Sir James Thornhill
Self portrait, detail of a painting in the Painted Hall of the Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, London
|Born||25 July 1675|
|Died||4 May 1734 58)(aged|
Sir James Thornhill (25 July 1675 or 1676 – 4 May 1734) was an English painter of historical subjects working in the Italian baroque tradition. He was responsible for some large-scale schemes of murals, including the "Painted Hall" at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, the paintings on the inside of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, and works at Chatsworth House and Wimpole Hall.
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.
The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed Renaissance art and Mannerism and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well.
Thornhill was born in Melcombe Regis, Dorset, the son of Walter Thornhill of Wareham and Mary, eldest daughter of Colonel William Sydenham, governor of Weymouth. In 1689 he was apprenticed to Thomas Highmore (1660–1720), a specialist in non-figurative decorative painting. He also learned a great deal from Antonio Verrio and Louis Laguerre, two prominent foreign decorative painters then working in England. He completed his apprenticeship in 1696 and, on 1 March 1704, became a Freeman of the Painter-Stainers' Company of London.
Melcombe Regis is an area of Weymouth in Dorset, England.
Wareham is a historic market town and, under the name Wareham Town, a civil parish, in the English county of Dorset. The town is situated on the River Frome eight miles (13 km) southwest of Poole.
Weymouth is a seaside town in Dorset, England, situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey on the English Channel coast. The town is 11 kilometres (7 mi) south of Dorchester and 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Isle of Portland. Weymouth has a metropolitan population of 71,611 (2018). The town is the third largest settlement in Dorset after Bournemouth and Poole.
Thornhill decorated palace interiors with large-scale compositions, with figures commonly shown in idealized and rhetorical postures. In 1707 he was given the commission to decorate the Hall now known as the "Painted Hall" at Greenwich Naval College (1707–1727). The scheme of allegorical wall and ceiling decorations of the hall depicts the Protestant succession of English monarchs from William III and Mary II to George I.
William III, also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from the 1670s and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death, co-reigning with his wife, Queen Mary II. Popular histories usually refer to their joint reign as that of William and Mary. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known as "King Billy" in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where his victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by Unionists and Ulster loyalists.
Mary II was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, co-reigning with her husband, King William III & II, from 1689 until her death. Popular histories usually refer to their joint reign as that of William and Mary.
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire from 23 January 1698 until his death in 1727. He was the first British monarch of the House of Hanover.
On 28 June 1715 Thornhill was awarded the commission to decorate the dome of St Paul's Cathedral by "a whig, low-church dominated committee inspired by a moral Anglican nationalism".The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Tenison, is said to have remarked: "I am no judge of painting, but on two articles I think I may insist: first that the painter employed be a Protestant; and secondly that he be an Englishman". The Weekly Packet said that the decision to award Thornhill the commission would "put to silence all the loud applauses hitherto given to foreign artists". The eight scenes in the dome (1716–19), executed in grisaille, show episodes from the Life of St. Paul.
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren's lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral building largely destroyed in the Great Fire, now often referred to as Old St Paul's Cathedral, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London, including Paul's walk and St. Paul's Churchyard being the site of St. Paul's Cross.
Thomas Tenison was an English church leader, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1694 until his death. During his primacy, he crowned two British monarchs.
A grisaille is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco illustrated. Paintings executed in brown are referred to as brunaille, and paintings executed in green are called verdaille.
Thornhill's vast murals in great houses often related to topical events, as seen through the eyes of his mainly Whig patrons. At Chatsworth, during 1707-8 Thornhill painted a number of walls and ceilings, the most notable being the continuous wall and ceiling painting of the Sabine room, then a lobby, but since used as a bedroom. Here he painted The Rape of the Sabine Women, a vast panorama of mounted warriors carrying off the Sabine women to Rome. He chooses to feature strongly Hersilia, who was deified for her loyalty to her Roman husband, Romulus, as against her Sabine family - a deliberate reference to Mary, lauded by the Whigs for supporting her Protestant husband, William, against her Catholic father, James.
The Rape of the Sabine Women was an incident in Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from the other cities in the region. It has been a frequent subject of artists, particularly during the Renaissance and post-Renaissance eras.
In Roman mythology, Hersilia was a figure in the foundation myth of Rome. She is credited with ending the war between Rome and the Sabines.
Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus and his contemporaries. Although many of these traditions incorporate elements of folklore, and it is not clear to what extent a historical figure underlies the mythical Romulus, the events and institutions ascribed to him were central to the myths surrounding Rome's origins and cultural traditions.
At Hanbury Hall, beneath an imposing view of both the Olympian Gods and the story of Achilles which dominates the ceiling of the main staircase, Thornhill added a small portrait of Rev Henry Sacheverell, a Tory propagandist put on trial for sedition by the Whig government in 1710, being cast to the Furies to be burnt. In 1716 Thornhill painted the ceiling of the Great Hall in Blenheim Palace for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, newly returned to the country after being prosecuted by the Tory ministry in the last years of Queen Anne. The subject is, inevitably, the Duke's 1704 victory at the Battle of Blenheim, during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Hanbury Hall is a large stately home, built in the early 18th century, standing in parkland at Hanbury, Worcestershire.
Henry Sacheverell was an English high church Anglican clergyman who achieved nationwide fame in 1709 after preaching an incendiary 5 November sermon. He was subsequently impeached by the House of Commons and though he was found guilty, his light punishment was seen as a vindication and he became a popular figure in the country, contributing to the Tories' landslide victory at the general election of 1710.
A Tory is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English culture throughout history. The Tory ethos has been summed up with the phrase "God, Queen, and Country". Tories generally advocate monarchism, and were historically of a high church Anglican religious heritage, opposed to the liberalism of the Whig faction.
His last major commission was to paint the chapel at Wimpole Hall;he started work on the preliminary sketches in 1713 and the work was finished by 1724. The north wall has fictive architecture and four Trompe-l'œil "statues" of the four Doctors of the Church. The east wall above the altar is painted with the Adoration of the Magi.
In 1725 he offered to paint decorations for the ceiling of the New Council Chamber at the Guildhall in the City of London. He gave his services free, although he was rewarded with a valuable gold cup. The chamber was later demolished, though some of the paintings – an Allegory of London, and representations of the Cardinal Virtues, personified as naked children – survive.
In his native Dorset Thornhill decorated the reredos at St. Mary's Church, Weymouth, with a picture of the Last Supper.Thornhill was also a notable portraitist.
In 1711, Thornhill was one of the twelve original directors of Sir Godfrey Kneller's academy at Great Queen Street, London. In 1716, he succeeded Kneller as Governor there and held the post until 1720. He then established his own private drawing school at Covent Garden, but this soon closed. In November 1724, Thornhill made a second, more successful, attempt to establish a new free academy in his private house at Covent Garden.
William Hogarth seems to have been a member of Thornhill's second academy from the beginning. On 23 March 1729 he married Thornhill's daughter Jane. Thornhill was with Hogarth when he went to see Sarah Malcolm in Newgate prison just days before her execution. This was in order that Hogarth might record her portrait.
In June 1718 George I made Thornhill court painter, and in March 1720 Serjeant Painter, succeeding his former master Highmore in the latter role. On 2 May 1720, the king knighted him, the first native artist to be knighted.In the same year, he was master of the Painters' Company and in 1723 fellow of the Royal Society.
Thornhill was returned unopposed as Member of Parliament for Melcombe Regis at the 1722 British general election. He was returned in a contest at the 1727 British general election. During his time, he voted regularly with the Government. He presented to the church an altar -piece painted by himself.
In 1718 Thornhill took a large house on Covent Garden Piazza, and in 1725 he renovated Thornhill House in the south of Stalbridge, near Sturminster Newton, Dorset, in the Palladian manner.
In 1720 he tried his hand at architecture. Along with Giacomo Leoni, he designed Moor Park,for which he also painted the entrance hall ceiling and other rooms.
Towards the end of his life Thornhill was receiving no major commissions, so he began to copy the Raphael Cartoons, then at Hampton Court. Apart from full-size copies, completed in 1731, he made 162 smaller studies of heads, hands and feet intending to publish them in printed form for the use of art students, but left this work unfinished at his death. The original small wash designs of details of the cartoons are now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Thornhill's copies of the cartoons were sold by auction by Christopher Cock on 24 and 25 February 1735 at his room in the Great Piazza, Covent Garden.
William Kent was an eminent English architect, landscape architect, painter and furniture designer of the early 18th century. He began his career as a painter, and became Principal Painter in Ordinary or court painter, but his real talent was for design in various media.
Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1st Baronet, was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and was court painter to English and British monarchs from Charles II to George I. His major works include The Chinese Convert ; a series of four portraits of Isaac Newton painted at various junctures of the latter's life; a series of ten reigning European monarchs, including King Louis XIV of France; over 40 "kit-cat portraits" of members of the Kit-Cat Club; and ten "beauties" of the court of William III, to match a similar series of ten of Charles II's mistresses painted by Kneller's predecessor as court painter, Sir Peter Lely.
The Italian-born Antonio Verrio was responsible for introducing Baroque mural painting into England and served the Crown over a thirty-year period.
Louis Laguerre was a French decorative painter mainly working in England.
Trompe-l'œil is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.
Wimpole Estate is a large estate containing Wimpole Hall, a country house located within the Parish of Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, about 8 1⁄2 miles southwest of Cambridge. The house, begun in 1640, and its 3,000 acres (12 km2) of parkland and farmland are owned by the National Trust. The estate is regularly open to the public and received over 300,000 visitors in 2018. Wimpole is the largest house in Cambridgeshire.
James Gibbs was one of Britain's most influential architects. Born in Scotland, he trained as an architect in Rome, and practised mainly in England. He is an important figure whose work spanned the transition between English Baroque architecture and a Georgian architecture heavily influenced by Andrea Palladio. Among his most important works are St Martin-in-the-Fields, the cylindrical, domed Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University, and the Senate House at Cambridge University
Thomas Archer (1668–1743) was an English Baroque architect, whose work is somewhat overshadowed by that of his contemporaries Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor.
Moor Park is a Palladian mansion set within several hundred acres of parkland to the south-east of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England. It is called Moor Park Mansion because it is in the old park of the Manor of More. It now serves as the clubhouse of Moor Park Golf Club.
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini was one of the leading Venetian history painters of the early 18th century. His style melded the Renaissance style of Paolo Veronese with the Baroque of Pietro da Cortona and Luca Giordano. He travelled widely on commissions which brought him to England, the Southern Netherlands, the Dutch Republic, Germany, Austria and France. He is considered an important predecessor of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. One of his pupils was Antonio Visentini.
Events from the year 1707 in art.
John Nost was a Flemish sculptor who worked in England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Events from the year 1734 in Great Britain.
The Serjeant Painter was an honourable and lucrative position as court painter with the English monarch. It carried with it the prerogative of painting and gilding all of the King's residences, coaches, banners, etc. and it grossed over £1,000 in a good year by the 18th century. The work itself involved painting the palaces, coaches, royal barges, and all sorts of decorations for festivities, which often had to be designed as well. The actual involvement of the Serjeant Painters in this gradually declined. The post itself fell out of use in the 18th century, after a period when "fine art" painters were appointed, and expected to supervise rather than execute decorative painting, for a good salary.
The St Martin's Lane Academy, a precursor of the Royal Academy, was organised in 1735 by William Hogarth, from the circle of artists and designers who gathered at Slaughter's Coffee House at the upper end of St Martin's Lane, London. The artistic set that introduced the Rococo style to England was centred on "Old Slaughter's" and the drawing-classes at the St. Martin's Lane Academy were inextricably linked in the dissemination of new artistic ideas in England in the reigns of George II and George III.
Arthur Devis was a Lancashire-born artist, half-brother of the painter Anthony Devis (1729–1816), and father of painters Thomas Anthony Devis (1757–1810) and Arthur William Devis (1762–1822). Arthur was taught by the Flemish painter Peter Tillemans. Though his early work was in part as a landscape artist, he also drew upon family connections to win clientele for portraits of the members of pro-Jacobite Lancashire families. In fact, by 1737 he had gravitated to portrait painting, setting up a studio in London.
Peter Tillemans was a Flemish painter, best known for his works on sporting and topographical subjects. Alongside John Wootton and James Seymour, he was one of the founders of the English school of sporting painting.
Samuel Scott was a British landscape painter known for his riverside scenes and seascapes.
Francesco Sleter was an Italian painter, active in England.
Joseph van Aken was a Flemish artist, a portrait, genre and drapery painter who spent most of his career in England. He was noted for his skill in painting fabrics, and was employed as a costume painter by many leading artists.
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|Parliament of Great Britain|
| Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis |
With: William Betts 1722–1730
Thomas Pearse 1722–1727, 1727–1734
John Ward 1722–1726
John Willes 1726–1727
Edward Tucker 1727–1734
George Dodington 1730–1734