Garretts' Snape portraits commentary

GARRETTS' SNAPE PORTRAITS (1888)

 

A unique collection of 13 Victorian portraits, owned by Snape Parish Council, are displayed at Snape Maltings, and can be viewed here.  Seven of these oil paintings (60.5 by 50cm) are by James Elder Christie (1847-1914) of the Glasgow School of Art.  His ‘First Love’ and ‘The Red Umbrella’ may be familiar, and more of his work hangs in Paisley's city art gallery. 

  

 

Three paintings are by Suffolk-born Frederick George Cotman (1850-1920), founder member of the Ipswich Art Club and admired for his landscapes.  Three more are by an unknown painter.

The portraits have special historical value.  They feature Newson Garrett, founder of the Maltings, and his wife Louisa (née Dunnell).  Successful businesspeople and philanthropists, they were also the parents of Britain’s first qualified female physician and surgeon Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and women's suffragist Millicent Fawcett.  Fawcett's statue (by Gillean Wearing) was raised outside the Houses of Parliament in 2018.  You can read more about the Garrett family here.

Unusually for the time in which they were painted, eleven of these portraits are of working-class individuals, Newson Garrett’s employees, many of whom are buried in Snape's churchyard.  We have names for six of them: James Berry - labourer, Robert Macdowell - clerk, Robert Howell - maltster, and the bargemen - George Chatten, Robert Thorpe and Thomas Green.  Newson’s portrait is reproduced in The House that Britten Built by David Edwards, and a copy of Louisa’s is in a forthcoming publication by Lucy Pollard.

The collection used to hang in Snape Village Hall committee room, from where the 14th portrait disappeared in 1976 — and has yet to be found.  Now the remaining portraits are roped off from continual access by a first-floor entrance to Snape Maltings' concert hall — but they are well worth a look when the hall is open.

 

Georgina Lock
georgina.lock@snapevillage.info

 

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