Thursday 30 January 2014

The Neate Children - Portrait by Joshua Reynolds in the Metropolitan Museum

 Thomas and Charlotte Neate with their Tutor Thomas Needham by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
       Signed and dated Joshua Reynolds pinxit 1748.

Currently on Display in the Metropolitan Museum New York.

For more on the subjects of this portrait see the entry for the Seward bust of Alexander Pope in this blog.

A Transcription from the Walpole Society Journal 6 (1917 -18) - "Two Early works of Sir Joshua Reynolds .pp105.

This seems to have been the first composition of several figures which Reynolds attempted. Its success must have spurred him on to attempt a similar feat on a larger scale. The group of ' Thomas and Martha Neate with their Tutor', which is here published for the first time (Plate XLIII), is probably the first group approaching life-size which Reynolds painted. The canvas measures 66 x 71 in., and is signed and dated, ' JA REYNOLDS PINXIT 1748.'

The group is placed in a landscape, the two children, Thomas Neate and his sister, being raised on a stone step similar to that employed in the Eliot Family group. Martha Neate stands upright in the centre, holding a basket of flowers in her left hand, her right holding a pink scarf which falls over her arm. She has dropped some of the flowers out of her basket, some lying at her feet, and some caught in the folds of her white satin dress. There is a bright blue ribbon tied round her waist. A small lace cap covers the back of her curly auburn hair. She seems to be about five or six years of age, and she looks straight at the spectator with that arch look of suppressed merriment which we find in the 'Miss Bowies', now in the Wallace Collection, and in so many of Reynolds's delightful portraits of children. Her brother, a lad some two years older, kneels on her right picking up the flowers she has dropped. His expression is graver than that of his sister, but his thoughtful face is as charming, as truthful and convincing, as any boy's portrait painted by Reynolds in after-life. The boy's rather elaborate blue Van Dyck costume is trimmed with ermine. A yellow (or light brown) scarf is tied round his waist. His grey felt hat trimmed with blue lies on the ground beside him. He kneels on his right knee, his left hand holding some of the flowers he has just picked up.
In front of the two children is placed a lamb round whose neck the straight lines of the stone step and connecting the two they have hung flowers and a blue ribbon. The lamb's figure is the weakest point in the picture ; it is badly observed and wooden, but it forms an important link in the design, breaking children with the tall figure of their tutor. The tutor stands in the right of the picture, his left leg raised on the step, his right placed on the grass. His body faces towards the children, but his head looks over his left shoulder at the spectator. He is a young, clean- shaven man, wearing his own hair. He is dressed in dark brown, the only touch of positive colour in his costume being the corner of his blue satin waist - coat which peeps out from under his coat. He holds a book in his left hand, his right being placed on his breast. The horizon is low down in the picture, so that most of the tutor's figure is relieved against the sky. The left half of the background is filled with a dark brown pillar and dark red curtain, the straight line of the pillar which falls just behind the head of the girl being broken by the freely painted branches and foliage of a tree.
The general colour effect of the picture is higher in key and brighter and fresher than in Reynolds's later works. There is also less contrast between the lights and shadows. The flesh, both in the faces and hands, is delightfully fresh in colour, the warm shadows being mostly put in with burnt sienna, with Venetian red for the accents, reinforced, in the girl's head, with Vandyck brown.

The handling of the paint is vigorous and free, loose and fluid in the back - ground and in the tutor's figure and face, and more solidly built up in the chief lights which fall on the boy and girl. The lovely carnations of the young girl's face and neck, and her vivid white dress set off by the bright colours of the flowers and ribbons, are skilfully connected with the highest lights in the sky.
The gay rich colours prove the original bent of Reynolds's genius. He was born colorist, before the example of the Bolognese painters and their theories about ' historical colouring ' led him to paint for many years almost in mono - chrome, and to regard positive colour as one of the deadly artistic sins. It was only towards the end of his career that his natural love of colour asserted itself again, but he could never recapture the freshness and careless gaiety of colour of his youthful work.
Of the artist's relations with the Neate family and the conditions under which the picture was painted we know almost nothing. There is a tradition in the Neate family that the father of the two children was a friend of the young artist, and a diary once in the possession of Miss Eleanor Neate recorded a payment to Reynolds for a portrait, but the sum mentioned was thought too small to apply to this portrait group. An old label on the back of the picture gives us a little help it says :
' Boy the paternal grandfather of the Rev. A. Neate. Girl sister of the above married - - Williams of ...., Esq. re Tall figure Needham tutor of the Boy. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds'.

Portrait of Joseph Vandewall, only child of Samuel Vandewall and his wife Martha by Joshua Reynolds.  Born on 26 July 1745 at Brabant Court, Philpot Lane, City of London. He died on 28 February 1748, The painting was sold by Christie's London, 1 December 2000, lot 31.

Provenance - by descent to Commander C.E. Neate; Sotheby's London, 3 July 1956, lot 31, (1,350 gns. to Agnews). It was sold by Agnews to Vice-Admiral B.C.B. Brooke, 1957. It was acquired through Agnews by Sir Michael Sobell, 1959.

Note. I would dearly like to find the diary of Eleanor Neate (mentioned above) if it still exists. The payment to Reynold is for the portrait of Joseph Vandewall - son of Sam. Vandewall and his wife Martha the former wife of Harris Neate - father of Thomas and Charlotte. This diary could shed much light on the lifestyle and purchases of Samuel Vandewall and his family.
See more on the Vandewall / Neate families in the previous entry on the Seward bust of Pope and in the following biography of the Vandewall / Neate Families.

The picture is mentioned in Cotton's list of Reynolds's works (p. 55), as Thomas Neate and his Sister. Children of Mr Neate, of Binfield, Berks, with their tutor '. Graves and Cronin copy this entry, altering the name, evidently in error, to ' Neete '. They say that it belonged in 1857 to the Rev. A. Neate, and add that ' a portrait of the Neete (Neate) family by Reynolds was offered to the National Portrait Gallery, 17 Jan. 1870, by Miss Mary Neete (Neate) of Bampton, Farringdon '. It passed by inheritance to Commander Charles B. Neate, R.N., who died in 1916, and we have to thank his son, Captain Arthur C. Burnaby Neate, R.F.A., for his kindness in permitting us to photograph and publish this interesting example of Reynolds's work.

The two children represented in the portrait are Thomas Neate and his sister Martha, who became afterwards Mrs. Williams. The earliest mention of Thomas Neate we can find in the ordinary books of reference is the statement, in Burke's Landed Gentry, that his daughter Amelia married Allen Edward Young, Esq., of Orlingbury, Co. Northampton, in 1804. He is mentioned in Lyson's Magna Britannia (vol. i, p. 241) as living in Pope's House, Binfield, Co. Berks, in 1806, but it is not stated how long he had been established there. Pope resided at Binfield till he purchased the villa at Twickenham in 1719, so the Neates may have been living there in 1748, when Reynolds painted the two children, but we have found no evidence bearing on the point. In 1807 Thomas Neate's wife died (Gentleman s Magazine, 1807, p. 789). He himself died in March 1825, aged 84 (Gentleman's Magazine, 1825), so he was born in 1741, and was seven years old when Reynolds painted his portrait. His will is preserved at Somerset House. It was made on November 2, 1814. In it he mentions his sister, Mrs. Martha Williams, so she too lived to a good old age, and a ' Miss Mary Williams of Monmouth '. Other names mentioned are his son, the Rev. Thomas Neate and his wife Catherine, his two unmarried daughters, Charlotte and Martha (Charlotte became the wife of Mr. John Hodgson by the time the will was proved), and his married daughter, Amelia, wife of Mr. Young of Orlingbury. He seems to have been in easy circumstances, for besides the house and land he left a sum of £7000, shares in a lead company, gold and silver cups and plate, a chariot and horses, saddle horses, &c.
One would naturally like to know more about the bewitching young girl who became in after life Mrs. Martha Williams, but we have not been able to discover any further information.

End of the article from the Walpole Soc. Journal. (1917 -18).

Detail of the Neate children in 1748 by Joshua Reynolds in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Portrait of Mrs Vandewall by George Knapton (is this the same Spaniel as in the portrait of Joseph Moore Vandewall pictured above?)
           A history of this family will follow shortly.

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