- Museum number
London, from the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead; distant view to the south over trees and bushes. 1776
- Production date
Height: 200 millimetres
Width: 287 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Milner dates this drawing to the early 1780s on stylistic grounds (see Barbara Milner, 'Thomas Hearne, 1744-1817: A catalogue of his watercolours and drawings in the British Museum', unpublished typescript (MA report for Courtauld Institute), 1983, no. 4). However, there is evidence that it was drawn on a sketching expedition with William Parsons and William Woollett in 1776 and their drawings are also in the collection here (1936,1202.2 and 1853,1210.659). See K Sloan, 'Noble Art', BM exh. cat., 2000, nos 143-145 (text below):
In 1776 William Woollett, Engraver to the King, Thomas Hearne, watercolourist, Sir George Beaumont, collector and patron and William Parsons, actor and comedian, went on a sketching expedition to Spaniard's Inn above Hampstead Heath. Three of their resulting drawings are now in the British Museum.
Woollett was one of a group of engravers who built their reputations on engraving the best works by the best masters (he earned £7,000-8,000 from his print after West's Death of Wolfe). They were visited by wealthy connoisseurs who watched them work and to whom they sold their prints. Their shops bore select addresses and they dressed themselves well and 'cultivated an urbanity of manners' which permitted them to associate freely with their clients. Woollett received his royal appointment in 1775, which ensured his success, and he was able to issue proofs before letters and proofs on India paper for print connoisseurs at three times the price of ordinary impressions. His income was high which was just as well, as his wife bore him at least five sets of twins and one set of triplets before his early death in 1785. He was successful enough not to need to sell the works of other engravers and he had a large number of pupils, including Thomas Hearne.
Woollett seems to have formed a particular friendship with the Reverend Charles Davy (1722-97) of Henstead in Suffolk, tutor to Sir George Beaumont. Davy was the friend of a number of artists, including Beaumont's drawing master at Eton, Alexander Cozens. In the spring of 1771, Davy took his pupil to London for six weeks, and nearly every day was spent in Woollett's shop, watching Hearne and Woollett engrave and discussing paintings. Beaumont later claimed that this was when his 'love for painting was completely confirmed.' Farington later recorded that 'Sir George, who was then a pupil to Mr Davy then sketched Heads only, but being pleased with the sketches of Landscape made by Woollett and Hearne, he became their imitator' (Diary, 5 July 1809). The two engravers were invited to Henstead for the summer, passed 'in perfect happiness' sketching all day and talking of paintings all night.'
Hearne went off the Leeward Islands afterwards and Beaumont to Oxford, where he entered the circle of Malchair and the Bowles family and their amateur dramatics at North Aston, which included the company of Thomas Jones and George Dance. He took every opportunity to perform himself and to see his favourite actors, particularly Garrick, at Drury Lane, and became friendly with several of them, especially William Parsons. Apprenticed to a surveyor, Parsons had begun to play as an amateur in theatrical productions and encouraged by his success, he took it up professionally, intending to fall back on his ability to paint fruit and landscapes for additional income if necessary. He exhibited paintings at the Free Society of Artists and Society of Artists in 1765 and 1773 respectively as an Honorary Exhibitor, but by this time was a prolific actor. The present drawing is his only known surviving work, but the DNB (1895) records that John Bannister, a fellow actor and comedian, owned a view by Parsons 'the details of which are admirable, of the city and St. Pauls from the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead' then in a private collection at Ware Priory, Hertfordshire. The earlier provenance of the present work is not known and it is impossible to say whether the DNB was describing a watercolour or oil. Nevertheless this small drawing was clearly the result of the sketching expedition made with Woollett, Hearne and Beaumont in 1776. Hearne's drawing is unfinished but was clearly treasured for another purpose, perhaps the memory of this occasion, as it has been carefully mounted, a treatment normally reserved for finished works.
Literature: Hardie, I, pp. 174-6; Sloan, 'Alexander and John Robert Cozens', 1986, pp. 57-8; Brown and Owen, 'Sir George Beaumont', pp. 10-12, 22-3, 28; David Morris, Thomas Hearne and his landscape, London 1989, pp. 6-7, Timothy Clayton, The English Print, pp. 210, 229
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.145
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number