British picture restorers, 1630-1950 - F

A selective directory, to be revised and expanded regularly, 1st edition March 2009. Contributions and corrections are welcome, to Jacob Simon at

Resources and bibliography

[FE] [FI] [FR] [FU]

Henry Farrer 1822-1826, 1834-1843, Henry and William Farrer 1844-1847, Henry Farrer 1848-1864. At 13 King St, Soho, London 1822-1828, 24 Barton St, Camden Town 1834-1839, 4 Barton Place, Camden Town 1840-1843, 14 Wardour St 1834-1855, 106 New Bond St 1856-1866. Miniature painter in 1822, subsequently picture dealer and picture restorer, by 1858 also dealer in antiquities.

As a dealer, Henry Farrer FSA (1798-1866) was said to know ‘so much about old masters that his opinion is constantly asked, paid for, and considered conclusive; his charge... one guinea for a single picture, and ten for a collection' (William Powell Frith, Further Reminiscences, 1888, pp.339-40). The name, Farrer, occurs as an occasional buyer of pictures at auction from as early as 1796, and as both a buyer and a seller from 1820 until the 1840s or later (Getty provenance index), suggesting that Farrer's father, or another member of the family, was also active in the market.

Henry Farrer was born on 11 December 1798 and christened at St Mary Marylebone on 7 January 1799, the son of Henry and Jane Farrer, and grandson of the portrait painter Nicholas Farrer (1750-1805) (Michael Bryan, Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1849, p.239). In giving evidence to the 1853 Select Committee on the National Gallery, he claimed to have been brought up by his grandfather and to have practised as a miniature painting for several years but that his attention had been called to picture cleaning by Thomas Lawrence. In his evidence, he also stated that he had been assisted in picture cleaning by his two brothers, both of whom were now dead.

Henry Farrer married Martha Hearne in 1821; their son, Henry Thomas Joseph Farrer, was christened at St Pancras Old Church in 1824. He was listed as a miniature painter at 13 King St, Soho in 1822, and as a picture dealer from 1823. However, in 1828 listings in directories give Edward Farrer and W. Farrer, possibly his brothers. He is perhaps to be identified as ‘Henry Farrar', portrait painter, listed at 9 Adam's Terrace, Camden Town in 1828.

Henry Farrer moved to 14 Wardour St by 1834. In December 1835, he had two pictures by Claude, a sea port and a landscape, on his premises, insured by the dealer James Dunsford at £200 each. ‘Henry and William Farrar', artists and dealers in pictures, took out their own insurance on 9 August 1836 (Guildhall Library: Records of Sun Fire Office, vols 550 no.1208574, 552 no.1228382).

In census records, in 1851 Henry Farrer, artist and picture dealer, age 51, was recorded at 15 Albert Road, Marylebone, with wife Martha, age 47, and son Henry T.J. Farrer, age 27, a picture restorer, and in 1861 only the son was recorded at this address, as an artist. The father, Henry Farrer, died at 15 Albert Road in April 1866, leaving effects under £16,000 (information from Lorne Campbell). In 1866 Christie's offered for sale both the objects of art and virtu of the late Henry Farrer and also the lease of 106 New Bond St, at a yearly rent of £210 until 1872, consisting of a spacious gallery and five ground-floor rooms (Daily News 11 June 1866). Henry Farrer's son, Henry Thomas Joseph Farrer (1824-67), died soon after his father.

Dealing and restoration work: As a dealer, Farrer acted for Lord Northwick on occasion in the 1840s and 1850s, and it has been suggested that this involved both father and son (Oliver Bradbury and Nicholas Penny, 'The picture collecting of Lord Northwick: Part II', Burlington Magazine, vol.144, 2002, p.606). Farrer also advised Joseph Gillott, the Birmingham pen manufacturer, on old master paintings from 1846 (Chapel 2008 p.43). Farrer purchased John Everett Millais's Carpenter's Shop in 1850, and both Mariana and Ophelia in 1851 (all Tate Gallery, see Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith, Millais, 2007, pp.46, 52, 68, information from Dr Mark Westgarth).

Farrer offered pictures for sale to the National Gallery and on occasion gave advice about potential acquisitions, 1840-64; he received as much as £10.10s for giving an opinion on Guido Reni's Susanna and the Elders in 1845 and sold Velasquez's Boar Hunt to the Gallery in 1846 (National Gallery Archive, NG13/1/1, NG5/61/6, numerous further references). He donated Gilbert Stuart's William Woollett in 1849 and gave Thomas Lawrence's drawing, a face study of the Countess of Mornington, to the National Portrait Gallery in 1861. He had 'a long and fruitful relationship' with the South Kensington Museum, lending or selling Renaissance and other objects (Clive Wainwright, 'The banker, the prince and the dealers: Three Renaissance objects in the Victoria and Albert Museum', Apollo, vol.151, February 2000, pp. 41-6, with thanks to Dr Mark Westgarth for this reference).

As a picture restorer, Farrer gave a fairly full list of his early clients in his application for the post of Keeper, or as he called it, Conservator, of the National Gallery in November 1843, following the death of William Seguier (qv) (British Library, Add.MS 40535 f.279, Peel papers). Writing from 14 Wardour St, he claimed to have had over 30 years ‘very great experience in Works of Art in this and Foreign Countries', and to have expended very large sums of money in purchasing and importing pictures of high quality. He added that he had cleaned and restored pictures by the late Sir Thomas Lawrence and by many Royal Academicians, and most of the nobility, gentry and Members of Parliament. His claim would imply that his experience began at the age of 14 in 1813.

In this application, he gave a list of clients, namely the Dukes of Buccleuch, Bedford, Richmond, Beaufort and Newcastle; the Marquises of Lansdowne and Abercorn; the Lords Northwick, Lowther, Francis Egerton, Warwick, Harrington, Chelsea, Berwick, Clare, Southampton, Redesdale, Nugent, Monson, Beauchamp, Ellenborough, Arthur Lennox, Ripon, Suffolk and Seymour; Count Surveilliers; Viscount Holmesdale; Sir Claude de Crespigny Bart; Sir John Easthope, Sir Denham Jephson Norreys, Sir Samuel Fludyer, Sir Hugh Hume Campbell, Sir Samuel Meyrick, Sir Ralph Howard, Sir Samuel Spry, Sir James Wigram and Sir Thomas Whitchcote; the Honourables Maurice Fitzgerald (Knight of Kerry), John Ashley, Thomas Liddle, Henry Westenra(?), Colonel Fitzgibbon, G.R. Trevor and F. Byng; and MPs Thomas Wyse, Ralph Bernal, B. Thompson, E.J. Cooper, H. Broadwood, --- Hope, Otway Cave, John Stewart and J.L. Hodges.

Little is known of his subsequent clients but that he continued to restore pictures is suggested by the statement of William Dyer (qv), who claimed to have worked for 20 years with Farrer, perhaps c.1846-66. Farrer appears to have restored only one picture for the National Gallery, a work by Hobbema for £10 in 1862 (National Gallery Archive, NG13/1/3). He restored Joshua Reynolds's John Hunter (Royal College of Surgeons), apparently in the early 1860s, which was described by Tom Taylor as ‘perhaps the greatest triumph of care and skill in this kind' (Leslie 1865, vol.1, p.377, vol.2, p.475).

In giving evidence on the cleaning of pictures to the 1853 Select Committee on the National Gallery, Farrer claimed that he knew nobody in England who used dammar varnish, apart from himself (National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol.22, 2001, p.64).

Sources: Biographical information kindly supplied by Lorne Campbell; Report from the Select Committee on the National Gallery, 1853, pp.71-88. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Feilot, see Christopher Cock

Fenn ‘the Liegois' (active 1651-1655), Purpoole Lane [Portpool Lane, Holborn], London. Colourman.

Fenn supplied canvases to the artist, Robert Walker, and sold colours at 5s a pot the size of a walnut as well as primed canvases, according to Richard Symonds, 1651-2 (Beal 1978 pp.88, 307, 311; see also Talley 1981 p.204). He had a facility for smoothing old and tattered wrinkled pictures (Beal 1978 p.311).

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Not included here since institutional histories are outside the scope of this directory but for the setting up of the Hamilton Kerr Institute, see contributions by Michael Jaffé, Ian McClure and Herbert Lank to The Bulletin of the Hamilton Kerr Institute, no.1, 1988. The following restorers in this directory worked for the Museum: John Seguier (arranging the Daniel Mesman bequest, from 1834), Henry Merritt, Horace Buttery 1933-8, 1947-59, Johannes Hell 1949. This is a provisional listing, which it is hoped to extend in the next edition of this directory.

Bernard Freeman, 6 Bolton Road, St John's Wood, London NW 1898-1912. Art dealer, restorer of paintings, drawings and engravings, carver and gilder, framemaker.

Bernard Freeman (1855-1915?) was the son of William Philip Barnes Freeman (1813-97), the Norwich carver, gilder and artist (see British picture framemakers on the National Portrait Gallery website). He was born in Norwich in 1855. In census records, he was listed in 1871 at the age of 15 with his father and family in King St, Norwich, and in subsequent censuses in London, in 1881 at 7 Westbourne Terrace, Paddington as a dealer in works of art, in 1891 at 31 Dorchester Place, Marylebone as a picture restorer and dealer in works of art, in 1901 at 6 Bolton Road as a carver and gilder, with a son, Frederick B. Freeman, age 17, and in 1911 at the same address as a picture restorer trading on his own account at home. He may be the individual who died at the age of 59 in 1915 in the Willesden registration district.

He advertised as a ‘Practical Restorer of Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, &c', also as a carver, gilder and framemaker, claiming that he had been many years with J. Hogarth & Sons (see British picture framemakers), a business which closed in 1890, and offering to clean and repair old coloured prints as a speciality (The Year's Art 1898, advertisement, p.25).

Harry Freeman 1912-1922, H. Freeman & Sons 1924-1944. At 163 & 165 Fulham Road, London 1912-1913, 42a Gloucester Road 1914, 3 Rose and Crown Yard, St James's 1915-1918, 10 Rose and Crown Yard 1919-1944, 42 Grosvenor Mews, W1 1947. Picture restorers.

Harry Freeman (b.1871), the son of a music engraver, Abraham Freeman, and his wife, Ellen, was recorded in census records living at home at 3 Noel St, Soho in 1881 and 1891. His father was born in Marylebone and there does not seem to be a connection with the Freemans of Norwich. In the 1881 census, Harry Freeman was recorded as born in Long acre, and in 1891 in Bow St, by which time his father was dead and he was working as a picture restorer, living at home with his mother and seven younger brothers and sisters. By 1901 he was listed in Hammersmith, as a picture restorer, age 30, born in the Strand, with his wife, Louisa, age 27, and son, William, age 6, born Marylebone, and in 1911 in Ealing, as a picture restorer and dealer, with his son, William, by now an assistant in the business, and another son, Lionel G.H., age 9.

Harry Freeman set up in business independently in 1912, initially in the Fulham Road, trading as a ‘fine art restorer in all branches and picture dealer'.

In 1924 and 1928 the partners in the business were listed in the London directory as Harry Freeman and two of his sons, William Henry Claude Freeman (b.1894) and Lionel George Howard Freeman (b.1902), in 1936 as William, Lionel and a third son, Clifford Edward Freeman (b.1911?), in 1942 as Lionel and Clifford and in 1943 and 1944 only as Lionel. William Freeman appears to have set up business as William Freeman & Son (qv) by 1939, later taking Clifford Freeman into partnership, while Lionel Freeman traded independently from 1949, initially at 42 Grosvenor Hill and then from 22 Maddox St until 1952.

William Freeman & Son 1939-1951, William Freeman & Son Ltd 1952-1970. At 44 Duke St, St James's, London 1939-1943, 1b King St, SW1 1944, 43-44 Albemarle St 1945-1972. Picture restorers.

William Henry Claude Freeman (b.1894), son of Harry Freeman (see above), traded initially with his father before setting up independently in 1939. He was President of the Association of British Picture Restorers (Who's Who in Art, 6th ed., 1952).

William Freeman & Son Ltd held appointments as picture restorers to the late Queen Mary and to Queen Elizabeth II. For the Royal Collection, Freeman laid blisters in 1963, 1964 and 1975 on Rubens's Farm at Laeken (McClure 1998 p.93). On occasion, the business worked in partnership with Horace Buttery (qv), treating blisters on Gainsborough's whole-lengths of Queen Charlotte and George III in the Royal Collection in 1950 and assisting with various pictures in the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, in the 1950s. W. Freeman and Son Ltd cleaned and revarnished Raeburn's Sir George Sinclair, 1969 (Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, see Bryant 2003 p.299).

W. Freeman cleaned and varnished Julius Caesar Ibbetson's portrait of his wife, c.1940 (National Portrait Gallery, see Walker 1985 p.272). The business undertook relining and cleaning work for the National Portrait Gallery in 1968, when the directors were G.C. Freeman and C.E. Freeman. By 1974, Clifford E. Freeman was trading independently, with a temporary address, 27 Littleton Road, Harrow, replacing that at 4 Albemarle St, when he treated James Lonsdale's Lord Brougham for the National Portrait Gallery.

The business apparently kept a special preparation for picture dealers, marked DDFS (‘Dirty down for sale').

Christopher & Septimus Furse 1850-1855, Septimus Spooner Furse 1855-1881, 4 Hanway St, Oxford St, London 1850-1860, 10 Hanway St 1861-1868, 15 Hanway St 1869-1881, carvers and gilders, also picture frame makers and picture restorers. Septimus Furse & Son 1882-1886, Furse & Co 1887-1896, 28 Sloane St 1882, 29 Red Lion Square 1883-1886, 28 Red Lion Square 1887-1896, art decorators and sole manufacturers of the permanent washable venetian silvering.

Septimus Spooner Furse (c.1826-1891) was born in Walworth, Surrey. Furse married firstly Emma Pringle in 1852 at St Pancras Old Church, and secondly Sarah in 1862 also at St Pancras. He was recorded in censuses, in 1861 at 50 Albert St, Regents Park, as a carver and gilder, age 35, born Walworth, employing two men and two boys, with wife Emma, in 1881 at 2 Camden Cottages, as a decorator, age 55, with wife Sarah, and sons Alfred, age 24, and Henry, age 18, both decorator assistants, and in 1891 in Hampstead, age given as 66, by now retired. Septimus Furse died age 65 in December 1891 in the Hampstead registration district.

Septimus Furse claimed to have been established in business as early as 1846 (see below). He initially traded as a carver and gilder with Christopher Furse (b.1821), probably his brother (who can be found in the 1851 census as a gilder, age 32, lodging at 96 Whitechapel High St). However, from 1857 Septimus traded independently, not only as a carver and gilder but also as a picture frame and looking glass manufacturer, inventor and sole manufacturer of the enamelled washable gilding, wholesale, retail and for exportation. It is believed that it was at this period that he also advertised as a picture restorer.

Septimus Furse advertised as a cleaner, liner and restorer of ancient and modern paintings on his trade card (British Museum, housed with Banks coll.), claiming to have been established as a gilder, decorator and picture frame maker since 1846. In a letter, Furse promoted his discovery of a safer process for cleaning and restoring oil paintings. On the reverse, he advertised as the ‘inventor and sole manufacturer of the enamelled washable gilding and pure unoxidising silvering, for looking glass and picture frames, mirrors, window cornices and gilt furniture of every description' (British Museum, housed with Banks coll., kindly examined by Sophie Parsons).

By the late 19th century, as Septimus Furse & Son, and then as Furse & Co, the business was advertising as art decorators and sole manufacturers of the venetian silvering.

Noticed a mistake? Have some extra information? Who should be added to this directory? Please contact Jacob Simon at

[FA] [FE] [FI] [FR]