FRANCIS HAYMAN (BRITISH 1708-1776) AND STUDIO
BUILDING HOUSES WITH CARDS
Oil on canvas
141 x 203.5cm (55½ x 80 in.)
(Possibly) W.H. Forman Collection, Dorking, and by descent in 1869 to
(Possibly) Major A.S.C. Browne, Callaly Castle, Northumberland
Bell of Newcastle
Viscount and Viscountess Gort, Hamsterley Hall, County Durham, and by descent to the present owner
(This item was inherited from the 7th Viscount Gort, deemed to be of national importance and placed into conditional exemption upon his death)
Kenwood, Iveagh Bequest, The French Taste in English Painting during the first half of the 18th century , Summer 1968, no. 35.
A Description of Vaux-Hall Gardens , London, 1762, p. 30, no. 6.
The Ambulator, or the Stranger's Companion in a Tour Round London...comprehending Catalogues of the Pictures by Eminent Artists , London, 1782, p. 200, no. 6.
R. Edwards, An Attribution to Highmore , Burlington Magazine, XCI, July 1949, p. 206.
L. Gowing, Hogarth, Hayman and the Vauxhall Decorations , Burlington Magazine, XCV, January 1953, pp. 9-11, fig. 6 (detail).
R. Edwards, Hayman or Gravelot? , Burlington Magazine, XCV, April 1953, p. 142.
D. Fitzgerald, Gravelot and his influence on English Furniture , Apollo, XC, August 1969, p. 141.
J. Hayes, The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, A Critical Text and Catalogue Raisonné , I, London, 1982, p. 33-34, pl. 33.
B. Allen, Francis Hayman and the Supper-Box Paintings for Vauxhall Gardens , The Rococo in England : A Symposium, C. Hind (ed.), London, 1986, pp. 130-131.
B. Allen, Francis Hayman , 1987, p. 180, no. 176.
D. Coke and A. Borg, Vauxhall Gardens: A History , New Haven and London, 2011, pp. 103 and 365, no. 6, fig. 85.
This picture is one of about fifteen surviving decorations for the 'arbours' or supper boxes that adorned Jonathan Tyers' pleasure gardens at Vauxhall. Situated just south of the Thames, the gardens were a highly fashionable destination for London's beau monde. With the help of some of the most creative avant-garde artists of his time, Tyers turned Vauxhall into the favourite haunt of elegant London society; a place to dine, to socialise and to admire sculptures and paintings in the open air. The original fifty supper boxes surrounded the central quadrangle, called the Grove, and all contained pictures of approximately eight feet across, portraying a variety of light-hearted subjects.
Most early documenters ascribe the greater part of the Vauxhall decorations to Francis Hayman and his talented pupils, who worked on the boxes from about 1738 to 1760. Probably among them was the young Thomas Gainsborough (1727- 1788), to whose hand Professor Lawrence Gowing, in his pioneering article on the Vauxhall decorations (Burlington, 1953), tentatively attributes the head of the central, seated youth in the present picture. Hugh Belsey, however, doubts Gainsborough's involvement in this work. Hayman's fellow artists also contributed to a number of his designs and Gowing ascertains that Building Houses with Cards was a collaboration between Hayman and the French engraver, Hubert François Gravelot (1699-1773). This supposition is apparently confirmed by the inscription on a 1743 engraving by Louis Truchy: 'Gravelot Invent F. Hayman Pinxt', which can be found in the collection of the British Museum.
Many of the surviving panels are currently kept in important museum collections, seven of which residing in the V&A in London. Most of them were also influenced by decorative French engravings of the 1730s; The See-Saw , currently in the collection of the Tate, was also recorded in an engraving by Truchy. With this first major decorative commission in Tyers' fashionable establishment, Hayman contributed greatly to the spread of French Rococo taste in England.
The canvas is lined and on a later stretcher, which provides good support. Some abrasions around the edges from contact with the frame. The paint layer is stable but thin in some areas. UV light reveals scattered patches of retouching, most prominently in the figure in the yellow dress. A layer of surface dirt and discoloured varnish.
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