GARRETTS' SNAPE PORTRAITS (1888-99)

 

A unique collection of 13 Victorian portraits, owned by Snape Parish Council, is displayed at Snape Maltings, and can be viewed here.  Seven of those 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’ (below) may be familiar, and more of his work hangs in Paisley's Museum and Art Galleries

   

 

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 Gillian Wearing, and shown right) 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, close 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

 

The portraits also appear in "Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Suffolk" (ISBN 1-904931-10-3), pp.217-218, published by The Public Catalogue Foundation.  Those by James Elder Christie are dated 1888, and those by Frederick George Cotman 1899.

†  "Margery Spring Rice: Pioneer of Women's Health in the Early Twentieth Century" (ISBN 978-1-78374-881-5) by Lucy Pollard.  Margery was a granddaughter of Louisa and Newson Garrett, and niece of Elizabeth and Millicent.  In turn, Lucy is Margery's granddaughter.