British picture framemakers, 1610-1950 - S
A selective directory, 3rd edition December 2012 (*revised entry, **new entry). Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Huguenot carver of French origin, Gideon Saint (1729-99) was the son of Jacques Saint of St Lo and Elizabeth Bosquet. He was apprenticed to Jacob Touzey for a premium of £30 in September 1743; for further details of the Tousey family, see John Tousey. He took out insurance as a carver from the Golden Head in Princes St, Leicester Fields, in 1764. He married Marie Catherine Paisant at St James Westminster in 1762, and had a son in 1763, and a further five children between 1768 and 1773. He took as apprentices Richard Giles for a premium of £10.10s in 1765 and George Swain for £20 In 1766.
Saint was one of the elders of the French church of Le Carré in Berwick St in 1775, along with Gideon and Isaac Gosset (qv) (Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol.9, 1909, pp.123-4). He may have retired from business in 1779 (DEFM). As Gedeon Saint of 13 Charles Square, Hoxton, he witnessed the will of the Rev. John Carle in 1790. In his own will, as a gentleman of Groombridge, Kent, late of Charles Square, dated 21 February and proved 4 May 1799, he made numerous charitable and personal bequests, including to his two sons, John and William.
Saint’s scrapbook of ornamental designs (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), dating from about 1760, is a compendium of rococo and other designs for all kinds of carvings, including picture frames (see Simon 1996 fig.145). They are mainly derived from French and English pattern books of the period, cut up, pasted in, and arranged by type. This provided a form of catalogue, divided by furniture type, perhaps to show to customers. Saint’s trade card, pasted inside the scrapbook, sets out his services, ‘Makes all sorts of Sconces, Girondoles, Chandeliers, Brackets, Tables, Chimney-Pieces, Picture Frames, &c, in the best and most Reasonable manner’.
Saint is mentioned in Robert Adam’s bank account in 1768 (Geoffrey Beard, ‘Robert Adam and his Craftsmen’, Connoisseur, vol.198, 1978, p.193).
Sources: Morrison H. Heckscher, ‘Gideon Saint: An Eighteenth-Century Carver and His Scrapbook’, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol.27, 1969, pp.299-311, to which this account is indebted; London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 157/215557. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
**Charles Salmon, Little Bedford St, London 1772, Five Fields Row, near the Flaske, Westminster 1784, Five Fields, Chelsea 1787-1788, 15 Marshal St, Carnaby Market 1799-1806. Carver and gilder, picture framemaker.
Charles Salmon married Charlotta Mathyson on 29 May 1757 at St Paul Covent Garden. They had five children, Charles William, christened 1757 at St Paul Covent Garden, Mary Ann, christened 1759 at St James Westminster, and Charlotte, Thomas and George, christened between 1765 and 1771 at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Salmon’s wife received much of the estate of her father, Charles Mathyson (qv), who described Charles Salmon as a framemaker of Little Bedford St in his will, made and proved in 1772. Charles Salmon, cabinetmaker, was recorded at 'Five Fields Row, near the Flaske’, Westminster in a 1784 poll book (DEFM), at Five Fields, Chelsea in 1787 and at Ryes Buildings, Five Fields in a 1788 poll book.
Salmon would appear to have taken on the premises of the leading carver and gilder, Sefferin Nelson (qv), who died in 1797, on the evidence of his framing label, reading ‘C.Salmon, late Nelson, Carver, Gilder, & Frame-maker to their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales & the Dukes of York and Clarence, Marshall Street, Golden Square, London, Gilt Furniture in General' (example repr. Gilbert 1996 p.394; another found on a picture frame, sold Christies, Woburn Abbey, 20-21 September 2004 lot 224, information from John Davey).
Salmon is recorded as supplying the Crown: in 1800 he was paid 6s as a carver and gilder and in 1803 he received £52.8s for rental of a warehouse room for furniture for five years (Windsor Royal Archives, see DEFM). Salmon made the frame for John Jackson's copy of Joshua Reynolds' William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, c.1805 (Kenwood, see Bryant 2003 p.261), with label from Marshall St describing him as 'Carver, Gilder & Frame Maker to their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales & the Dukes of York & Clarence'. ‘Mr Salmon, Marshall St’ made purchases from the framemaker, John Smith (qv), in 1813 and 1815 (V&A National Art Library, 86.CC.1, Smith account book, vol.1, pp.133, 313).
**William Saltmarsh 1798-1818, William Saltmarsh & Son 1819-1822, William Saltmarsh 1823-1830. At 79 Coleman St, Lothbury, London 1798-1830. Looking glass manufacturers.
William Saltmarsh (d.1837) was made free of the City by redemption in the Wheelwrights’ Company and admitted to the company livery in 1802. From about 1819 until 1822 the business traded as William Saltmarsh & Son. It is not clear whether this son was John Saltmarsh, who was appointed carver and gilder to the King in 1820 (National Archives, LC 3/69 p.9) and there is no record of a son of this name in William Saltmarsh’s lengthy will, which was made on 11 October 1830 and proved on 21 June 1837. By the time Saltmarsh made his will, he had retired from business and his premises at 79 Coleman St were taken over by William Greening, a well-established carver and gilder. In his will, William Saltmarsh, gentleman of James St, Old St, but late of Coleman St, was described in the grant of probate as a glass grinder and looking glass manufacturer. He made numerous charitable and family bequests.
The Saltmarsh business was used by Sir John Soane for framing watercolours, oil paintings and possibly mirrors, 1816-31 (see Sources below). An example is J.M. Gandy’s Design for a Royal Gallery, New House of Lords (Sir John Soane’s Museum), with Saltmarsh & Son’s label as looking glass manufacturers. This label advertises ‘Old Glass Polished, Silvered and Framed in the best and most modern style. Ladies Needle work carefully strained. Prints and Drawings Framed and Glazed. Carving and Gilding in all their branches. Mouldings for Rooms of various patterns. Old Paintings cleaned, lined and repaired. Funerals performed in Town or Country.’ In 1830 William Saltmarsh provided Soane with two large burnished gold frames at £7.5s.6d each, with bold 5 ins reed top mouldings done to profile, bold back hollows and three loose inside beads, 52 7/8 x 30½ ins rebate.
For mirrors by Saltmarsh and his label, see Gilbert 1996 pp.47, 394.
Sources: Helen Dorey, ‘A Catalogue of the Furniture in Sir John Soane’s Museum’, Furniture History, vol.44, 2009, p.15; Dorey 1997 p.30, with text of Saltmarsh label; Sir John Soane’s Museum Archive, 16/5/7, Priv.Corr.XVI.J.210, Priv.Corr.XV.K.1.22, Account Journals (5 and 7 August 1820, 2 October 1821, 10 December 1821, 18 July 1823, 11 February 1829, 19 February 1831).
Sanderson, see Blundell & Sanderson
Joseph Sargood (1808-74), see Garbanati & Sargood
**J.R. Saunders, 65 Great Portland St, London 1904-1931. Fine art dealer.
James Richard Saunders (1863-1932) was the son of a carver and gilder, James S. Saunders (b. c.1828). He advertised that his business had been established since 1800 (The Year’s Art, 1904). His father can be found in the 1871 census at 34 Foley St as a carver and gilder, age 43, born Marylebone, employing two men and two lads, with his wife Mary, son James Richard, age 8, and other children. These premises on Foley St had been occupied by James Bourlet (qv) until 1855. In the 1881 census, the family was at 7 Maitland Park Road, the father employing two men and a boy, with his son, now 18, described as a gilder. The father traded at 34 Foley St from at least 1863 until 1900, before moving to 65 Great Portland St, premises which his son took over in or shortly before 1904.
James Richard Saunders was born in the Marylebone district in 1863 and married Jessie Marie Reddell in the Edmonton district in 1908. In the 1911 census, he appears at 65 Great Portland St as a picture dealer and employer, working at home, age 49, with his wife Jessie Marie, age 31, and son Sidney James, age 2. He died in Buckinghamshire in 1932, with probate granted to his widow, among others, on an estate valued at £18,843.
In 1904, Saunders was offering ‘frames in all styles’ (The Year’s Art, 1904). His label from 65 Great Portland St can be found on the frame of David Wilkie’s earlier watercolour, Sir David Baird (National Portrait Gallery).
*Eade & Saunders 1782-1783, William Saunders 1783-1810, Thomas Saunders 1815-1828 James Saunders 1819-1828. At 10 Great Castle St, Cavendish Square, London 1784-1810, 1815-1828. Carvers and gilders, picture framemakers.
‘Romney’s framemaker’ is how William Saunders has become known, as a result of the fortunate survival of his framing books listing his work for the artist. Initially William Saunders (c.1750-1814) was in partnership with Henry Eade but Eade died in 1784, leaving a will made 6 February and proved 12 February 1784, giving his address as Great Castle St, and describing William Saunders as his partner in trade and making him an executor jointly with his wife, Maria Eade. Saunders took William Taylor as an apprentice for a premium of £25 in 1786.
Saunders may be the individual who married Mary King on 24 February 1782 at St Mary Marylebone, having a son James in November 1782 and a further six or more children over the next 14 years but a son by the name of Thomas is not recorded. Following William Saunders’s retirement, his business seems to have been continued by Thomas and James Saunders, presumably his sons. In the 1810s and 1820s, James Saunders was listed at 10 Great Castle St in Kent’s directories while Thomas was recorded in other directories, making it likely that both men were in business unless there be some confusion in the directory listings. William Saunders of Great Castle St died in 1814, age 64, and was buried in St Marylebone.
Like many framemakers, Saunders, perhaps Thomas Saunders, used the specialist composition ornament makers, Thomas Jackson (qv) and his son George Jackson (qv). He used the father to make or complete two frames in 1812, and the son in 1813 and 1814, when described as ‘Mr Saunders’ of Castle St, ordering a frame which was made from a drawing for £3.18s in 1814 and other frames, one with what seems to be an order/frame number of 325 (see Jackson account book, V&A Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2012/1/2/1, pp.37, 50, 230). Jackson apparently used one of Saunders’ own designs in supplying ornament to other makers so that the term, ‘Saunders flowers’, appears fairly regularly in Jackson’s account book, 1813-7. It should be added that Jackson had another customer by the name of Saunders, active in Union St from 1815.
Framing work: George Romney used Thomas Allwood (qv) as his framemaker until 1781, before turning to William Saunders in 1782. The early accounts are in the name of Eade & Saunders, but Saunders' partnership with Henry Eade broke up in 1783, and thereafter all the accounts are in Saunders' name. His frameshop was in Great Castle St, only a few hundred yards from Romney's studio in Cavendish Square. Saunders’ framing books tell us about his relationship with Romney. There was an annual settling of accounts, and in the years 1783 to 1792, a ‘Discount of frames delivered’ is often specifically listed, amounting to as much as 16%, which was credited to Romney. At the time it was common enough for a framemaker to make such payment to acknowledge business brought him by an artist (Simon 1996 p.90). The relationship between Saunders and Romney has been studied in some detail (see A note on George Romney and picture framing on the National Portrait Gallery website; Simon 1996 p.97). Commonly, Saunders’ classical frames for Romney’s works have a ribbed top edge and a ribbon-tied reeded sight edge, for example, The Spinstress, frame supplied 1785 (Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London, see Simon 1996 p.36), and his William Paley, with a frame supplied 1790/1 (National Portrait Gallery, repr. Simon 1996 p.97). Saunders’ trade label, with its distinctive cut corners, describes him as ‘Carver, Gilder, and Picture-Frame Maker’.
After Romney's death in 1802, William Saunders played a leading role in clearing up his estate, charging Romney's son, the Rev. John Romney, £189 for framing and others services between 1801 and 1810 (V&A National Art Library, 86.AA.24a, letters and invoices). Saunders helped William Blake to provide William Hayley with information concerning Romney's work, 1803-4 (Arthur B. Chamberlain, George Romney, 1910, pp.235-40), and subsequently assisted John Romney in his memoirs of his father's life and work. It is to Saunders, too, that we owe the survival of so much documentation relating to Romney's frames. The engraver, Thomas Wright, told John Romney in 1830 that, following George Romney’s death, Saunders made frames for Mr Shee, that is Martin Arthur Shee, who had taken over Romney’s studio (V&A National Art Library, 86.CC.32a).
William Saunders supplied picture frames to the 3rd Earl of Egremont, 1796-7 (West Sussex Record Office, PHA/7550) and a frame for Henry Dundas, later 1st Viscount Melville (DEFM). His frames have been found on John Hoppner’s Henry Howard (Sotheby's 31 March 1999 lot 95) and John Opie's portraits, Sir James Earle and Lady Earle (Christie's 15 June 2001 lot 42). Saunders supplied the frame for Michael Keeling's Thomas Cockburn, 1804 (Private coll., Australia, information from Anne Rowland), with label with image of hatchment top right, reading 'Saunders,/ CARVER, GILDER,/ and/ PICTURE FRAME MAKER,/ No.10/ Great Castle Street/ Cavendish Square/ Funerals Performed'.
Sources: London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 259/387108, 293/445463, 309/602654, 389/602654; note also an earlier policy for Henry Eade, dated July 1780, for his dwelling house at 3 Deans Place, near the Turnpike in the New Road, Tottenham Court (284/431199). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Herman Scholier (fl.1585-1619), a joiner and a native of Xanten (in modern day Germany) appears for the first time in the Return of Aliens in London on 9 July 1585, the city in which he continued to reside in until his death in 1619 (see Kirk and Forman in Sources below). A later return, made shortly before his death in 1617 relates that Scholier had emigrated in 1585, and the likelihood must be that Scholier had fled Xanten for religious reasons, a supposition which is supported by attendance at the Dutch Church at Austen Friars. Like many foreign joiners and carvers, Scholier lived for a period in Southwark, firstly in the parish of St Mary Magdalen and later in St Olave, where on 24 April 1593 his daughter Lydia was buried (London Metropolitan Archives, P71/OLA 009). However, at some point between 1593 and 1598 he moved across the river to the parish of All Hallows Staining in Mark Lane, the parish in which he was living when he made his will in 1617.
The will, which is brief, does not name children and bequeathed all of his goods to his ‘beloved wife Rebecca’ who was made executrix of the estate His bequests of 40s (£2) to the Dutch Church and 10s to the poor of Mark Lane were modest but probably commensurate with his means; the 1617 register describes Scholier as a ‘poor householder’ (London Metropolitan Archives, MS 9171/23/249, and original will, MS 9172/30/278). There were no itemised bequests of goods or witnesses to the will which was proved on 23February 1618/9.
Joinery and framing work: Scholier is of particular interest because he can be identified with extant joinery which survives in situ at Penshurst Place in Kent. Records of Scholier’s activities at Penshurst can be found in two sets of accounts made by Thomas Golding, Household Steward to Robert Sidney, then Lord de L’Isle later 1st Earl of Leicester (1563-1626). These record various payments for the ambitious programme of building which was begun at Penshurst in around 1600 and which was largely complete by 1606.
Scholier’s work at Penshurst involved the construction of the wainscot panelling in the Long Gallery, which measured 294 yards, for which he charged 3s.6d the yard. Scholier also worked in the ‘open roome next the garden’ [probably the enclosed loggia which makes up the library in the house] where he undertook 71 yards of work at 2s the yard. He also reset old panelling in the ‘low gallery’. Robert Sidney verified the payment on 13 November 1606. Payment was made to Scholier on 18 November 1606, and full payment of the £44.4s.6d on 5 December 1606. Scholier wrote in receipt of the first of these payments ‘Ontsangen van mesiter golding dan 18 dach November 6li 4s 6d... bii min herman scholier’ (Kent History and Library Centre, KHLC U1475 A62/A, bound volume of receipts V, f.170).
A second bill, from ‘Mr. Harmon the Joyn[er]’ in the same series of accounts sought payment for mending various items of furniture in the house, 17 days work setting up the old wainscot in the lower gallery, and 25 days work of work for his man. Importantly, the final payment was ‘due to him for making of viij frames for viij pictures and ffastening them to the frames xs’ (KHLC U1475 A62, bills and receipts 1587-1608, unfoliated bundles). At 15d a frame, these must have been relatively cheap (and possibly quite small) frames. The bill in total was £3.10s.8d.
The earliest inventory of Penshurst, made on the death of Robert Sidney in 1623 lists numerous framed pictures including ‘one large picture of the 4 Evangelists with a frame guilt’, ‘one picture of the 4 ages of a woman in a faire guilt frame’, ‘Item one picture of the Countesse of Leicester and my la: Mary Wrothe in a frame’, ‘The picture of a nake’d woman in a frame’ (KHLC U1500 E120).
There were two substantial series of portraits in the long gallery [panelled by Scholier], and the Inner Chamber, but these sets were 44 and 14 in number respective, but neither set contained 8 pictures which can be easily grouped or associated as a set within a set. There were ‘eigth ould Mapps’ but the inventory makes it clear that only ‘two are in frames’. There is the small possibility that these frames were made for a set of eight small pictures, six of which (of the Earls of Southampton, Arundel, Pembroke, Dorset, Montgomery, and Leicester) which hung in the Stone Gallery which may have originally included two pictures (also ‘in little’) of Sir Henry Sidney and his wife and the Earl of Sussex which hung in the Long Gallery (KHLC U1500 E120).
Sources: Ernest Kirk, Returns of Aliens in the City and Suburbs of London, Part 2: 1571-1597, Aberdeen, 1902, p.279; Ernest Kirk, Return of Aliens in the City and Suburbs of London, Part 3: 1598-1625, Aberdeen, pp.146, 159, 176; Benno Forman, ‘Continental Furniture Craftsmen in London 1511-1625’, Furniture History, vol.7, 1971, pp.94-120. The document, KHLC U1475 is quoted by kind permission of Viscount De L'Isle from his private collection.
Alexander Scott, 78 Princes St (‘Opposite the Royal Institution’), Edinburgh 1877-1912. Artists' colourman, printseller and picture framemaker.
See British artists’ suppliers on the National Portrait Gallery website.
Alfred Robert Scott, see Buck & Scott
*Richard Scully 1854-1915, Richard Scully Ltd 1916-1932, Richard Scully (1932) Ltd 1932-1943. At 18 Banner St, London EC 1854-1857, 73 Banner St 1858-1867, 25 Gee St, Goswell Road 1867-1873, sawmills at 17a Norman’s Buildings, St Luke’s 1871-1873, 8 Banner St EC 1875-1895, 140 Old St EC 1880-1887, 10-12 Norman’s Buildings 1880-1885, 8-11 Banner St 1886-1895, street renumbered 1895, 16-22 Banner St 1895-1932, 18-22 Banner St 1933-1936, 9-10 Mallow St EC1 1937-1943. Picture and looking glass framemakers; from 1880, wholesale composition and fancy wood picture frame moulding manufacturer.
Richard Scully (c.1832-1912) was born in the parish of St Luke Old St in about 1832. It was later claimed that he established his business as early as 1850 (see Who’s Who in Art, 1934, p.ii). Scully married Louisa Johnson (c.1833-1913) in the Poplar district in 1855. He was recorded at 118 Church Road in Canonbury in successive censuses as a picture framemaker, or simply as a framemaker, in 1871 as age 37, with his wife Louisa and sons Frederick, age 13, and George, age 2, in 1881 as age 49, with his wife and five sons and daughters, in 1891 as age 58, with two sons in the business, G.L. Scully as manager, age 22, and A.E. Scully as foreman, age 18, and in 1911 by now retired, with his wife and a daughter. Richard Scully died age 79 on 30 August 1912, described as a picture frame mouldings manufacturer, leaving effects worth the considerable sum of £20,847 (The Times 24 January 1913; National Probate Calendar).
In the next generation, George Louis Scully (1869-1911) was born in the Islington district in 1869 and died age 42 in the Hackney district in 1911, while Albert Edward Scully (1872-1942) was born in the Islington district in 1872. A resolution for winding up Richard Scully Ltd, 16 Banner St, was passed in 1932 (London Gazette 7 June 1932). The business continued trading as Richard Scully (1932) Ltd.
Richard Scully was listed in the 1880 directory as ‘patentee & manfr of every description of composition, fluted & fancy wood picture frame mouldings on improved principles, in 12 ft lengths; the trade supplied; shipping orders executed with dispatch...; Banner steam moulding mills’. R. Scully took out patents in 1876 for ‘improvements in machinery… for making composition ornaments and in applying the same to mouldings’ (London Gazette 6 October 1876) and in 1889 for ornamenting frames to obtain a frosted and glittering appearance (Katlan 1992 p.486).
Richard Scully’s large format fully illustrated wholesale trade catalogue presents a very wide range of mouldings, some dating back to the 1880s (copy in National Monuments Record of Scotland; sample page repr. Simon 1996 p.45). His products are divided into some 20 categories: Mouldings in the white (including Bartolozzi, Birket, Collins, Morland, Tadema and Watts frames), Plain oak mouldings, Oak and ivory mouldings, Inside flats and mouldings, Room mouldings, Acorn and laurel stick tops, Veneered fancy wood, Florentine frames, Louis and Chippendale frames, Swept frames, Lawrence frames, Masonic Frames, Oval frames, Venetian frames, Girandoles frames, Brackets, Glass and mirror frames, Royal Arms, Crowns and cushions and coronets, Trophies and centres, Corners, Cornices. This range is not so very different to those of other wholesale moulding manufacturers such as Ashworth Kirk (qv) and H. Morrell (qv), both of which issued catalogues.
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
John Selden, sometimes spelt Seldon, spent much of his working career at Petworth House in Sussex. He is not known to have worked elsewhere. He is possibly the John Selden who married Martha Lucas at All Hallows London Wall in 1683, but there were many men of his name. He is reported to have lost his life in saving the carvings in the Carved Room at Petworth during a fire (Vertue vol.2, p.81). This fire seems to have taken place on 31 December 1713, according to a newspaper report (British Mercury, no.444, 30 December 1713 to 6 January 1714). Selden has correctly been identified with the John Selden who was buried at Petworth (DEFM, Beard 1981 p.284). However, the date given of 12 January 1715 would seem to be a misreading for 12 January 1713, that is 12 January 1714 in the modern calendar.
In his will, made 30 March 1713 and proved 9 March 1714, John Selden, carver of Richmond, Surrey, ‘but at this time being at Pettworth in Sussex’, bequeathed to his wife, Martha, his freehold estates in Portsmouth, together with monies owing him and various goods, making her his executrix, and bequeathing to his kinsman, Nicholas Selden and to Nicholas’s sisters, Jane and Mary, 20s each to buy a ring. His will was witnessed by John Messenger, Joseph Allsup and George Hoare, perhaps craftsmen or servants at Petworth.
Selden worked extensively at Petworth for the 6th Duke of Somerset, the so-called ‘Proud Duke’, 1688-97, and subsequently, apparently receiving quarterly and later annual wage payments (Beard 1981 p.284, with further details; DEFM). He provided a ‘large chimneypiece for the dining roome carved with fowles fishes and flowers’, receiving payment in the accounts for 1689-90; this elaborately carved surround is almost certainly now the setting of the portrait of Henry VIII after Holbein in the Carved Room (Petworth House, guidebook, revised ed., 1992, p.17). He probably worked in the Chapel, c.1689-91, but the accounts for carving do not survive (Petworth House, guidebook, revised ed., 1992, p.25). He also produced carvings for the Marble Hall of State, completed 1692. He supplied a number of picture frames including one 'carved with fouldings and flowers’, containing 22 foot at 5s a foot, for the dining room chimney in 1689-90 (Jackson-Stops 1980 p.799).
Sources: Beard 1981 pp.139, 284. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
See British artists' suppliers on the National Portrait Gallery website.
George Henry Shepherd 1871, Shepherd Bros 1876-1903. At 6 Angel Row, Market Place, Nottingham by 1871-1901, 27 King St, St James’s, London 1882-1913. Printer, stationer, bookseller and bookbinder 1871, picture dealers and printsellers, also picture restorers and framemakers from 1885 and publishers from 1890.
See British picture restorers on the National Portrait Gallery website.
*Robert Sielle, 18 Belsize Park, London NW3 1931-1934 or later, 14 Buckingham St, Fitzroy Square, W1 1935-1937, street renamed 1937, Wollaston House, 14 Greenwell St 1937-1947, The Old Hall, 21 St Alban’s Grove, Kensington, W8 5BP 1948-1982. Picture framemaker and exhibition agent.
Robert Sielle (1895-1983) was a leading London framemaker from the 1930s until the 1970s. As a young man, he served as a fighter pilot in the First World War, and then took up show dancing professionally. Born in Liverpool as Cecil Leon Roberts, or C.L. Roberts, he took Sielle as his surname, from his initials, ‘C.L.’, to avoid confusion with another dancer by the name of Roberts. He appeared in the chorus line at the Adelphi Theatre, and then as the stage partner of Sir John Mills’s sister, Annette Mills, who became his first wife.
When Sielle gave up dancing, he set up in business, initially advertising as C. Roberts, artistic and house decorations, from 18 Belsize Park (his home address from at least 1929-35). Then a friend, the artist Stanley Gardiner, asked him to sell some frames for him. By report, Sielle realized that he had a talent for suiting the frame to the painting, and was also a good salesman. Sielle later claimed to have been a consultant in framing works of art since 1930 (The Artist, vol.57, March 1959, p.v). By 1931 he had set up a framing studio in partnership with Gardiner, before trading independently. A series of invoices for the supply of mouldings from Richard Scully Ltd (qv), dating to 1931, are made out to Gariner (sic) & Sielle. Robert Sielle also advertised as a model and pattern maker, making models from aerial photographs during the Second World War. In 1941 he told Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines that both his business and his home had been blitzed and that he was under considerable financial pressure owing to slow payment of bills by his creditors (Tate Archive, TGA 8317/1/1/3449, 3452).
After the dissolution of his first marriage, Robert Sielle married Marguerite Milton, and their daughter, Alice Sielle (to whom this account is indebted), undertook colour mixing in his studio in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Other assistants included the gilder, Len Hughes in the 1940s and 1950s, Vilmo Gibello in the late 1940s or early 1950s (information from Patricia Reed, June 1996), John Kevan in the 1950s, Robert Scott in the early 1960s and Nick Hawker (qv) from about 1964 until 1980. Sielle purchased a painting by Gibello from the Hanover Gallery in 1952 Tate Archive, TGA 863/1/3).
In 1971 Sielle seems to have entered into a business arrangement with George Robins of Design Animations Ltd to market aluminium and acrylic frames. Sielle held an exhibition of his frames at the British Craft Centre, Earlham St, in 1975, the only exhibition of this kind in Britain, celebrating his continuing search for new materials, such as aluminium, brass, stainless steel and perspex for frames, and velvet, silk and hand-coloured linen for mounts. In 1980 he went into partnership with Drummond Cuthbert, who had previously worked for the business. Sielle was a member of the Art Workers Guild.
Although a great self-publicist, Sielle seems to have avoided listings in London trade directories, which is unusual for a framemaker in commercial business. Sielle produced articles on framing for various art magazines, dealing mainly with the aesthetic marriage of picture and frame, which was his particular facility. In his three articles, ‘The Art of Framing’, published in 1951 in The Artist, he provided wide-ranging advice on picture framing.
Robert Sielle continued to frame paintings up to his death at the age of 88 in 1983. In a posthumous tribute, the artist Kyffin Williams noted how Sielle treated all pictures individually, so much so that ‘sometimes I felt that he took longer deliberating on the best way to frame a picture than it took me to paint it’.
Framing work: Soon after Sielle set up in business, he advertised in 1933 as ‘The new frame maker with new ideas and new service’, setting out his services: ‘Sielle and the R.A. The important problem of choosing a frame for your R.A. picture can be dealt with in no better way than by consulting ROBERT SIELLE—the new frame maker—whose contention is that a work of art, demanding months of labour, deserves something better than a machine-made frame. Mr. Sielle visits artists in their own studios, without obligation… He specialises in designing frames to suit the pictures, and toning them in keeping with the general colour scheme…. OVER ONE-HALF of the artists contributing to this magazine are customers of ROBERT SIELLE’ (The Artist, vol.5, March 1933, p.xv). By 1937 he was offering ‘Sielle Made-to-Subject Frames. Sielle specially designed, made, and toned-to-subject frames at professional prices’ (The Artist, vol.13, March 1937, p.xii).
Sielle worked for many leading artists, including Craigie Aitchison, Edward Ardizzone (1950), John Armstrong (by 1939, see below), Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Merlyn Evans, Anthony Green, Arthur Lett-Haines (1939), Patrick Heron, Ivon Hitchens, David Hockney, Eliot Hodgkin, Augustus John, L.S. Lowry, Rodrigo Moynihan (1949-50), John Napper (1951-3), William Nicholson, John Piper (1950, 1955-63) (see below), Alan Reynolds, Ceri Richards, William Scott (1947-51), Kyffin Williams and Edward Wolfe (1951) (information from Robert Scott, 1999, and Alice Sielle, 1996; details from Sielle's sale ledger). Other names occurring in his sale ledger include Buhler (1949-50), Devas (1949-52), Greenham (1951), Hailstone (1950-1), Le Brocquy (1951), and McBean (1950). Sielle probably worked for many of these artists over a longer period than the documented dates given here. He is referred to in the papers of John Aldridge, 1948-75 (Tate Archive, TGA 9914/1/4, 10).
John Armstrong has left an intriguing account of the framing of his pictures by Robert Sielle (‘My Paintings and their frames’, The Studio, vol.117, 1939, pp.142-5), reproducing seven framed works, including Funeral of a Poet (York City Art Gallery; the frame ‘emphasises the flat treatment of the painting by simple carved moulding standing out in relief’), Love in the Desert (‘to preserve the dream-like qualities of the painting’, it is isolated from the frame, which is ‘made in the shape of a tray in which the painting appears to float’) and The Forsaken Street (‘The melancholy atmosphere of peeling brickwork has been carried into and formalised into the frame’).
Ivon Hitchens was the only painter for whom Sielle made white frames; in general he objected to white frames as being too dazzling, and even those made for Hitchens were given a stone-coloured wash. John Piper was evidently a friend from Sielle’s letters to Piper, 1955-63, and undertook a good deal of framing, often with finishes in colour (Tate Archive, TGA 200410/1/1/3465). Eliot Hodgkin made a painting, Robert Sielle’s File, exh.1963, of a file of delivery notes suspended from a hook on the wall (repr. Eliot Hodgkin 1905-1987. Painter & Collector, exh.cat., Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, 1990, no.67).
Sielle was employed by the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and the Imperial War Museum. At the National Gallery, according to his own account, he was commissioned by the Director, Sir Kenneth Clark, to reframe J.M.W. Turner’s The Fighting Teméraire and Interior at Petworth, with new frames finished in silver rather than gold, an innovatory step which met with a mixed reception. At the Tate, he was asked to replace unfashionable or inadequate frames, some of them damaged originals, on as many as 50 pictures from 1949 to 1956, including Benjamin Robert Haydon's Punch or May Day in 1956, and John Frederick Lewis's Edfou, Upper Egypt. In his 1951 articles in The Artist, he reproduced a revealing ‘before’ and ‘after’ example of reframing for the Tate, in the form of J.M.W. Turner’s Angel standing in the Sun, first exhibited in 1846. Instead of a dynamic rococo-revival frame, perhaps the original, which he was asked to replace, he has substituted a more static frame in ‘muted gold’, a ‘formal repetition…, allowing the rhythm of the passage in the picture full play’. Sielle's work for the Tate Gallery, framing both old and modern pictures, deserves study in greater depth. At the Imperial War Museum he undertook framing work on a number of pictures from 1975 to 1977.
Pictures in other public collections in Sielle frames include John Napper's Queen Elizabeth II, 1953 (Corporation of Liverpool) and David Poole's The Silver Jubilee Luncheon, 1978 (Guildhall Art Gallery). A series of photographs shows the production of the Napper frame. Other collections with frames by Sielle, according to his own account, include Buckingham Palace and the White House. He also produced some frames for the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 1960, and for commercial galleries including the Leicester Galleries (1951), the Marlborough Gallery (1950-2), the Redfern Gallery (1951) and, apparently, Gimpel (1950-1, 1960) (Sielle probably worked for these galleries over a longer period than the documented dates given here).
Sources: information kindly supplied by Alice Sielle and from the remaining papers of Robert Sielle (Tate Archive); also information from Imperial War Museum files, including Sielle's notice of his 1980 partnership (information from Jenny Wood, October 2007). The Art of Framing. An Exhibition of Pictures Framed by Robert Sielle, British Craft Centre, 1975; Obituary, The Times 26 May 1983; Robert Sielle, ‘The Art of Framing’, The Artist, vol.41, March-May 1951, pp.10-11, 32-3, 67-8; Don Shakespeare, 'The Most Renowned Practising Framer in the United Kingdom', Art Dealer & Framer, vol.5, Illinois, April 1978, pp.9-13, 58 (for Nick Hawker). The above text has been prepared with help from Lynn Roberts. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Arthur Robert Skillen (c.1864-1932), the son of a grocer, William Skillen, was described as a gilder of 4 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, when he married Ann Doughty in 1892 at St George Bloomsbury. He was recorded in the 1891 census at 4 Southampton Row as a picture framemaker and gilder, age 27, together with his uncle, James Harnell, picture frame manufacturer, age 53. He was listed in 1901 census in Fulham, as a picture framemaker (worker), born Crayford in Kent, and in 1911 in Wandsworth with his wife, daughter and two young sons. The business of James Richard Harnell & Son, carvers and gilders, traded at 4 Southampton Row and subsequently at 17 Lambs Conduit St where it was listed in 1918. Skillen took over the business in his own name from 1920 when he was in his late fifties. He died in 1932, leaving effects worth £531, with probate granted to his daughter Lucie Marguerite Skillen.
John Smallhorn (b.1800?) may be the individual christened at St Giles-in-the-Fields in 1800, although the 1841 census record would suggest a slightly later date. He and his wife, Mary Ann, had several children between 1831 and 1846, most of them baptised at All Souls, Marylebone. He was listed as a carver and gilder at 10 Lower Seymour St when their son William was baptised in 1831, and at 9 Cleveland St when their son John was baptised in 1838 and still in Cleveland St in the 1841 census, his age given as 35 (ages were rounded down to the nearest five in this census). He filed a petition for protection from bankruptcy in 1846, when residing at 9 Cleveland St and carrying on business at 34 Foley St (London Gazette 16 October 1846). His apprentice, James Bourlet (qv), took over his premises at 34 Foley St by 1850. Smallhorn and his family do not appear in subsequent British census or birth, marriage and death records, leading to the speculation that they may have emigrated.
Smallhorn’s frame trade label, from 9 Lower Cleveland St, advertised his services as 'Carver and Gilder. Wholesale Looking Glass and Picture Frame Maker. Manufacturer of all kinds of [illegible]’ (example on David Wilkie’s Abraham Raimbach, National Portrait Gallery).
**John Smart, 96 Bunhill Row, London 1784, 128 Bishopsgate without from 1785, 129 Bishopsgate without 1791-1797 or later, 133 Bishopsgate St without by 1799-1806 or later, 2-3 Newnhams Place by 1802-1806 or later, Newnham Place 1823. Carpenter, composition cornice and ornament maker.
There was a John Smart, carver, at 84 Leather Lane, Holborn in 1779 (DEFM) but it is not clear whether he can be identified with John Smart, composition ornament manufacturer at 96 Bunhill Row in 1784 and in Bishopsgate without from 1785. There was also a Thomas Smart listed as a composition chimney piece maker at 133 Bishopsgate without in 1796.
John Smart, variously described as carpenter, composition cornice and ornament maker, took out insurance from 133 Bishopsgate St without in 1802, 1803 and 1806, also insuring a nearby property, 2 and 3 Newnhams Place, and in 1823 on Newnham Place only. William Smart (see below) may be his son. John Smart of Newington, perhaps our man, died at the age of 73 in 1825 and was buried at St Botolph Bishopsgate.
Descriptions such as ‘Smarts ornaments’ and 'Smarts corners' appear in the account books of John Smith (qv) from 1812, suggesting that one or other Smart, presumably John Smart, was among the design sources used by Smith for composition ornaments for his picture frames, whether directly or through as a subcontracting supplier (see also Simon 1996 p.140).
Sources: London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 424/725877, 427/743911, 438/798125 & 798126, 489/1003010. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*William Smart 1823-1844, William Smart junr 1849-1853. At Newnham Place, Bishopsgate St, London 1823-1824, 18 Crown St, Finsbury 1826-1853. Carpenter and ornamental composition maker.
William Smart (?1785-c.1853?) appears to have been christened in 1785 at St Botolph Bishopsgate, the son of an earlier composition ornament manufacturer, John Smart (see above) and his wife Sarah. William Smart and his wife, Louisa, had several children. He was described as a carpenter of Newnham Place in 1823 in the St Botolph Bishopsgate baptismal register for two of his children, Eliza Eleanor and Arthur Douglas. He took out insurance from Newnham Place with the Sun Fire Office in 1823 and 1824 as carpenter, turner and ornamental composition maker, and from 18 and 19 Crown St, Finsbury, in 1837 and 1838.
In the 1841 census he was recorded at Crown St, Shoreditch, as a builder, age 50 (ages were rounded down to the nearest five in the census), with four children, William and Louisa, age 20, Arthur, age 19, and Eliza, age 17. ‘Mr Smart’ was renting premises at Crown St, Finsbury in 1841, at the time that the freehold was sold (The Times 23 September 1841). Smart’s son, William Smart junr (b. c.1821), was trading as an architectural modeller from 41 Clifton St, Finsbury, by 1855.
Sources: London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 489/1003008 & 1003009, 494/1014198, 495/1014827, 556/1252460, 559/1278216.
*Smith & McFarlane by 1839-1841 or later, J. Smith & Co 1843, John Douglas Smith 1844-1885. At 7 Elm Row, Edinburgh 1839, 13 Shakespeare Square 1840-1841, 33 West Register St 1840-1866, 21 South Frederick St 1867-1885. Carvers and gilders, picture restorers.
For details of this business, see British artists' suppliers on the National Portrait Gallery website.
George Smith, Kensington by 1822, 31 High St, Kensington by 1828-1833 (also Robert Smith in 1828), 54 High St 1835-1837, 11 High St 1838, 11 Old Terrace, High St 1839, 20 Young St, Kensington 1840-1844. Carver and gilder, picture framemaker.
In 1822 one of John Constable’s most important patrons, John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, directed him to use the Smiths, father and son, for framing his order, framemakers whom Constable came to categorise as ‘the wretched Smiths’, describing the son as a ‘wretched lying young rascal’. Fisher had first used ‘old Smith’ for framing Constable’s works in 1817, and later in 1822 told the artist that father and son had set up shop together in Kensington very near the Palace. In exasperation at their inability to compete an order, Fisher was reduced to asking Constable to buy gold leaf for Smith in 1823 and even ‘to pay the Ornament maker his two Pounds’, which suggests that the Smiths bought in both their gold leaf and their compo ornament as it was needed.
In 1824, at the Middlesex Sessions court, a case was brought against the carver and gilder, G.R. Smith of Kensington by his apprentice, leading to the court chairman finding that, ‘It was not Mr Smith’s fault that he was in bad circumstances; but he had no right to take an apprentice, and with a premium too, for which he could not reasonably provide’ (The Times 18 September 1824). It is difficult to trace the Smiths of Kensington but father or son appears to be identifiable with George Smith, for whom two addresses are given above. In addition, Robert Smith was listed at 31 High St in 1828, and John Smith at 11 Terrace, Kensington High St in 1836, and 19 Kensington High St, 1851-6.
Sources: Beckett 1964 p.229, Beckett 1968 pp.102, 112, 127, 146-7. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*John Bryce Smith 1883-1921, J. Bryce Smith Ltd 1922-1965. At 117 Hampstead Road, London NW ('near Euston Station') 1883-1965. Wholesale painting brush manufacturers, later artists’ colourmen and picture framemaker.
For full details of this business, primarily an artists’ colourman, see British artists' suppliers on the National Portrait Gallery website.
In the early 1900s, Smith was producing polished hardwood moulding frames for William Strang for his prints and drawings; such mouldings are found on drawings of the Chadwyck-Healey family, 1905, a drypoint, George Bernard Shaw, 1907, and a drawing, William Henry Gurney Salter, 1911 (information from Osmund Bullock, 2009). John B. Smith’s two trade labels from this period are both illustrated with an artist’s palette; that on the 1911 frame refers to his works in Prince of Wales Drive. As part of a wider programme of framing work by war artists in 1919, Smith provided Spanish moulding frames, burnished gilt frames and black panel frames (Imperial War Museum, bound papers, ‘First World War Frames’). The business framed several works by William Roberts in oak frames, Discussion in a café, 1929, Judgement of Paris, 1933 (unstained oak flat reeded Whistler pattern) and Windy Day, 1941 (Sotheby’s 15 June 2011, Evill/ Frost collection, lots 11, 170, 135, all with maker's label). In 1940 the business was advertising ‘FRAMES. Old Frames. New Frames. Narrow Frames. Wide Frames. French Finished Frames. Antique Finished Frames. Gold Frames. Oak Frames. Black Frames and Gilt Frames.’ (The Artist, vol.19, March 1940, p.v).
*John Smith 1802-1829, John Smith & Son 1829-1839, John M. & Samuel Smith 1840-1852, John Mountjoy Smith 1852-1876, not listed 1877, 1878-1880. At 98 Swallow St, Piccadilly, London 1802-1822, 49 Great Marlborough St 1821-1828, 137 New Bond St 1829-1876, 43 Old Bond St 1878-1880, later in Duke St. Carvers and gilders, picture framemakers, picture cleaners, subsequently picture dealers.
John Smith (1781-1855) is one of the best documented of picture framers and picture dealers, thanks to the survival of a remarkable set of account books starting in 1812, together with stock books from 1822, and other records covering the period 1812-1908 (V&A National Art Library). Smith successfully developed his business from frame making into picture dealing. In 1824 he sold Rubens’s Chapeau de Paille to Robert Peel for £2725 (Simon 1996 p.145). Smith was author of A catalogue raisonné of the work of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French painters, published 1829-42. His activities as a picture dealer have been studied by Charles Sebag-Montefiore and are not discussed here. Sebag-Montefiore’s book, A Dynasty of Dealers: John Smith and Successors, 1801-1924, is due to be published in 2013.
In 1794, John Smith was apprenticed to William Hurwood, carver and gilder of 18 Conduit St for a premium of £20 ('A Memoir of the author [John Smith] by his grandson', Connoisseur, vol.5, 1903, p.214). He set up in business soon after the end of his apprenticeship in 1801. His early trade label simply described him as 'J. Smith, Carver & Gilder, Looking Glass Manufacturer, and Picture Frame Maker, 98 Swallow Street, near Conduit Street' (example on John Hoppner's George IV as Prince of Wales, Wallace Collection, London).
John Smith was appointed picture framemaker to His Majesty in 1812 (National Archives, LC 3/68, p.142) and he was listed as carver and gilder to the Prince Regent in Johnstone's directory in 1817. By the 1820s he was describing himself as ‘Picture Frame Maker, by Appointment To His Majesty, Carver, Gilder & Looking Glass Manufacturer, Et Marchand de Tableaux’, also advertising that he lined, cleaned and restored pictures, and giving his address as ‘49 Great Marlborough Street, Late of 98 Swallow Street’ (example reproduced in A Hang of English Frames, Arnold Wiggins & Sons, 1996).
In 1825, John Smith attended a meeting of more than fifty master carvers and gilders who resolved to resist the demands of journeymen for an increase in wages (The Times 30 June 1825). In due course his two sons, John Mountjoy Smith (c.1803-1869) and Samuel Mountjoy Smith (c.1809-1874) took on the business, primarily as picture dealers (they were significant purchasers at the Stowe sale in 1848, see Forster 1848 pp.154, 165, 175-7, 184, 194). Their partnership was dissolved in 1852 (London Gazette 21 December 1852), when John Mountjoy Smith continued the business.
Framing work: John Smith made some very rich and heavy frames and modified others to give them the weight and richness that Regency collectors expected (Simon 1996 pp.68-9). He also supplied antique French frames and revival French swept frames from as early as 1812 (Simon 1996 p.70). Early in his career in 1803 he worked for the 4th Duke of Gordon, producing ‘a neat frame gilt in burnish gold’, complete with ‘Best British plate glass enamelling gray with three gold lines’ for £2.2s (National Archives of Scotland, GD44/51/492/5, item 25).
For the Prince Regent, the future George IV, he undertook framing work from 1810, including frames for John Hoppner’s George IV as Prince of Wales, a reframing of 1810 (Wallace Collection), portraits of George I and George II for £75.12s in 1812, J.L. Agasse’s Lord Heathfield, in or before 1814, Charles Henry Schwanfelder’s The Malcolm Arabian, 1814, and Abraham Cooper’s Fleur-de-lis, 1827 (all Royal Collection, see Millar 1963 nos 359, 620, Millar 1969 nos 650, 710, 1069). John Smith was paid £207.5s by the Lord Chamberlain in 1812, and various subsequent payments to ‘J. Smith’, continuing until 1822, can probably be connected with him (National Archives, LC 9/397).
For the Prince’s friend and adviser, Lord Yarmouth, Smith undertook much framing work, at least from 1812 to 1820, mainly for old master paintings, some of which are now in the Wallace Collection. In 1819 and 1820 Smith added ‘artists trophies’ to the top of various frames, visible in old photographs of the Wallace Collection (information from Robert Wenley, July 1995). Interestingly, in 1821 Smith undertook similar but even more elaborate work for George IV in the form of ‘116 Ornamental Trophies (composed of Artists Implements) prepared and gilt in burnished Gold and writing the Painters names of each Picture upon d[itt]o and fitting in fixing the whole upon their proper Frames’, at the substantial cost of £288.
Other clients among the aristocracy and gentry and gentry for picture framing, picture purchases and restoration work, based on a partial survey of the first Smith account book (1812-20) and a quick look at the next two to survive (1827-48), include the Marchioness of Abercorn (1819-20), Lord Amherst (1813-4), Marquess & Marchioness of Anglesey (1818-20), Duke & Duchess of Argyll (1814-20), Earl Bessborough (1817), Lord Boringdon (1813-4), Duchess of Brunswick (1812), Lord Byron (1814, mounting prints and framing), Earl & Countess Cowper (1813-5, 1819), Lord Cranley, Clandon (1818), Lord Francis Egerton (1837, for a picture by Landseer), Lord Grenville (1813-5, much work including at Dropmore), Earl of Harewood (1813, 1817-8), Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Stourhead (1812-20,see below), Earl of Hopetown (1819), Lord & Lady Melbourne (1813-5), Sir Arthur Paget (1812), Earl Radnor (1812-4), Duke of Richmond (1819), Duchess of St Albans (1818-9, cleaning pictures), Lady Shelley (1818-9, cleaning pictures), Lord Charles Townshend, Raynham (1812-6, much work, pictures and frames; 1827, a picture by William Collins), Earl & Countess of Uxbridge (1812-3, 1818), Duke of Wellington (1841, for a portrait attributed to Velazquez) and the Marquess of Westminster (1832, see below). The preceding list could be greatly expanded by a fuller study of Smith’s account books.
To take one of the above patrons, Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Smith undertook a wide range of work, 1812-20. He supplied him with pictures in 1812 and subsequently. He framed paintings including in 1815 works by Collins, Bone, Cooper and Towne, two of which, in matching frames, can probably be identified as Robert Bone’s The Artist grinding his Colours and Abraham Cooper’s ‘Scrub’, a Shooting Pony and two Clumber Spaniels, the latter commissioned in 1815 (both on display at Stourhead). He visited Stourhead in 1819, presumably to provide advice. He collected pictures in 1819 from the premises of Bigg, presumably William Redmore Bigg, and Rising, presumably John Rising, perhaps after cleaning (for Bigg and Rising, see British picture restorers on the National Portrait Gallery website).
Smith numbered among his clients the collectors, Alexander Baring (1816), Ralph Bernal (1816-7), Jeremiah Harman (1812-9), [Daniel?] Mesman (1817), John Pedley (1812-3), Charles Long (1815-6), Sir Robert Peel, 1st Bart (1814-8) and his son, Robert Peel (Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bart from 1830) (1812-3, 1819-20, 1828, 1831-2), Henry Vansittart (1812-3, 1818-20), James Watt (1812-5) and William Wells (1828). Others include the dealers William Buchanan of Pall Mall (1812-8, framing and mounting drawings) and John Lewis Rutley (1816-8), the picture restorer, Comyns, presumably William Comyns (1812-4), the picture liner, Turner (1812-9), the picture framemakers, Thomas MacDonald (qv, 1814) and Thomas Temple (qv, 1812-20, picture cleaning work) and the cabinet makers, Tatham & Bailey (1813-5).
Artists did not form a significant part of Smith’s clientele but the following can be found in the decade from 1812: Sir William Beechey (1812), John James Chalon (1821, ‘A small handsome French frame’), Francis Chantrey (1815), Abraham Cooper (1814-6), Harding, probably George Perfect Harding (1812-4, miniature frames), George Francis Joseph (1812, and probably subsequently) and Benjamin West (1812, The Golden Age). Subsequently, John Constable in his journal in December 1826 compared three framemakers whose work he knew: ‘Cruzac works much cheaper than Coward – but not so fine & finished as Smith.’ (Beckett 1964 p.417), apparently referring to Joseph Crouzet (qv), John Coward (qv) and John Smith. We can learn something of Constable's collection of old master paintings from Smith's account books, where Constable is recorded as paying £50 in 1831 for 'A magnificent church piece… by E. de Witt', including 'a handsome 5 ins M[ouldin]g gilt frame with corners & scrools, raking leaf, egg & french mouldg[ing]s'. Smith framed work for C.R. Leslie and his patrons in the 1830s, including his Grosvenor Family for the Marquess of Westminster in 1832, described in interesting detail. Smith also framed pictures for John Sheepshanks in 1836 (Simon 1996 pp.88, 90).
John Smith’s account books often detail the sources of his ornament, in very much the same manner as George Jackson’s. Thus for Lt-Col. Addenbrooke in 1812 he produced two 'handsome frames', richly ornamented with 'Temples bands, My Corners, Egg M[ouldin]g with inside oval Turn'd Spandrils enrich'd with Blundels Dolphin ornament'. Temple was presumably the leading maker, Thomas Temple (qv), and Blundell probably William Blundell (qv), who were perhaps the originators of a particular design and not necessarily, at least in the case of Temple, acting as subcontracting suppliers. Elsewhere Smith refers to 'Blundells bead', 'Blundells flat laurel', 'Bowers corners', 'Derby corners', 'Freemans Grecian leaf', 'Greens foliage', 'Jacksons rich shell moulding', 'Jacksons egg', 'Jacksons frilled edge', 'Jacksons rich shell moulding’, 'Leaders corners', ‘Merritts flowers’, 'Moselys corners', 'Pratts shell', 'Smarts corners', 'Touzets bubble' and 'Woodburns corners', a veritable panoply of ornament, named for the most part after framemakers and composition ornament makers, probably including John and Thomas Bowers, William Henry Freeman (qv), Joseph Green (qv), George or Thomas Jackson (qv), Robert Moseley (qv), John Pratt (qv), John Tousey (qv) and Allen Woodburn (qv). Smith’s account books also provide an insight into the breakdown of costs of the different elements of frame making, from woodwork to compo ornaments and gold leaf (Simon 1996 p.144).
Smith and George Jackson: Like many framemakers, Smith used the specialist composition ornament makers, Thomas Jackson (qv) and his son George Jackson (qv). He subcontracted some framing work to the father in 1812 and to the son from 1812 until at least 1816. George Jackson apparently used some of Smith’s own designs in supplying ornament to other makers so that terms such as ‘Smiths corners’, ‘Smiths English corners’, ‘Smiths middles’, ‘Smiths flowers’, ‘Smiths sprigs by Simpson’ and ‘Smiths foliage’, appear early on in Jackson’s account book, from 1812 onwards (see Jackson account book, V&A Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2012/1/2/1).
It is possible to link some of Jackson’s work as a subcontractor with Smith’s own finished products since both men’s account books survive. This process is not altogether straightforward, given that both Jackson and Smith sometimes simplify their frame descriptions, but three instances are given here where the detail is sufficient to make a connection:
- On 17 June 1813 Jackson recorded £1.3s in Smith’s account for ornamenting a frame with Smarts corners, Bowers foliage and shell ogee. Two days later Smith charged Sir Henry Tempest £8.10s for a handsome frame enriched with Smarts corners, Bowers ornaments and French shell moulding, gilt in oil gold (the price difference partly reflects the fact that Smith did all the work except the ornamenting).
- On 24 July 1813 Jackson recorded 9s for a frame with Derby corners, Gothic flowers, sprigs with chequer riband and strap. Ten days later Smith charged Mrs Woodhouse at Lichfield £3 for a handsome frame enriched with Derby skeleton corners, Gothic flowers and sprigs, cross-banded ribbon top, gilt in burnished gold.
- On 26 January 1816 Jackson recorded 11s for ornamenting a frame with French corners, Pratts shell filled with Temples bands, bubble and parsley leave. Eighteen days later as part of a larger order Smith charged the dealer John Lewis Rutley £3 for a small handsome frame enriched with Derby corners, Pratts shells and Temples bands, and parsley leave, gilt in oil and burnished gold.
Sources: For Constable, see Smith account book, vol.2, p.256. For C.R. Leslie, see Smith account book, vol.2, pp.172, 258, 361, 392, 401, 406, 485, 513, 546. For Leslie, see also John Smith album, items 84-5, letters from Leslie concerning framing, from Petworth, 1834, and for Lady Holland, 1840, with many thanks to Charles Sebag-Montefiore. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
W.A. Smith 1871-1888, Smith & Uppard 1889-1898. At 14 Charles St, Middlesex Hospital, London W 1871-1880, street renamed and numbered 1880, 22 Mortimer St 1880-1890, 20 Mortimer St 1884-1888, 77 Mortimer St 1889-1898, W.A. Smith also at 4 Victoria St, Nottingham by 1881, and School of Art, Waverley St, Nottingham 1885. Carvers and gilders, picture framemakers, printsellers and publishers, fine art packers and exhibition agents.
William Augustine Smith (c.1828-1909), sometimes found spelt ‘Augustin’, traded in London and Nottingham. Smith and his son, Thomas Richard Smith (1851-1933), had accounts with the artists’ suppliers, Roberson, 1883-1908, from 20 Mortimer St, London, 4 Victoria St, Nottingham and 14 Bottle Lane, Nottingham. In the 1861 census Smith was living in Hackney, recorded as a mould carver, age 30; in 1871 at 14 Charles St, as a carver, age 43, employing six men and three boys, with wife and seven children, the oldest born in Manchester; in 1881 at 11 Grove Terrace, Middlesex as a carver and gilder, born Marylebone, age 53, with wife and three children; and in 1891 living on his own at the District Constitutional Club, St Martin-in-the-Fields. By 1891 the Nottingham business had passed to his son who was still trading in 1912 from 14-16 Bottle Lane, Nottingham. William Augustine Smith died in Hampstead in 1909, his age recorded as 79, leaving effects worth only £60. His children, John Caswall Smith (1866-1902) and Lizzie Caswall Smith (1870-1958) were both successful photographers (information from Bernard Wheeler, September 2009).
William A. Smith acquired the picture framing business of Joseph Green (qv) in about 1871. He advertised as a carver and gilder, and conveyancer of fine arts, describing himself as agent for numerous art societies in London and around the country, as well as for international exhibitions (The Artists’ Directory 1875, p.195; see also pp.111, 117-9). The firm claimed to have been established in 1801, when Joseph Green senr set up in business. It became Smith and Uppard in 1889, with Edwin Uppard (qv) as a partner. It advertised as ‘Carvers, Gilders, and Fine Art Packers...(Late W.A. Smith)’, offering special designs to order and French artists’ colours and materials (The Year’s Art 1892, and subsequently). In 1899, the firm was apparently acquired by James Bourlet & Sons (qv), another old established business. Uppard subsequently traded independently.
Framing work: Some of Green's more fastidious artist clients moved away when Smith took over the business in 1871 but he continued to work for artists like G.F. Watts, John Strudwick and Edward Stott. Holman Hunt was still referring to the firm as Messrs 'Green of Charles Street' as late as 1877. Hunt described the business as possibly the best gilder and maker, saying that 'one of the men there carves in after hours', a further recommendation in an age when most framemakers dealt only in compo frames (Simon 1996 p.134). Hunt continued to use Smith into the 1880s; the Mannerist frame on his memorial portrait of Rossetti, c.1882, was made by Smith (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; repr. Wildman 1995 no.26, Bronkhurst 2006 p.342, Mitchell & Roberts 1996 p.383), as may have been two other similar frames, for Amaryllis, 1883-93 (private coll.), and The Lady of Shalott, c.1887-92 (Manchester Art Gallery). See the section ‘Frames’ in Bronkhurst 2006, especially pp.342-3.
Smith’s skills as a carver were probably developed as a young man when for a time he was a mould carver. He kept a studio in Newman St where a private display of his wood carvings was shown to friends in 1894, among them G.F. Watts (Studio, vol.3, 1894, p.64).
G.F. Watts used Smith for many years. Smith was described in 1912 by Watts’s second wife as ‘The head of the firm of carvers and gilders… who gave Signor service for sixty years’, and in 1898 by George Williamson as ‘a somewhat illiterate maw… in the Master’s confidence’ (Simon 1996 p.173, no.80, n.2). The changing nature of the business can be traced through the labels on Watts’s frames: ‘W.A SMITH, (LATE J. GREEN)’ on Thoby Prinsep, 1871 (Watts Gallery, Compton); ‘W.A. SMITH, Carver and Gilder, … LONDON W.’ on his Self-portrait, 1880 (Uffizi Gallery); a somewhat similar label on Matthew Arnold, 1880 (National Portrait Gallery, repr. Simon 1996 p.74); and ‘SMITH & UPPARD (Successors to W.A. Smith)…77, MORTIMER STREET’ on a later Self-portrait, 1903-4 (Watts Gallery). Another example can be found on Watts’s Alfred Tennyson, framed in 1887 (National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, see Payne 2007 p.143).
John Singer Sargent used Smith in 1887 (Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent, vol.1, The Early Portraits, 1998, p.180). John Strudwick can be found complaining about his framemaker, almost certainly Smith & Uppard, to one of his patrons in 1896, ‘I write to my framemaker from time to time, in as strong languages as I can comfortably use, but there is no result'. He waited three months for the frame for this work, St Cecilia, 1896, which like his earlier Circe and Scylla, c.1886, has Smith & Uppard's label (Sudley Hall, Liverpool, see Morris 1996 pp.440, 445). Burne-Jones referred to the firm in the last year of his life, joking that even if he had been painting on a wall, ‘Smith and Uppard will come and carry it away presently’ (G. Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, 1904, vol.2, p.334).
Other labelled frames include Lord Leighton’s Capri: Sunrise, 1860, perhaps framed when sold by the artist in 1872 (Christie's 14 June 2000 lot 13) and A Sunny Corner, c.1872-5 (Sudley Art Gallery, Liverpool, see Morris 1996 p.264), Albert Moore’s Study of a draped figure, c.1875 (Sotheby’s 5 November 1997 lot 219), Keeley Halswelle’s The Heart of the Coolins, Isle of Skye, 1886, and Frank Dicksee’s The Crisis, 1891 (both National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, see Payne 2007 pp.145-7), Henry Moore's A Breezy Day, 1887, and G.D. Leslie's September Sunshine, 1896 (both Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, see Morris 1994 pp.80, 84).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*Charles David Soar 1883-1906, C.D. Soar & Son 1907-1997. At 1 Sussex Villas, Kensington, London W 1883-1905, renamed 1905, 1 Launceston Place W8 1905-1918, 3 and/or 4 Launceston Place 1920-1997. Carvers and gilders, artists’ colourmen.
In 1882 Charles David Soar (1853-1939) was in partnership with Robert Varley as Varley and Soar, carvers and gilders, 22 Great Ormond St, London WC, and in the 1881 census he was described as a junior partner. He then set up independently, and had an account with the suppliers, Roberson from his Kensington address, 1883-1908 (Woodcock 1997). In the 1901 census he was listed at 37 Dryburgh Road, Putney as a carver and gilder, age 48, with wife Mary, son John, age 21, and daughter Grace, age 20, both of whom appear to have been working in the business. In 1911, still at this address, his daughter, Grace, was recorded as a wood carver. Grace is said by her father to have ‘turned out some good work until she turned it up on marriage’ (information from Peter Soar, 12 April 2005, taken from a family history, written by Charles Soar shortly before his death). He died in 1939, leaving effects worth £3226.
An agent for Cambridge colours, 1897, made by Madderton & Co Ltd (qv), Soar advertised in Madderton’s literature as a picture framemaker and artists’ colourman. He also stocked other makes of artists’ supplies as he advertised on his printed trade label, from 1 Sussex Villas (and so presumably before 1906), describing himself as 'PRACTICAL CARVER & GILDER,/ ARTISTS' COLOURMAN./ ROBERSON’S, WINSOR & NEWTON’S and ROWNEY’S/ COLOURS IN STOCK.’
Charles Soar was an accomplished microscopist and co-author and illustrator of British Hydracarina, a three-volume work on water mites published by the Ray Society 1925-9 (information from Peter Soar).
From at least 1896, Soar’s brother, Alfred James Soar (b.1867), also traded as a picture framemaker, printseller and artists' colourman, from 16 Knight's Hill, West Norwood.
*John Sotheby, corner of Plumbtree St, Charlotte St, Bloomsbury, London 1771, 14 Strand 1772-1773, 13 Strand, opposite Hungerford Market 1775, 473 Strand 1778. Carver and gilder, picture framemaker and printseller.
John Sotheby took as apprentices Edward Wyatt (qv) for a premium of £5 in 1771 and James Linnell (qv) for £30 in 1773. He may have been the ‘John Sotherley', carver and gilder, who polled from the Strand in 1774 (DEFM); it has been suggested that he may even be the ‘I. Sotheby’, a Derby carver and gilder, who took an apprentice in 1769, given his subsequent connection with Joseph Wright of Derby (Barker 2009 p.204). He took out insurance as a carver and gilder in 1771, firstly on 28 March from the corner of Plumbtree St in Charlotte St, Bloomsbury and secondly on 15 October near Lancaster Court in the Strand (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 204/ 295937, 210/ 303005). He later moved to other addresses in the Strand. His premises at 473 Strand were subsequently occupied by James Birchall (qv).
It is not possible to identify the carver and gilder with John Sotheby (1740-1807), bookseller and auctioneer, trading from 1778, despite the coincidence between the date of the carver and gilder’s last known advertisement on 17 January 1778, and the first recorded for the bookseller and auctioneer in the partnership, Leigh & Sotheby, on 22 July 1778.
Framing and related work: In 1773 Sotheby advertised as printseller and framemaker from 14 Strand, offering mezzotint proof prints by Dixon, Watson and Burke after the work of Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffman and Mr Cotes (Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser 19 January 1773). His trade card from 13 Strand describes him as ‘Carver, Gilder, Picture-frame Maker & Printseller’ (Banks coll., Heal coll.).
In 1775, Sotheby advertised an early form of compo for picture frames, from 13 Strand, near Lancaster Court, claiming that ‘his invention of ornaments laid on to picture frames… looks equally elegant to those carved in the neatest manner, even to bear the nicest inspection, and at much less expense; is of a hardness near to stone, and will burnish preferable to carvings in wood, as it is itself a sufficient body, without injuring the sharpness of the wood, which the preparation for gilding on wood or paper, will always do. Patterns may be seen…’ (Morning Post and Daily Advertiser 12 April 1775).
Joseph Wright of Derby used John Sotheby as an agent, as is clear from a letter he wrote in April 1773 from Derby to ‘Mr Sotheby, carver & gilder near Lancaster Court, Strand, London’, saying that he had sent him two cases, one containing his two pictures of an iron forge and a captive king, the other two pictures by Miss Turner of Liverpool, and giving further instructions about the forthcoming exhibition (Royal Academy Archive, SA/39/60, Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain papers; see Barker 2009 p.73, letter 8). He was mentioned again by Wright at this address in about 1780 in his account book (National Portrait Gallery, see Barker 2009 p.9). Wright had previously used Dubourg (qv) for picture framing and went on to use Milbourne (qv).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Henry Spencer 1848-1875, Henry Spencer & Son 1876-1890, Henry Spencer 1891-1897. At 2 Cook’s Terrace, Pancras Old Road, London 1848-1849, 22 Queen’s Row, Pentonville 1850-1857, road renamed and numbered 1857, 93 Pentonville Road 1857-1897. Carvers and gilders, picture frame manufacturers, later also picture dealers and picture cleaners.
There were two generations of the family involved in this Pentonville picture frame making business, as we learn from successive censuses, Henry Spencer (c.1822-1900?), who was born in Walthamstow, and his son Harry Spencer (b.1848?), whom he had taken into partnership by 1876. In 1851 Henry Spencer was employing one apprentice, in 1861 a man and three boys, apparently also trading as a stationer and tobacconist, in 1871 his son Harry, age 22, was listed as a framemaker, and two daughters were recorded as gilders, Elizabeth and Lucy, ages 24 and 16. The father was last recorded in 1891 as a picture dealer, when he was 69. The son, Harry, was listed in the 1881 census as a carver and gilder, in 1891 as picture framemaker, age 44, by now married with a wife Charlotte and three young daughters, and in 1901 as picture framemaker (worker), indicating that he was no longer trading independently.
Henry Spencer’s label, on the reverse of the turned mahogany frame on Thomas Woolner’s plaster tondo portrait of an unknown man of 1856 (private coll., information from Osmund Bullock, July 2009), advertises his services from 93 Pentonville Road as carver and gilder, looking glass and picture frame manufacturer, offering 'Imitation Carved Oak Frames made to any design', and to regild old frames and to supply country dealers and the trade. The business advertised in 1875 as carvers, gilders and picture frame manufacturers, also offering to clean, line and restore pictures (The Artists’ Directory 1875, p.196).
*H.J. Spiller 1902-1959, H.J. Spiller Ltd 1960-1989. At 55 Beak St, Regent St, London W1 1902-1909, 37 Beak St 1910-1989. Picture framemaker and antique frame dealer.
Henry James Spiller (1862-1943), was listed in the 1901 census as a picture framemaker, age 38, living in Wandsworth. In 1910 he moved to premises at 37 Beak St which had once been occupied by W. & P. Evans (qv) and he was listed at this address in the 1911 census as a picture framemaker and employer, age 48, born Soho, with wife and son Henry James Alfred, age 20, also a picture framemaker, and another son, Lawrence, age 8. He died in Peckham at the age of 81 in 1943, leaving effects worth £8929, with probate granted to his two sons, Henry James, picture dealer, and Lawrence John, art dealer, and to Daisy Harriet Endacott.
It would appear that it was his son, Henry James Alfred Spiller (1890-1966), who continued the business. He subsequently specialised in antique frames, becoming a frequent purchaser of paintings at auction, which he acquired for their frames (Simon 1996 p.25). He advertised his exhibition of original antique carved wood frames of all types and periods, apparently the first of its kind in England (The London Portrait Society: Illustrated Catalogue of their sixth exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, 1934). A part of his business was hiring out frames to furnish film sets. Henry James Spiller's estate as a picture framemaker and art dealer was worth £74,475 (The Times 17 December 1966). Other members of the Spiller family traded as picture framemakers in the later 19th and early 20th century.
On the evidence of a label on the back of Bartolommeo degli Erri’s St Vincent Ferrer preaching, H.J. Spiller supplied its Italian 16th-century frame to the Ashmolean Museum, probably in 1953 (Newbery 2002 p.20).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Charles Squire, 22 Lisle St, Soho, London 1843, 38 Lisle St 1844-1850. Carver and gilder, picture framemaker.
Little is known about Charles Squire beyond his court appearances for debt in 1851 and 1852, when described as formerly of 8 Carnaby St, then of 22 Lisle St, at the same time of 60 St Martin's Lane, and late of 28 Old Fish St (London Gazette 15 July 1851, 31 August 1852). Charles Squire produced frames for two portraits for the Duke of Wellington, Doge Marcantonio Memmo, ascribed to Leandro Bassano, and ‘Catarina Cornaro’, both impressed 'SQUIRE MANUFACTURER LISLE STREET LONDON' (Jervis 1982 p.19).
It remains to be established whether there is a link between Charles Squire and Henry Squire & Co, trading as a carver and gilder at 20 Old Fish St in the City from 1851, also trading as a manufacturer of shopwindow and display fittings by 1860. A pair of anonymous pastels, 8th Baron Kinnaird and his brother, Douglas Kinnaird, are labelled, 'Henry Squire, Wholesale Frame Manufacturer in plain and ornamental gilt, grained oak and every style of fancy wood. 20, Old Fish Street, Doctors' Commons, London' (private coll., exh. Mad, Bad and Dangerous: The Cult of Lord Byron, National Portrait Gallery, 2002).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Robert John Stannard (1854-1907) was born in Hoxton and was recorded there in the 1871 census with his father, Robert Stannard senr, who had been born in Norwich, where several members of the Stannard family were active as artists (Moore 1985 pp.95-108). Robert Stannard senr appears to be the individual who traded as a picture framemaker with William Stannard, relationship unknown, at 4 Middle Row, Holborn, until the partnership was dissolved in 1861 (London Gazette 12 April 1861). A subsequent partnership at the same address between William Stannard and William Stannard junr was dissolved in 1862 (London Gazette 9 January 1863). William Stannard was made bankrupt in 1863 (London Gazette 31 March 1863).
Robert John Stannard was listed in 1880 at 30 Great Russell St as picture framemaker, carver and gilder, and mount cutter, wholesale and retail. His headed invoice paper describes his business as ‘late H. Albert’ (British Museum, Dept of Prints and Drawings, bill book, vol.2, item 60). He appears in censuses, in 1881 as a fine art dealer, age 26, living at 1 Albert St, with his picture frame making father, Robert, age 58, and brother William, age 24, in 1891 as a gilder, living at 12 Studland St, Hammersmith, and in 1901 at 30 Great Russell St. He died in the Paddington district in 1907.
Stannard’s trade label described him as 'Picture Frame Manufacturer, Carver, Gilder & Mount Cutter', giving his address in Great Russell St as 'Nearly opposite the British Museum'; examples can be found on John Longstaff’s Ada Garrick, 1895, and Rupert Bunny’s Madam Melba, 1902 (both National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, see Payne 2007 pp.150-3), Charles Gogin’s Samuel Butler, 1896, and W.C. Wontner’s Frederic Myers, c.1896 (both National Portrait Gallery). He was also responsible for the bold undercut scrolling foliage frame on Alfred Edward Emslie’s A Sonata of Beethoven, 1903 or before (Guildhall Art Gallery).
William Stannard, see above and Frederick Brown
**J.H. Steer Ltd 1902-1917, John H. Steer 1918-1932. At 2 Ridgmount St, Store St, London 1903-1923, 1 Ridgmount St 1924-1932. Picture frame manufacturers and mount cutters, picture frame designers by 1910, also fine art dealers by 1915.
John Henry Steer (1869-1929) was born in the Marylebone district in 1869. In census records, he can be found in 1881 and 1891 at 10 Little Exmouth St, Somers Town, in the household of his parents, Albert, a cabman, and Amelia; in 1891 at the age of 21 he was recorded as an artists’ colourman assistant. He married Matilda Ann Robinson in the Kensington district in 1894 and can be found with her in census records in Paddington in 1901 when described as a clerk and in Fulham in 1911 when recorded as manager of a picture framing company (for which see below). Steer died in 1929, age 59, with administration of his estate, effects worth £8135, being granted to his widow Matilda Ann Steer and to Ada Emily Hedges as reported in a notice concerning claims on his estate (The Times 17 January 1930).
In 1902 John Henry Steer was one of the initial shareholders in the limited company, J.H. Steer Ltd, incorporated that year. The primary objective of the company was described as ‘to manufacture and trade in picture frames, mouldings for picture frames and other decorative purposes, to gild mouldings and other materials, to act as agents for other manufacturers of similar goods, and to deal in all similar goods and fancy articles.’ In a share allotment document, dated 28 May 1902, the shares allocated to Steer were described as a consideration for the ‘procuration of the rights to act as sole agents for the sale of certain American mouldings in accordance with agreement dated May 26th 1902’. These rights related to the business of Messrs White, Potter and Paige of Brooklyn, New York, manufacturers of picture frame mouldings. The business was listed in the London Post Office directory in 1903 as picture frame manufacturers, mount cutters and sole agents for White, Potter and Paige of New York.
There was one artist shareholder in the business, Francis Hurst Eastwood, a Surrey landscape painter. Members of the Wild family, owners of the artists’ suppliers, Reeves, were also shareholders. In 1915 Reeves Artists Depot Ltd took a second charge on the business and in 1917 put J.H. Steer Ltd into receivership (see National Archives, BT 31/16800/73340). The business was struck off the company register in 1920 (London Gazette 6 July 1920) but Steer continued to trade independently.
Framing work: Few documented frames by Steer have been identified. Steer worked for two artists with Cornish associations, Lamorna Birch and Laura Knight. Birch employed Steer as his watercolour framer, 1913-20, and perhaps for longer, at a time that he was using H.W. Taylor & Co (qv) for other work (Austin Wormleighton, A Painter Laureate: Lamorna Birch and his circle, 1995, pp.123, 145, 150, 153). Birch was horrified with the way that Steer had prepared his exhibits for the Royal Watercolour Society in 1913 (‘He has done his best to swamp my drawings with frames as big as cabinets’ and was full of complaints again in 1920 (‘I’m getting off my chest a long-felt grumble at Steer’s rotten old frames with their 6-inch white mounts’). Yet later in the same year he expressed his pleasure with the framing of another set of watercolours. Steer’s label as J.H. Steer Ltd, and therefore presumably by 1917, can be found on the reverse of Birch's close-framed watercolour, Among the hills, Penzance (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, see Payne 2007 p.155).
Steer acted as Laura Knight’s framemaker. She described Steer as her guardian angel, her picture-framer and miracle-worker, continuing, ‘By the look of him, you would never have suspected such wizardry: his stature was small; between his two front upper teeth was a little round hole – a perfect fitment for the stub of cigarette that permanently lodge there, bobbing up and down when he spoke. His enthusiasm about my work seemed to be unbounded – he believed I could paint anything, and there seemed to be no limit to his own ability to make good my most earnest desire.’ (Laura Knight, The Magic of Line, 1965, p.153). Steer was responsible for gaining her a free seat in the house for the second Diaghilev season and later in 1919 freedom to go backstage during performances of the Diaghilev Ballet at the Coliseum. Steer provided the flat reeded Whistler frame for Knight’s In the Coulisse: Behind the Scenes, by 1923 (Falmouth Art Gallery, see Falmouth Art Gallery and Brian Stewart, Falmouth Frameworks, 2011, p.94).
*Stewart & Brown, 15 Little Guildford St, Brunswick Square, London 1857, 56 Eagle St, Red Lion Square, Holborn 1858-1879, 261 High Holborn 1870-1874, 55 Eagle St 1876-1941, 7 Red Lion Square WC1 1942-1947. Picture frame manufacturers, carvers and gilders.
The business advertised that it had been established in 1847 (The Year’s Art 1904). The partnership between William Stewart (b. c.1825) and Thomas Harvey Brown (c.1826-1897), carvers and gilders at 55 Eagle St, trading as Stewart & Brown, was dissolved in 1889 (London Gazette 12 July 1889). William Stewart, born in Scotland, appears in successive censuses, usually as a gilder, in 1861 living at 13 Goldington St, Somers Town, from 1871 to 1891 at 10 Crescent Place, Tottenham Court Road, in 1881, age 55, employing 20 men and two boys, with two sons listed as gilders, William, age 28, and Frederick, age 23.
Thomas Harvey Brown, son of John Brown, cook, married Eliza Wingfield at Christ Church Rotherhithe in 1849. They were living at York Place, Little Guildford St, when their children were christened between 1850 and 1861 and at Compton St East in 1863. In the 1881 census Thomas H. Brown, age 54, born Bloomsbury, was listed as a picture framemaker at 17 Compton St, Bloomsbury, with four sons, Thomas, Henry, Alfred and Walter in related trades. He died in 1897, leaving effects worth £1819, with probate granted to Emma Greatbatch, wife of Thomas Greatbatch.
In 1904 the business advertised ‘Frames and Mirrors, in Carved Wood or Composition, made to any Design. Re-gilding in French and English Styles’ (The Year’s Art 1904). In 1936, the business was also offering picture cleaning.
Little is known of the work of this long-established enterprise. In summer 1873, Charles Howell, the dealer, tried to persuade Ford Madox Brown to have his small oil painting, View from Shorn Ridgway (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), framed by Stewart & Brown, rather than by Foord & Dickinson (qv), to whom it had been sent and who were taking a long time over it (see Bennett 2010 pp.65, 574). Stewart & Brown undertook the framing of the Liverpool artist, William Davis’s remaining works after his death in 1873 (Bennett 2010 pp.65, 199). Subsequently in 1879, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote to Brown complaining, 'I lately had a lot of frames of the slighter kind made by Stewart & Brown, with whom I believe you have dealt a good deal & who are supposed to be cheap. I now get their bill which seems higher than Foord and Dickinson's'. Rossetti referred to Stewart & Brown's charge of £3.10s for framing Marie Stillman’s Fiametta, 1879 (private coll.) and complained that he had been charged £7.9s for the frame of a chalk drawing not much larger than Stillman’s (Fredeman, letter 79.35, information from Lynn Roberts).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*Alfred Stiles 1892-1911, Alfred Stiles & Sons 1896, 1903-1919, Alfred Stiles & Sons Ltd 1919-1965. At 625 Fulham Road, London 1891-1896 (Alfred Stiles), 26 Parson’s Green Lane, Fulham 1896 (Alfred Stiles & Sons), 16 Hammersmith Broadway 1903-1911 (Alfred Stiles & Sons), 617 Fulham Road 1900-1931, 37-39 Brook Green Road, Hammersmith W6 1931-1962, road renamed and numbered 1962/3, 214 Shepherds Bush Road, W6 1963-1965. Picture framemakers.
The history of this important business falls into two parts: a family concern from its establishment, said to be in 1870, until after the First World War, and then as a business refinanced in 1919 by the Fine Art Society (qv), which was initially the majority shareholder.
Alfred Stiles (1852-1917?) was born in Bethnal Green in 1852, the son of Alfred Styles, a book finisher and later a ‘pianoforte smith’, and his wife Rebecca. In censuses he was recorded in 1871 as a gilder, age 18, living with his parents, in 1881 as a gilder and picture framemaker, living with his wife Emily and children at 5 Portland Place, North End Road, in 1891 at 625 Fulham Road with his son Alfred William Stiles (1876-1946), already a clerk at the age of 14, in 1901 at 617 Fulham Road, with his son William, gilder and picture framemaker, and another son Frederick, age 13, and in 1911 at the same address, by now age 58, with his son Frederick Charles, gilder and picture framemaker. In the 1911 census, his son Alfred William, gilder and picture framemaker, was living elsewhere in Fulham with his wife and son, Alfred John (b.1903), age 7. Alfred William Stiles died in 1946, leaving effects worth £5613, with probate granted to Alfred John Stiles and Cecil William Stiles, picture framemakers and gilders.
As well as trading under his own name in Fulham Road, Alfred Stiles also traded with one of his sons as A. Stiles & Son at 26 Parson’s Green Lane, Fulham in 1896, and at 16 Hammersmith Broadway from 1903 to 1911. In 1904 he assigned his interest in the Hammersmith Broadway premises to his son, Alfred William Stiles (Hammersmith & Fulham Archives, DD/70/30, 80, information from Suzanna Walker, 2007).
In 1919, when the business was refinanced by the Fine Art Society, it was incorporated as Alfred Stiles & Sons Ltd, to carry on business as 'gilders, frame makers, moulders, mount cutters, art dealers, manufacturers of and dealers in artists' materials of all kinds', although the primary trade was always that of picture framing. Of the initial 200 shares, 159 were held by the Fine Art Society Ltd, one by Ernest Proctor Dawburn and 40 by Alfred William Styles of 617 Fulham Rd. In 1931, the partners were named as A.W. Stiles, F.C. Stiles and A.J. Stiles (The Artist, vol.2, September 1931, p.41). The business closed in 1963 and was liquidated in 1965 (London Gazette 12 January 1965); its sales books and accounts, 1911-63, are held at Hammersmith & Fulham Archives (DD/76, DD/219, Accession 76,219).
Framing work: The business began advertising extensively following its refinancing, in 1920 as ‘Frame-makers Carvers and Gilders Mount Cutters’ (The Year’s Art 1920, and subsequently, generally sharing a page with the Fine Art Society), and later offering ‘Frames of Distinction’, giving as specialities, ‘Framing Watercolours with washbordered mounts for exhibitions. Any frame made in best English gold to customers’ own design’ (The Artist, vol.2, February 1932, p.261). The business’s premises were divided into a series of specialist workshops (see Simon 1996 p.135 for a view of the Mounting and Whitening Department).
Stiles’s order books show the business working for many leading artists of the younger generation, including John Banting, Edward Bawden, Vanessa Bell, Mark Gertler, Duncan Grant, Ivon Hitchens, Laura Knight, Cedric Morris, C.R.W. Nevinson, Mervyn Peake, John Piper, Eric Ravilious, Gilbert Spencer and Graham Sutherland (see Simon 1996 p.135). The business produced gilded, painted and stained frames, with white and coloured frames becoming more common in the 1930s (Simon 1996 p.23). Apart from the simplicity of their forms, such frames often relied on the subtlety of their surface finishes for their attraction. In this decade, Stiles’s order books contain fascinating details. Polished and painted frames could be quite varied in effect: ‘polished black rubbed slightly red’ for Derwent Wood in 1925, ‘wood parts to be green’ for Russell Flint in 1930, ‘stained special pink’ for C.R. W. Nevinson in 1931, ‘stone grey and slight pink smooth finish’ for Ivon Hitchens in 1934. Frames were often given an inner slip of canvas or linen: Ivon Hitchens had frames with grey canvas and unbleached calico flats in 1936 and 1937, John Piper with ‘no. 6 linen flats’ in 1939, and Graham Sutherland with a ‘green velvet flat to show 3/4” ‘ in 1939 (Simon 1996 pp.47, 79).
Labelled frames include Vanessa Bell’s Mrs St John Hutchinson, 1915, and Dame Ethel Walker’s Self-portrait, exh. 1930? (both Tate, information from Gerry Alabone).
The papers of Sir Winston Churchill include an account from Stiles, dated 1 December 1937, for £32.2s.1d for frames supplied, 1935-7 (The Churchill Papers; A Catalogue, at www.chu.cam.ac.uk/archives/collections/).
In April 1940 Stiles won the Ministry of Information contract for the supply of frames for the work of war artists in the Second World War, in competition with J. Tanous (qv) and C.H. West (qv), and as a result was able to retain staff during the war years (Simon 1996 p.135). For most work by war artists, Stiles provided a standard economy moulding with a mottled paint finish. Stiles framed Graham Sutherland’s The Cliff Road, 1941, and Edward Burra’s Soldiers in a Lorry, 1942-3 (both National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, repr. Gott 2007 pp.83, 242).
In the post-war period, Stiles made frames for various artists. The business worked for Doris Zinkeisen at this time, and probably before the Second World War, according to her son Murray Johnstone, who identified that she was very particular about the colours and design of her frames (letter to National Portrait Gallery, 9 December 1999). Work by Ivon Hitchens with frames of a centre-and-corner pattern include River Temple, 1948 (Sotheby's 27 November 1996 lot 63) and Holbrook, c.1948 (Sotheby's 4 March 1998 lot 155). Edward Burra’s Zoot Suits, 1948, has a labelled frame with a wide inward sloping linen flat (Sotheby’s 15 June 2011, Evill/ Frost collection, lot 21).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*René Stone, parish of St James Westminster, London by 1741, Berwick St by 1745, The Golden Head, Berwick St by 1745, premises renamed, The King’s Arms, Berwick St by 1764-1773. Carver and gilder, picture framemaker.
René Stone (c.1700-1774) had his workshops in Berwick St at the heart of the French quarter in Soho, like Joseph Duffour (qv) and Isaac Gosset (qv). As ‘Reney’ Stone, son of Joseph Stone of St James Westminster, he was apprenticed to Matthew Gosset (qv) for £10 in 1714 (National Archives, IR 1/3), suggesting that he was born in about 1700. Nothing is known of his work in 1720s and 1730s. Later, he took his own apprentices including Peter Rensell for a premium of £10 in 1741 (perhaps a misreading for Russell, see below), Alexander Marbeuf for £10 in 1744, Isaac Winstanley for £2.2s in 1755, William Harris for £2.2s in 1761, John Touch for £10 in 1766 and Warnford Christopher Taylor for £21 in 1771. Stone was in Berwick St in 1745 when he advertised that his apprentice, Peter Russell, had absconded (Daily Advertiser 5 September 1745). A member of the French community was baptised at his house in Berwick St in 1750 (DEFM). He took out insurance on property near Edgware, describing himself initially as a framemaker at the Kings Arms in Berwick St, in 1764, 1765 and 1772 (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 157/ 215576, 163/ 224124, see also 214/311247).
Stone had a financial interest in property in Hertfordshire, 1768-72 (Hertfordshire Archives, DE/Kl/19889-19893). He died in 1774 (just possibly in December 1773) and was buried on 8 January 1774 at St Lawrence Little Stanmore. In his will, made 4 February 1772 and proved 5 January 1774, he refers to his natural son, John Stone. His stock-in-trade, work benches, china, household furniture, etc, were sold at auction in March 1774 (Daily Advertiser 10 March 1774).
Framing work: Stone succeeded Gerrard Howard (qv) as the King's framemaker (the post was described officially as Joiner of his Majesty’s Privy Chamber in ordinary) on 27 January 1752; in turn at his death he was followed by Isaac Gosset in 1774 (Simon 1996 pp.131-2, see National Archives, LC 3/65, p.256; see also Bucholz 2006). In his official capacity, he framed state portraits of George II and George III for ambassadors and the governors of British colonies. Initially, these were portraits of George II by John Shackleton, as is documented by warrants for payment, such as that issued 17 April 1755 for £77.1s.8d, ‘for two fine carved and gilt frames with drive up frames [i.e., straining frames] and cases for His Majesty’s Pictures for their Excell[enc]ys William Henry Lyttleton, Esqr Govr of South Carolina & Ch[arle]s Hardy, Esqr Govr of the Province of New York, Also for Business done at Somerset House…’ (National Archives, LC 5/24, p.158, punctuation modernised). Subsequently, he framed Allan Ramsay’s numerous portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, as many as sixty pairs, dating between 1762 and 1773, including those at Scone Palace, Perthshire, Blickling Hall, Norfolk and Goodwood House, Sussex (Millar 1969 p.94; Simon 1994 pp.451-5).
Details of Stone’s other activities are limited. In 1763 'Stone' made frames for both the amateur artist, Richard Beauvoir (Elizabeth Einberg, Walpole Society, vol.63, 2001, p.187), and for Edward Knight, Kidderminster (information from Nicholas Penny, 1994). ‘R. Stone’ was in correspondence with Sir R. Wilmot, 1764, concerning frames for a painting of the Cornelia family (Derbyshire Record Office, D3155/C3522). In 1773 he charged William Fitzherbert for packing and transporting portraits of ‘their Majesties' by Allan Ramsay (Derbyshire Record Office, D239 M/F645).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Added March 2013
Sully’s, Arwenack St, Falmouth from 1921. Picture framemakers, also an art gallery.
Outside the scope of this resource, but see Pete Hambrook and Lynn Blake, ‘A Falmouth Framemaker: the history of Sully’s framing’, in Brian Stewart, with Lynn Roberts and Paul Mitchell, Falmouth Frameworks, Sansom & Co Ltd, 2011, pp.10-11.