1. Marjorie is my aunt, Lucinda is my father's cousin but they've lost touch. I'd be really grateful for any information you can give me - my email address is in my profile, or if it's appropriate if you would put me in touch with your aunt. Because Francis Swithin died so young (just before my grandfather was born) I really only know bare bones of his story. I'd love to know more, and also about your grandmother who seemed a remarkable woman from what little I knew of her.