British artists' suppliers, 1650-1950 - R
A selective resource, 3rd edition October 2011 (*revised entry, **new entry). Updated selectively twice yearly, last updated September 2015. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*John Rand, 37 Howland St, Fitzroy Square, London 1840-1846, 16 Berners St 1847-1848, artist and inventor of metallic collapsible paint tube, John Rand & Co 1848-1859, patent collapsible tube manufacturers for artists’ colours, Rand, Thorne & Co 1860-1863, Rand & Co 1864-1868, 24a Cardington St 1848-1868.
John Goffe Rand (1801-73), American artist and inventor of the metallic collapsible paint tube, took out patents in London on 6 March 1841 and 29 September 1842, and in America on 11 September 1841, relating to metallic collapsible tubes (see www.aaa.si.edu/exhibits/pastexhibits/treasures/0044.htm). His tubes were initially available only from Thomas Brown (qv), who advertised them in June 1841. By August 1842 they were also being marketed by Winsor & Newton and soon after by other colourmen. Winsor & Newton advertised that, ‘J. Rand, the Inventor, Patentee, and sole Manufacturer of the above, during the time they were known to the profession solely under the name of "Brown's Patent," has made arrangements with Messrs. Winsor & Newton... by which that firm are supplied by him with Tubes of the same description as those so long supplied by J. Rand to Mr. Brown. -- August 1st, 1842’ (The Art-Union August 1842 p.196).
Most of Rand’s business was with the big manufacturing artists’ colourmen, for example with Roberson which made purchases until 1865 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 180-1993). Intriguingly, the artist John Linnell decided to experiment in 1848 with filling his own paint tubes. He purchased colours directly from manufacturers such as Field (qv) and Druke (qv) and acquired five gross of ‘tin tubes for color’ from Rand & Co for £3.16s.9d (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 22-2000).
The business had an account with Roberson, May 1842-1863, under the names of J. Rand, Rand & Co, Rand's Tubes Exported, Rand Thorne & Co Tubes Exported, from various London addresses, and a separate New York account as Rand & Co in 1850 (Woodcock 1997). Francis William Ellington was listed as manager 1858-60. The partnership between James Thorne and John James Kerr, collapsible tube manufacturers at Cardington St, was dissolved 1860, with James Thorne carrying on the business (London Gazette 24 July 1860).
Sources: Harley 1971 pp.4-10; Katlan 1987 pp.10-11; Katlan 1992 pp.450-3. For Rand’s personal papers, see Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington (copy of Rand's will, family correspondence, biographical sketches, including an unpublished biography by Mary Elizabeth Franklin, list of portraits painted by Rand; 2 U.S. patents for changes to the collapsible paint tube, one of the first collapsible tubes for oil paint produced by a factory, etc). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*Robert Rawcliffe, 26 Charlotte St, Fitzroy Square, London 1844-1852, 35 Chenies Mews 1853-1854. Tailor until 1851, tailor and artists’ colourman 1851-1854.
Robert Rawcliffe (b. c.1821) was recorded in the 1851 census at 26 Charlotte St as a tailor, draper and artists' colourman, age 30, born in Lancashire, with wife Maria Louise, age 28. He appeared before a court for insolvent debtors in 1852, described as an artists’ colourman and tailor (London Gazette 2 November 1852). Rawcliffe’s canvas stamp, from 26 Charlotte St, as a ‘Manufacturing Artists Colourman’, appears on Joseph Wolf’s A Woodcock with its young and a robin (Sir David and Lady Scott coll., Sotheby’s 19 November 2008 lot 82).
*James Rawlinson, Derby and Matlock. Portrait painter and inventor.
The portrait painter, James Rawlinson (1769-1848), a pupil of George Romney, lived in Derby and subsequently in Matlock. He devised an improved mill for grinding painter’s colours, recommended by the Royal Society of Arts and commended by John Middleton (qv), 1804 (Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts, vol.22, 1804, see Harley 1982 pp.38-9, Fairbairne 1982 p.38). He also produced a bladder with a wooden stopper, 1804 (Ayres 1985 p.110). Earlier when in London, he had been asked by Joseph Wright of Derby to obtain various brushes from the specialist brushmaker, Derveaux (qv), probably in 1789 (Barker 2009 pp.130).
*Arthur Rayner, 35-36 Chenies Mews, Bedford Square, London WC 1873-1875, 32 Francis St, Tottenham Court Road 1874-1877, 26 Francis St 1878-1892, 121 Lewisham High Road. Artists’ colourman, subsequently picture dealer and restorer.
Arthur Rayner (c.1847-1920) traded as an artists’ colourman from 1873 and then as a picture dealer until his bankruptcy in 1892 (London Gazette 17 May 1892, 13 February 1894). Thereafter, he was in business as a picture dealer and restorer.
According to census records, Arthur Rayner was born c.1847 in Purleigh, Essex. He was the son of a coach builder, Samuel Felton Rayner (information from Lisa Turner, née Rayner, great-great-granddaughter of Arthur Rayner, 1 December 2009). In the 1871 census he was recorded as a general commission agent, age 24, lodging with his wife Emma, and young son, at 188 Goswell Road. He then turned to trading as a colourman.
Rayner’s premises in Chenies Mews were previously occupied by John Locker (1871-2) and before that by Robert Davis (qv) and Robert Rawcliffe (qv). Rayner advertised as ‘Wholesale Artists’ Colourman and Canvas Manufacturer. Genuine Ultramarine & Fine Colour Maker’ (The Artists’ Directory 1874 p.38). In the 1891 census he was recorded as an artist colourman, age 44, born in Sussex, with wife Emma, and son Frederick G. Rayner, also an artist colourman, age 18. Rayner’s canvas mark has been recorded on A.F. De Prades’s Mail Coach in the Snow, 1883 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996).
In later censuses, he was recorded as a fine art dealer, trading on his own account, living in Lewisham in 1901, and as a picture cleaner, trading on his own account from his home in Blackheath in 1911. His trade card, ornamented with a classical framework surmounted by a pair of cherubs holding festoons, describes him as a picture restorer, with a deleted address, 31 Ebury St, Belgravia, and added in pen, 121 Lewisham High Road (coll. Christopher Lennox-Boyd). He is presumably the individual who died age 74 in Lewisham district in 1920.
Mrs Ready (active 1808-1818), 4 Bennet St, St James’s St, London 1818. Brush supplier.
Supplied ‘hair pencils’, i.e. brushes, to the ‘Princess at Weymouth’, as reported to Joseph Farington, 1808 (Farington vol.9, p.3187, vol.15, p.5293).
Advertised as wholesale, retail and export sable brush manufacturers, with testimonials received from Sir John Gilbert, Mrs Madeline Marrable and others (The Year's Art 1894).
H. Reeve Angel & Co, see Angel
John Reeves, John St, Fitzroy Sq, London 1841, 98 John St 1848-1855, also 2 John St 1851-1856, Mrs Ann Reeves, 2 John St 1856-1868, street renamed and numbered 1868, 6 Whitfield St 1868-1869, John Reeves, 6 Whitfield St 1870-1880. Artists’ colourman.
John Reeves (c.1814/16-1856), not to be confused with the much larger business of Reeves & Sons, was listed initially in directories as artists’ canvas maker from 1848, trading as an artists’ colourman from 1851 when he took on additional premises at 2 John St. He was recorded in the 1841 census in John St as an artists' colourman, age 27, with wife Ann, age 26, and similarly in the 1851 census but as age 35 and his wife age 40, with three sons, the eldest, John, age 7. He died in 1856, appointing his wife Anne as his executor. She continued the business until it was taken on in 1870 by her son, John Reeves. He was listed in the 1871 census at 6 Whitfield St as artists’ colourman, age 27, with wife Annie, age 25, and a young daughter. He was followed in business by Alexander Spicker (qv) in 1881.
Numerous marks on canvases have been recorded (two repr. Leach 1973), c.1846-1870s. Both addresses, 98 John St and 2 John St, appear on some marks. John Reeves’s mark is found on Stephen Pearce’s Sir Robert McClure, 1855 (National Portrait Gallery) and indistinctly on Henry Dawson’s Wooded Road Scene, 1855 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), while Ann Reeves’s is found on Emma King’s The Christening (or another in this set of six), 1863 (Foundling Hospital, London). John Reeves’s mark from 6 Whitfield St is found on Richard Whitford’s Prize sheep at rest in a landscape, 1871 (Bonhams New Bond St 21 November 2007 lot 6).
John Reeves’s mark is also found on Ford Madox Brown’s Lear and Cordelia, 1848-9, in the form: J REEVES of 98 JOHN STREET, Fitzroy Square (Tate, see Townsend 2004 p.88). Madox Brown recorded getting millboards and canvas for studies from Reeves in October 1847 (Surtees 1981 p.10), probably John Reeves, rather than Reeves & Sons. In 1856 he recorded that Reeves prepared a canvas, apparently for Stages of Cruelty, begun 1856 (Manchester City Art Gallery), which had been recycled from one of the intended wings for Geoffrey Chaucer Reading to Edward III and his Court (see Surtees 1981 p.183).
This business should not to be confused with the various oil and colourmen called Reeves or Reeve, notably John Reeves, Brown St, Bryanston Square, 1817, William Reeves, colourman, King St, Hammersmith c.1839-40, and the Reeve family at 118 Fetter Lane and other addresses, 1817-51.
Sources: Leach 1973; Ayres 1985 p.214 (from notes by Ambrose Heal); Katlan 1992 p.461. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*Thomas Reeves, Fetter Lane, London by 1762, 133 Fetter Lane 1764-1776, scale maker. William & Thomas Reeves by 1780-1783, Thomas Reeves & Son 1784-1799, W.J. Reeves 1799-1800, Reeves & Woodyer 1800-1816, Reeves, Woodyer & Reeves 1817-1818, W.J. Reeves & Son 1818-1829, Reeves & Sons 1830-1890, Reeves & Sons Ltd 1891-1976. At the Blue Coat Boy, 2 Well Yard, Little Britain, West Smithfield by 1780-1782, The Blue Coat Boy & Kings Arms, 80 Holborn Bridge 1782-1783, The Kings Arms & Blue Coat Boy, 80 Holborn Bridge 1784-1829, 150 Cheapside 1829-1845, also 20 Throgmorton St 1831-1857, 113 Cheapside 1845-1940, works and, later, head office, 18 Ashwin St, Dalston E8 1868-1954, Lincoln Road, Enfield, Middlesex 1921-1982. Manufacturing artists’ colourmen and lead pencil makers.
Thomas Reeves (1736-99), like his older brother, William Reeves (qv), was educated at the Blue Coat School, Christ’s Hospital, and the brothers later used the blue coat boy as their trade sign as artists’ colourmen. They were in partnership between 1780 and 1783.
Thomas was made a Freeman of the Blacksmiths’ Company in 1762 and traded as a scale maker at 133 Fetter Lane, 1764-76 (Gloria Clifton, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851, 1995, p.229). He was variously described as a scale maker of Fetter Lane and as a blacksmith when he took an apprentice, Leybourne Arrowsmith, in 1765 for £7.7s (Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser 6 May 1765; Boyd); he took a second apprentice, Richard Pass in 1770. Later, Edward Kebby (qv) claimed to have been his apprentice. He appears to have continued trading in Fetter Lane until 1775 or later (ECCO). He was in Fetter Lane by the time his first child was christened at St Dunstan in the West in 1762. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had at least four children between 1762 and 1768, of whom the eldest surviving son, William John, succeeded to the business.
Thomas Reeves was described by his brother, William, as a scale maker previous to the year 1780. William claimed that he had hired his brother as a journeyman and servant in 1780, before taking him into partnership (Morning Post 3 March 1785, The Times 3 September 1785). Their short-lived partnership as colour makers from about 1780 until 1783 was marked by the award of the Society of Arts’ silver palette in April 1781 for the invention of the watercolour cake. Further details can be found below, see William Reeves. An early example of a watercolour block from T. Reeves & Son has been subject to technical analysis (Townsend 2003 p.141, fig.118, see also Ormsby 2005 where a range of early Reeves colours is discussed).
From 1783 until at least 1811 and possibly as late as 1816, there were two rival businesses trading by the name of Reeves. But it was that of the elder brother, Thomas Reeves, which became the celebrated 19th-century business which continued until the late 1970s and whose name has recently been revived.
Thomas Reeves & Son, 1784-1799: Thomas Reeves set up in business independently, remaining at 80 Holborn Bridge, following the partnership breakup in December 1783. From 1784 he was trading as Thomas Reeves & Son. In 1790 the business was listed both as T. Reeves & Son, colour manufacturers (Andrews’ directory) and as Thomas Reeves & Son, superfine colourmen (Wakefield’s directory). The business held an appointment from 1790 as Colourman to Her Majesty, Queen Charlotte (The World 15 January 1790) and to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV (Goodwin 1960 p.28).
Several trade cards and trade sheets are known: as ‘T. Reeves and Son, Superfine COLOUR Manufacturers,… At No. 80 Holborn-Bridge, London’ (Banks coll. 89.33, with added date 1786), as ‘T. Reeves & Son Superfine Colour Manufacturer’ (label in watercolour box, 1795 or later, Winsor & Newton archive, repr. Ayres 1985, p.110); as Reeves & Son at 80 Holborn Bridge, with a long list of materials, including ‘Compleat Boxes of Colours which Contains every Article for Drawing’, ranging from 12 to 40 colours, ‘Compleat Setts of Body Colours/ Fine Swiss Crayons/ English Crayons/ Crayon Pencils/ Best Black Lead Pencils’, various brushes, ‘Compl.t Chests of Oil Colours’, but no mention of canvas (Heal coll. 89.124, repr. Krill 2002 p.111); as Messrs Reeves at the same address with a similar but less extensive list of materials, now including ‘Primed Canvas of all Sizes, for Oil Painting’ (Heal coll. 89.125).
The export of materials to India formed an important part of Reeves’s trade as early as 1786 (Goodwin 1966 pp.26-7). Reeves’s colours in boxes were advertised for sale in Calcutta in 1787 and, by auction, in 1790 (Calcutta Chronicle 25 October 1787, India Gazette 10 May 1790). For later connections to India, see below. Reeves’s superfine watercolours, supplied by one branch of the family or another, were widely advertised for sale in the Americas, e.g., in Baltimore in 1792, Jamaica in 1794, Boston in 1799, Philadelphia in 1804, New York in 1813, 1815, 1819 and 1820. The miniaturist, Archibald Robertson, writing from New York in September 1800, stated that the colours he used were all Reeves’s except for white which he prepared himself (Emily Robertson (ed.), Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson..., 2nd ed., 1897, p.21, see also p.37). Reeves’s colours were also available in Florence at Giuseppe Molini & Co in 1817 (Guida per osservare con metodo le raritá e bellezze delle cittá di Firenze, 1817, p.263, accessed through Google Book Search).
Reeves & Woodyer, etc, 1799-1818: Thomas Reeves died in August 1799 (The Times 8 August 1799). His will had been witnessed by William Woodyer in April 1797. His son, William John Reeves (1764-1827), succeeded to the business and briefly traded in his own right, advertising under his own name (The Times 26 December 1799) before going into partnership with Woodyer, advertising as Reeves & Woodyer in April 1800 (The Times 1 April 1800) and as W.J. Reeves & Woodyer (late T. Reeves & Son) in 1801: ‘W.J. Reeves & Co. have now ready …a large Assortment of plain and complete Boxes, with Colours etc, fitted up, of all dimensions. Likewise Swiss and English Crayons, sable and camel-hair pencils, brushes, lead pencils, copal varnish, for ladies’ work, Bristol and every other sort of drawing paper, paletts, chalks, India and British ink, portfolios,…, body colours, drawing instruments, sketch books,…, ivories for miniatures, etc…’ (The Times 22 January 1801, kindly communicated by Helen Smailes). The business used the same designation, ‘W.J. Reeves and Woodyer (late T. Reeves & Son)’, on its trade label (Heal coll. 89.131).
Reeves & Woodyer was one of three businesses singled out in 1811 by the drawing master and Royal Academy exhibitor, John Cart Burgess, as having brought watercolours to the greatest perfection, the other two being James Newman and Smith, Warner & Co (qv) (John Cart Burgess, A Practical Essay on the Art of Flower Painting, 1811, p.32): ‘Mr Reeves has long had, and still continues to have, a deservedly celebrated name’, Burgess stated, singling out certain colours made by Reeves & Co as peculiarly excelling those of other manufacturers: Light Red, Carmine (‘far superior to any other’), Indigo Blue, Prussian Blue, Blue Black, Burnt Terra Sienna and Burnt Umber. In the same year, 1811, another commentator, Paul Sandby’s biographer, while attributing improvements in watercolours to John Middleton (qv), described them as ‘now brought to so great perfection by Reeves, Newman, and others’ (Monthly Magazine 1 June 1811, see Burlington Magazine, vol.88, 1946, p.146).
In 1817 and 1818 directory listings for the business take various forms including Reeves, Woodyer & Reeves (Post Office), Reeves & Woodyer (Underhill’s) and Woodyer & Reeves (Kent’s, Johnstone’s). In June 1818 the partnership between William John Reeves and William Woodyer was dissolved (London Gazette 11 July). The firm in future traded as W.J. Reeves & Son. What happened to William Woodyer is not known but it is worth noting that a man of this name, resident at Grosvenor Place, Camberwell, was recorded in the 1851 census, age 75, and died in 1852 (PCC wills).
W.J. Reeves & Son, Reeves & Sons, 1819-1890: By 1819 William John Reeves was 65 and the business became W.J. Reeves & Son, when his son, James Reeves (1794-1868), was taken into partnership. Subsequently in 1827 another son, Henry Reeves (1804-77), joined the business. Following William John's death in 1827, the business became Reeves & Sons. In his will William John Reeves was described as of Woburn Place, presumably his residence; he was variously listed as artist in watercolours at no.5 Woburn Place (Ayres 1985 p.214) and no.4 (Robson’s directory, 1828).
A rough sketchplan of Reeves’s premises at 80 Holborn Bridge can be found on the reverse of a design by the architect, J.B. Papworth (George McHardy, Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the RIBA. Office of J.B. Papworth, 1977, p.25). In 1829 the two brothers, James and Henry, relocated the business from Holborn Bridge to 150 Cheapside, a move which has been described as misguided in view of the general tendency of artists to move further west in London (Reeves typescript history, see Sources below). Premises were also opened in Throgmorton St in 1831 which continued in use until 1857 (Staples 1984 p.47).
James Reeves retired in 1847 and in the following year two of his nephews, the brothers Henry Bowles Wild (1825-82) and Charles Kemp Wild (1832-1912), were taken into the business (Goodwin 1966 p.36); they were both listed as artists’ colourmen in the 1851 census, ages 26 and 18, residing with their father, Henry Wild, a wine merchant at 98 St Martin’s Lane. On the retirement of Henry Reeves in 1866 (London Gazette 29 January 1867), control moved to the Wild family who made the decision to remove manufacturing from Cheapside to a much larger site in Dalston, where they built a four-storey factory (Goodwin 1966 p.36). In the 1881 census Charles K. Wild was listed at Thornlea, Fitzjohns Avenue, as Artists’ Colourman, employing 56 men and 22 boys. Over the previous few decades the Wilds had added as customers the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, the War Office, the Ordnance Survey Office and, in 1875, the new London School Board, subsequently the London County Council (Goodwin 1966 pp.38-9, 41).
The business had an account with Roberson as W.J. Reeves & Son, May 1821 to February 1822, and as Reeves & Sons, 1828-1908 (Woodcock 1997). It supplied some pigment samples to George Field for testing (Harley 1979 pp.79-81) and later subscribed to his Chromatography, 1835 (Carlyle 2001 p.18 n.25). It submitted samples of new wax colours to the Royal Society of Arts in 1849 and received an award for its moist colours at the Great Exhibition in 1851 (Goodwin 1966 p.34).
Reeves’s watercolours were stocked in London by William Jones (qv) in 1819, in Edinburgh by Robert Hamilton in 1824 (The Scotsman 29 December 1824) and by Alexander Hill (qv) in 1841, in Keswick by Banks, Foster & Co (qv) in 1846, in the United States by Bourne’s Depository of Arts, New York (trade catalogue, 1830, see Katlan 1992 p.314) and in Hobart, Australia at the Courier Office in 1831 and by J.W. Davis in 1836 (Hobart Town Courier 3 September 1831, information from Michael Rosenthal; Colonial Times 26 July 1836, see Burgess 2003 p.243). As Reeves & Woodyer, the business had advertised as ‘colour-makers to the Honourable East India Company’ (Goodwin 1966 p.28). This trade grew in significance in the 1820s and 1830s (Goodwin 1966 p.29) and subsequently Reeves’s annual income from the East India Company amounted to as much as £6,000, or some 25 to 30% of the firm’s overall turnover (Goodwin 1966 p.38).
Early catalogues are rare. An example is the Catalogue of Improved Superfine Water Colours etc. manufactured and sold by Reeves & Sons, 150 Cheapside, watermarked 1828 (Durham University Library, Samuel B. Howlett papers, Add.MS 872 enclosure 1, 4ff., see Catalogue of Additional Manuscripts 871-884: Howlett Papers). Another is a trade sheet from the 1830s, referring to W.I. Reeves & Son as being removed from 80 Holborn Bridge, and advertising boxes of watercolours, Reeves & Sons’ prepared lead pencils for artists, and marking ink for writing on linen, together with Brookman & Langdon’s pencils and Turnbull’s Bristol and London boards, also including a ‘List of Colours with the most useful tints produced by their combinations’. (Superfine Colour Manufacturers, Lead Pencil Makers, and General Fancy Stationers, 150, Cheapside, London. [Every Description of Material for Drawing and Painting]).
Reeves advertised in The Art Union, for example, as the sole agent for Spillsbury's watercolour preservative (February 1842 p.22), advertising new fresco panels and vitrified fresco colours, patented in 1842, and warning against black lead pencils fraudulently marketed as being made by them (January 1843 p.26). Also their Cartoon Pencils, registered 1843, requiring no pointing (April 1843 p.98) and wax watercolours in cakes (December 1844 p.363).
Reeves’s 1856 catalogue includes testimonials from Henry Bright, William Etty, T.H. Fielding, C.R. Leslie, John Martin, Sir William Newton, Samuel Prout and Clarkson Stanfield; among items stocked were watercolours, moist watercolours, boxes of watercolours, oil colours in collapsible tubes, powder colours, oils and varnishes, brushes, drawing papers, Turnbull’s Bristol Boards and Mounting Boards, drawing and sketch books, pencils including a section of ‘Remarks on the lead pencil’, chalks and crayons, mathematical drawing instruments and accessories (Artists’ Colour Manufacturers, Lead Pencil and Mathematical Drawing Instrument Makers, 47pp, appended to Henry Warren, Painting in Water Colours, Part 1, 1856). More complete catalogues from the 1860s include a wider range of products (Price List for the Trade only, 1863, 130pp, V&A National Art Library, 111.D.77; List of Colours and Materials for Water Colour Painting, 1867, 88pp, and Catalogue and Price List, 1868 or later, 119pp, both British Library, ex-Patent Office, 867 and 868, not in General Catalogue). A good sequence of catalogues from 1852 is housed at Winsor & Newton (see Carlyle 2001 p.278).
Reeves published some instruction manuals for artists from about 1852 (Goodwin 1966 p.37), but many fewer than Rowney or Winsor & Newton; examples include Henry Warren, Painting in Water Colours, 1856, E. Campbell Hancock, China Colours and How to Use Them, 1880, and Charles G. Harper, Some English Sketching Grounds, 1897.
Very few early marked canvases are known, suggesting that the supply of canvas was not a significant part of the business at this stage; examples are Alvan Fisher’s Autumnal Landscape with Indians, 1848 (Corcoran Gallery of Art, see Katlan 1987 p.277), Frank Paton's Jewel, 1886 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996) and Wyke Bayliss's The White Lady of Nuremberg, exh.1887 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996). The watercolour artist, Alfred William Hunt, used five Reeves sketchbooks between about 1886 and 1895 (Ashmolean Museum, see Newall 2004 pp.173-8).
Reeves & Sons Ltd, 1891-1972: Following the death of Henry Bowles Wild in 1882, his brother, Charles K. Wild, became head of the business, and was followed in 1896 by his son, Charles J. Wild (1865-1923), who was Managing Director until 1923. Reeves became a private company in about 1883 and seven years later a public limited company. In 1912 the allotted capital employed by the business amounted to almost £115,000, of which £20,000 in ordinary shares was almost entirely held by the directors, four of whom were great-great-grandsons of the original Thomas Reeves (Price List of Artists’ Materials manufactured by Reeves & Sons, Ltd, September 1912, 288pp). By then the freehold factory at Dalston was devoted solely to the manufacturer of artists’ and students’ colours, pastels, artists’ brushes, prepared canvases and other painting grounds. A leasehold factory at Belsham St, Hackney, was occupied as a woodworking shop for the manufacture of colour boxes, drawing boards, T squares, easels, palettes, etc, and another leasehold factory at Wayland Avenue, Hackney was used to produce sketchbooks, portfolios and other bookbinding work. By about 1934 the registered capital stood at £300,000 and a new factory had been erected at Bush Hill Park; from 1923 the joint managing directors were the brothers, Louis C. Simmons (b.1885) and Archibald G. Simmons (b.1887), nephews of Charles J. Wild (Reeves’ Professional Price List, c.1935, pp.17-18).
Reeves’s historic premises at 113 Cheapside, occupied since 1845, were destroyed by bombing in 1940 and their works at Dalston were badly damaged (Staples 1984 pp.46-7). The Greyhound Colour Works at Enfield were constructed on land acquired in 1921 and the manufacturing plant expanded by 1927; a new factory was built and the company’s main offices moved there from Dalston in 1948 (Goodwin 1966 p.42, Staples 1984 p.46).
From the late 19th century, Reeves maintained a network of showrooms and retail outlets across London, advertised from 1894. THE CITY: 53 Moorgate St EC 1899-1916; trade showroom 4 Farringdon Avenue 1899-1919; 29 Ludgate Hill EC, 1900-17. KENSINGTON: 8 Exhibition Road, South Kensington 1894-1909; 19 Lower Phillimore Place 1894-6; 161 High St Kensington 1898-1927; 187 High St Kensington 1928-34, 178 High St Kensington 1934-60, 1975-84 (operated as Clifford Milburn 1960-76, as ‘Reeves’ 1980-87). ST JOHN’S WOOD: 140 St John's Wood High St 1896-1900; 14 Circus Road, 1901-11. WEST END: 13 Charing Cross Road 1898-1962, 1975 (operated by Clifford Milburn from 1960, subsequently taken over as Cass Arts Ltd); 101 High Holborn 1903-11 (opening advertised The Studio 15 June 1903). Most of these outlets traded as Reeves’ Artists Depots Ltd from 1902 to 1919, although the company was not wound up until 1976 (London Gazette 6 July 1976). By 1960 until 1976 Reeves’s shops were managed by their retail subsidiary, Clifford Milburn Ltd (qv).
Reeves advertised in The Year's Art 1884-1904, for example in 1893, ‘Lawrence Phillips’ Sketching Palette, Made only by us, is the most practical invention of the present day’. They advertised regularly in The Artist: the quality of their canvas (March 1934), pastels in 250 tones, giving the Dalston address and that of their associated company in Canada (March 1937); artists' requisites for outdoor sketching (June 1934); also Goya artists’ oil colours (Art Review 1935). An account of Reeves’s manufacturing processes at their Enfield works, including the laboratory, the mill room, the quality inspection laboratory and the wider process of producing varnishes, canvas, stretcher pieces, easels, palettes, brushes and every kind of artists’ materials, engaging a workforce of 300 to 400 people, was published in 1962 (Robert Wraight, ‘Artists’ Colourmen: 1 Reeves’, The Studio, October 1962, vol.164, pp.146-9).
Examples of Reeves’s marked supports from the 1890s, 1900s and later include Samuel Melton Fisher's Flower Makers, c.1896? (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Herbert Draper’s The Lament for Icarus, panel, c.1898, A Water Baby, exh.1900, marked: REEVES AND SONS/ PREPARED CANVAS/ LONDON (Manchester Art Gallery), and The Kelpie, exh.1913 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), Edward Poynter’s The Vision of Endymion, 1902 (Manchester Art Gallery) and Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale’s Time the Physician, panel, exh. 1900 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, information from Jevon Thistlewood).
John Gilbert used a waxed water megilp prepared by Reeves as a watercolour medium (The Portfolio 1876 p.13; see also Reeves’s advert, The Studio, 15 November 1897, information from Sally Woodcock). A testimonial from him admiring Reeves’s colours, especially the Raw Sienna, was later quoted in Reeves’s trade catalogue (Price List of Artists’ Materials, Oil Colours, Water Colours, 1892, 164pp); the same publication quoted testimonials from other artists including Oswald Brierly (‘I have used your colours for years’) and H. Stacy Marks. From the 1890s, those providing testimonials included Frank Brangwyn (‘I am taking your colours with me to Italy’), Walter Crane and W.E. Lockhart (‘Concerning Reeves’ Colours’, in Charles G. Harper, Some English Sketching Grounds, Reeves & Sons Ltd 1897).
Marked materials from the 1910s to the 1940s include Sir John Lavery’s Sir Lionel Cust, 1912 (National Portrait Gallery), three paintings by James Pryde, The Red Ruin, 1916, The Blue Ruin, c.1918, and The Husk, early 1920s (private coll., see Powell 2006 pp.46-8), Philip de László's Jerome K. Jerome, 1921 (National Portrait Gallery), Charles Ginner’s Hampstead Heath: Spring, 1932 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, information from Jevon Thistlewood), Reginald Grenville Eves's Stanley Baldwin, c.1933, E.S. Swinson's Beatrice Webb, 1934, James Gunn's Earl of Crawford, 1939, and his Leopold Amery, 1942 (all National Portrait Gallery). The business was in correspondence with Gluck concerning the appearance of her paintings from the late 1930s (Sitwell 1990).
Reeves’s export markets in the mid-19th century grew to include Peru, Brazil, Russia and the United States (Goodwin 1966 p.35). Their trade catalogue of c.1899-1900 (Price List of Artists’ Materials, 224pp), listed wholesale agents in Paris, Bombay, Melbourne, Buenos Aires and Santiago, while their c.1954 catalogue listed principal agents in Melbourne, Sydney, Colombo, Karachi, Lahore, Auckland, Cape Town and Johannesburg (Reeves’ Catalogue no.100, 82pp). Their products can be traced in trade catalogues published in various countries. In Australia by H.J. Corder Pty Ltd, Melbourne (Everything for the Artist. The H.J. Corder Revised Price List, c.1910, 20pp). In Canada by Reeves’s own subsidiary, established in 1927, Reeves & Sons (Canada) Ltd, Toronto (Reeves Artists’ Materials Catalogue no. 15a, 1960, 111pp). In France by G. Sennelier, Paris (Catalogue General Illustré, 1904, cat. no.26, 160pp).
Reeves is said to have acquired Lechertier Barbe (Goodwin 1966 p.39), perhaps in 1898 when this business was incorporated as Lechertier Barbe Ltd and took on a branch at Brighton, but the nature of this business arrangement needs to be clarified. Reeves acquired James Newman Ltd in 1936 (Goodwin 1966 p.43) and Clifford Milburn (qv) by 1958. Reeves itself was the subject of a failed take-over bid by Heenan Beddow in 1971 (The Times 5 October 1971). It acquired Dryad Ltd of Leicester, a firm dealing in art and craft materials, by means of an agreed share offer in 1972 (The Times 22 December 1972), and was itself acquired by Reckitt & Colman Ltd in 1974 and merged with Winsor & Newton, following Reckitt & Colman’s acquisition of this company in 1976. In 1972 W. Cass was Reeves’s chairman (The Times 23 May 1972); subsequently in 1980 (as early as 1977?) the Reeves shop at 13 Charing Cross Road became Cass Photomarkets Shop, trading in 2005 as Cass Arts. The Reeves name continued to be used for the retail premises at 178 Kensington High Street until 1989. Like Conté à Paris, Lefranc & Bourgeois, Liquitex and Winsor & Newton, Reeves is now owned by ColArt, a Swedish business, see company website at www.colart.com/. Along with the other fine art brands of Reckitt and Colman Ltd, the business was acquired in 1991 by the current owners, AB Wilhelm Becker, who already owned ColArt. Reeves was revived as an actively used brand name in 2005, see Reeves’s website at www.reeves-art.com/.
Sources: Reeves typescript history, untitled, c.1958 (National Portrait Gallery subject files). Michael Goodwin, Artist and Colourman, 1966, 51pp, published by Michael Goodwin for Reeves on the occasion of their 200th anniversary; Leach 1973 (for the firm’s addresses); Clarke 1981 p.14, repr. William Reeves’s trade card; Hardie 1967; Ayres 1985 p.214; Katlan 1992 pp.462-3; Mireille Galinou and John Hayes, London in Paint, 1996, pp.137-140; Carlyle 2001 pp.278; Krill 2002 pp.111, 118, 147. Portraits of various members of the Reeves family are reproduced in Staples 1984 pp.5, 8. See also advertisements in American newspapers, available at ‘American Historical Newspapers 1690-1876’, http:/infoweb.newsbank.com, including the Baltimore Evening Post 14 July 1792, Colombian Centinel (Boston) 16 March 1799, Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) 12 October 1804, The Statesman (New York) 27 January 1813, New York Courier 23 May 1815, New York Commercial Advertiser 20 June 1820, and Royal Gazette 12 July 1794 (Jamaica, from 18th-century Journals online). The Reeves company records are limited in extent and are housed at Winsor & Newton (see Carlyle 2001 p.278). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Restructured September 2015
William Reeves to 1780, William & Thomas Reeves by 1780-1783, at the Blue Coat Boy, 2 Well Yard, Little Britain, West Smithfield, London by 1780-1782, The Blue Coat Boy & Kings Arms, 80 Holborn Bridge 1782-1783 (Thomas Reeves, see above, continued at this address). William Reeves 1784-1795, Reeves & Inwood 1796-c.1811 or later, John Inwood 1811-1815, 299 Strand (‘near the New Church’) 1784-1790, 300 Strand 1790-1813, warehouse under the Royal Exchange, 92 Cornhill 1785-1797. Artists’ colourmen.
William Reeves (?1739-1803), described as the son of Thomas Reeves, deceased, was apprenticed to John Gifford in August 1758 as a gold and silver wire-drawer (Webb 1998 p.20). He married twice; the death of his first wife, Ann, was reported in 1783 (Whitehall Evening Post 26 July 1783), while that of his second, Hannah Maria, was mentioned by him in his will, made 1802, in which he made bequests to her nieces, Judith and Harriett Warner. For a profile portrait of William Reeves, see Staples 1984 p.8.
William’s older brother, Thomas (1736-99), traded as a scale maker in Fetter Lane before joining his brother in partnership in 1780. After their break-up, William claimed that he had initially hired his brother as a journeyman and servant (Morning Post 3 March 1785, The Times 3 September 1785).
William & Thomas Reeves 1780-83: It has been said that the Reeves brothers set up in business as colourmen as early as 1766 (Michael Goodwin, Artist and Colourman, 1966, p.17), or in 1777, according to Reeves’s late 19th century advertisements (e.g., Royal Society of British Artists, exh.cat., 1889, p.ix). However, from William Reeves’s own claim in 1784, the partnership was not formed before 1780 (see below). While in 1784 he claimed to have been studying cake colours for upwards of 18 years, there is no evidence that he had been trading as a colourman previous to 1780; indeed, little is known of his early years. The brothers were awarded the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts in April 1781 for the invention of the watercolour cake, on the recommendation of Mary Black, Hendrik de Meyerand and Thomas Hearne (Goodwin 1966 pp.18-19). A writer in the Repository of Arts in 1813 (vol.9) credited the invention to William Reeves, who ‘about thirty years ago, turned his attention to the preparation of water colours, and, by his successful experiments, produced the elegant invention of forming them into cakes. Until this period, every artist was obliged to prepare his own colours’.
From their address at 2 Well Yard, Little Britain, and therefore c.1780-2, William and Thomas Reeves advertised as ‘Superfine Colour Makers’, with the claim that the business prepared 'all sorts of fine Colours to the greatest Perfection’, advertising ‘Double & Single Setts of Crayons, in all the Different Shades equal to the Italian. Colours for Miniature Painting. Compleat Setts of Colours in Potts, Warranted to Work at a touch in any Climate… LIKEWISE Their new Invented Cakes of all Colours, which will Work equal to the finest India-Ink. Fine Camp Paper, Black, Blue, and Red, for taking of drawings. Transparent paper for Tracing: Fine India Ink, and all Articles for Drawing’ (trade card, Heal coll. 89.122, repr. Goodwin 1966 opp. p.36).
The Reeves brothers were in business at 2 Well Yard at the time they took out a Sun Fire Office insurance policy on 9 July 1781 as superfine colour manufacturers, covering their utensils and stock for £500. The following year they advertised ‘upwards of forty neat colours for Miniatures, Landscape, Portrait, Mapping etc’, also advertising superfine crayons, pencils in cedars of all colours, all sorts of crayons in setts, equal to the Italian, and every article useful in drawing, giving their address as 80 Holborn Bridge, removed from Little Britain (Morning Herald 24 October 1782, see also Goodwin 1966 p.16). The actual move took place in July 1782 (Morning Herald 20 July 1782).
Messrs Reeves’s watercolours were stocked by J. Magee in Dublin in 1782 (Louise O’Connor, ‘Hamilton’s pastel portraits: materials and techniques’, in Hugh Douglas Hamilton: A Life in Pictures, exh.cat., National Gallery of Ireland, 2008, p.53, n.18). In London, Reeves’s colours, were stocked by Mr Smith, presumably Lawrence Smith (qv), and Archibald Robertson (qv) in 1781, and by James Newman according to his trade card of c.1785. William Gilpin experimented with Reeves’ water colours in 1782 and recommended them to William Mason, writing, ‘I have tryed these colours and find them of such excellent temper, that they almost paint of themselves’, and compared them favourably against those supplied by other colourmen (Carl Paul Barbier, William Gilpin: His Drawings, Teaching and Theory of the Picturesque, 1963, pp.87-9).
William Reeves 1784-95: The partnership broke up in 1783, supposedly because of a dispute on the supply of their paint cakes to Rowney (Staples 1984 p.10), and was dissolved on 16 December 1783, according to William Reeves’s advertisements, although the brothers continued to advertise as a partnership until February 1784 (Morning Herald 28 February 1784, 4 March 1784). Thomas Reeves then set up in business independently (see above, under Thomas Reeves), while William Reeves is said to have taken his son-in-law, George Blackman (qv) into the business, probably as an assistant (for 14 years, Blackman claimed), rather than as a partner as is sometimes said (Staples 1984 p.7).
William Reeves moved to 299 Strand where he took out a Sun Fire Office insurance policy on 5 January 1784, covering his utensils and stock for £500. In 1784 he advertised from this address that as superfine colour manufacturer he had ‘made it his chief study for upwards of eighteen years to invent his superfine Cake Colours’ (Whitley papers vol.3, p.288, quoting the Morning Herald 20 April 1784; see also later advertisements such as that in The Times 2 May 1785). William Reeves issued various trade cards from this address (Heal coll. 89.13, Banks coll. 89.32, 89.34, 89.36 (added date 1785); an example repr. Clarke 1981 p.15). Other addresses are found for William Reeves in London directories: the warehouse ‘under the Royal Exchange’, 92 Cornhill, from 1785, seems to have been run as an agency by E. Hedges from 1789, while the 229 Strand address, 1787-94, appears to be a misprint.
Both William Reeves, Holborn Bridge, and John Reeves, Strand, were listed as colourman and as members of the Blacksmiths’ company (information from Gordon Cox, 5 September 2008, derived from the Livery of London lists in the Universal British Directory, 1791-3).
William Reeves’s colours were sold wholesale by Henry Brookes (qv) in 1788 (V&A National Library, ‘Press Cuttings from English newspapers’, PP.17.G, p.779). Outside London, his colours were stocked in Bristol in 1783 by J. Norton, book and printseller, and in 1787 by John Hare (Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal 1 March 1783, 21 April 1787), in Norwich by Mr Stevenson (Norwich Chronicle 5 April 1788) and in Bath by R Cruttwell, S. Hazard & R. Ricards (Bath Chronicle 18 December 1793, 1 May 1794).
Reeves & Inwood from 1796: William Reeves took John Inwood, son of the late John Inwood, as apprentice in September 1787 (Webb 1998 p.14) and then into partnership by 1796 when they advertised their products (The Times 12 March 1796). Reeves also took three other apprentices, presumably relatives of his second wife from their Warner surname: Richard in 1792, William in 1793 and Joseph in 1802, the latter being turned over to another master in November 1803 following Reeves’ death (Webb 1998 p.26).
William Reeves, colour manufacturer of Islington, died in 1803 without mentioning his business in his will, made 19 July 1802 and proved 18 June 1803, suggesting that he had already given up his interest. Reeves & Inwood advertised as Superfine Colour Preparers (label in watercolour box, Museum of London, repr. Ayres 1985 p.107). Another such paintbox contains cakes of paint bearing the Reeves & Inwood coat of arms (Winterthur Museum, repr. Krill 2002 p.120). Some Reeves & Inwood colours have been subject to recent technical analysis (Ormsby 2005). Inwood’s colours were stocked by William Jones (qv).
The business was described as Inwood, late Reeves & Inwood, in 1805 (Morning Chronicle 1 February 1805). However, John Inwood continued to take advantage of the Reeves name, trading as Reeves & Inwood, although by 1811 he was also listed under his own name in the Post Office directory. Holden’s 1811 directory listed at 300 Strand both Reeves & Inwood, colour manufacturers to the Royal Family, and John Inwood, superfine watercolour preparer to the Royal Family. By 1816 C.B. Driver (qv) had taken over Reeves & Inwood’s premises at 300 Strand, and subsequently Driver & Shaw advertised as successors to Reeves & Inwood.
Directory listings for Reeves & Inwood are problematic. The last listing in the Post Office directory is in 1809 but Underhill’s directory (not necessarily accurate), successor to Holden’s, continued to list both Reeves & Inwood and John Inwood until 1822 while Kent’s directory listed the business as William Reeves from 1805 to 1818, first listing it as Reeves & Inwood in 1823, conflating both the Holborn Bridge and Strand addresses. The last known listing for Reeves & Inwood is in 1825 (Ayres 1985 p.214) at Holborn Bridge. The Reeves name was an attractive one to use for a business of this kind but it is clear that William Reeves gave up his interest in the business in or before 1803 while John Inwood sold out to the Driver family by 1816.
Sources: London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 293/445509. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*James Regnier (active 1710, died c.1754), Nicole Celeste Regnier (active 1754-1769), M. Regnier 1770. At Long Acre, London 1710, The Golden Ball, Newport St, Long Acre by 1712-1772 or later. Printsellers.
James (or Jacques) Regnier (?1692-c.1754), a Huguenot seal engraver and printseller, can perhaps be identified with the Jacques Regnier born in 1692, the son of Alexandre Regnier and Marie Lapere, and christened at the Church of Le Carré and Berwick St (Minet 1921 p.2). He was in business by 1710. He advertised his Picture Shop in Newport St in 1720, together with the drawing school at the same house, where watercolours were sold (Post Man and the Historical Account 9 April 1720). He also advertised as a seal engraver (e.g., Daily Courant 13 March 1712) but he may have given up this business by 1729 when he offered for sale a set of punches, fit for a seal engraver (Daily Courant 3 February 1729). In the same advertisement, he advertised ‘all Sorts of the finest Water-Colours, Dry Crayons, or Pastels, Hair and Black Lead Pencils, Red, Black and White Chaulk… and Paper for Drawings’. He also advertised as a printseller (e.g., Daily Courant 22 April 1730, see Heal coll. 100.60).
Regnier was succeeded in business by his niece, Celeste Regnier or Reignier, who can be found advertising artists’ equipment, varnish for jappaning and colour prints in 1754 (Public Advertiser 25 July 1754, see Clayton 1997 p.111); she announced that she had removed five doors higher in Newport St in 1754 (Public Advertiser 1 August 1754). Celeste Regnier’s portrait was drawn in pastel by F.X. Vispré (sold Christie’s 20 March 1953 lot 120). She married a fellow Huguenot, the sculptor Louis François Roubiliac (1702-62), apparently his fourth wife, in November 1756 (Gazeteer and London Daily Advertiser 24 November 1756), and remained in Great Newport St until 1772 (Survey of London, vol.34, The Parish of St Anne Soho, 1966, p.345, available online at www.british-history.ac.uk). An artist, Elizabeth Carmichael, used her premises as an accommodation address in 1768 and 1769 when exhibiting at the Society of Artists and another artist, Robert Carver, used “Mr Regnier’s” as an accommodation address in 1770. The same year, it was “M. Regnier” who was named in advertisements for the Regnier print business.
On a trade card, probably from the 1750s, ‘Regnier’ advertised among other goods, ‘All sorts of the finest Water Colours in Shells, ye Best crayons & Straining Frames for Painting, the best Lead pencils, Black White & red Chalk, French & Dutch Drawing paper, Portcrayons’ (Heal coll. 100.60, repr. Krill 2002 p.119; Guildhall Library).
Sources: Tessa Murdoch, ‘Louis François Roubiliac and his Huguenot Connections’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol.24, 1983, pp.40-2, naming Nicole Celeste Regnier; Clayton 1997 pp.5, 109-11. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Updated March 2015
**William Waddell Rhind 1865-1909, William Yates Rhind 1910-1947, W.Y. Rhind Ltd 1948-1971. At 2 Waterloo Terrace, Regents Park, London 1865-1867, 69 Gloucester Road 1868-1939, renamed 1939, 69 Gloucester Avenue 1939-1951, 79 Gloucester Avenue 1952-1971, also 28 Albany St 1871. Chemists until 1911, artists’ colourman from 1912-1952 (also manufacturer of etching and engraving materials), engravers’ suppliers from 1953.
William Waddell Rhind (c.1833-1909), the son of Thomas Rhind, initially worked for Waugh & Co, Chemists to the Queen, according to his label as a pharmaceutical chemist. He set up independently in 1865 at 2 Waterloo Terrace, Regents Park, where he followed Frederick Loveband, chemist. He married Ellen Yates in 1864 in the Pancras district and died there in 1909, age 76. By the 1880s if not before, etching materials were one of his specialities. His portrait was etched in about 1886 by William Strang, a prominent customer (example, British Museum). In censuses, Rhind can be found in 1881 at 69 Gloucester Rd as a widower, age 42, born Berwick-on-Tweed, a chemist employing one man and a boy, with four children including William, age 11, and in 1901 as a chemist and shop keeper, age 68, with his son, William Y. Rhind, age 30. Rhind had an account with Roberson, 1903-8 (Woodcock 1997). Rhind died in April 1909, leaving an estate worth £1281.
Rhind’s son, William Yates Rhind (1870-1946), sometimes William Yeates Rhind, was born in 1870 in the Pancras district and apparently married twice in 1908, firstly in the Pancras district and secondly in the Barnet district. He died in 1946, age 76, in the Hampstead district. In 1910, when described as a wholesale artists’ colourman, he set up Rhinds Cash Chemists Ltd jointly with Ernest Wing Carver but the enterprise was wound up voluntarily in 1915 (National Archives, BT 31/13439/112649, London Gazette 2 November 1915). In 1912 and subsequently he advertised as ‘Manufacturers of Etching Materials & Tools... Rhind’s Liquid Etching Grounds, used by most eminent etchers. Copper and Zinc plates of the best quality, coated or uncoated’ (The Year’s Art 1912 p.14; similar adverts until 1939). In London directories, the business’s primary listing was as chemists until 1911, artists’ colourmen from 1912-1952 and engravers’ suppliers from 1953.
In 1948, the business’s notepaper as W.Y. Rhind Ltd, artists’ colourmen, 69 Gloucester Avenue, gave R. Lechertier, probably René Lechertier (qv), and W. Wall as directors, suggesting that the business had passed outside family control following Rhind’s death in 1946. It advertised as ‘Manufacturers of Copper Plate Inks. Etching Grounds &c. Makers and Suppliers of Etching Materials. Sole Proprietor and Manufacturers of Eliza Turck’s Mediums &c’ (Tate Archive, TGA 8717/1/2/4184, letter to Ben Nicholson). By 1971 C. Roberson & Co. Ltd were the sole manufacturers and distributors of Rhind’s etching grounds and varnishes (The Artist vol.82, November 1971, p.68). Such products under the Rhind name continue to be available today from various retailers, including L. Cornelissen & Son (qv), Green & Stone Ltd (qv) and T.N. Lawrence & Son Ltd (qv).
Etching materials: In the Whistler papers in Glasgow University there is a 4-page pamphlet, dating to 1889 or later, advertising ‘Rhind's Liquid Etching Grounds (Dark and Transparent)’, as ‘Prepared only by W.W. Rhind, Pharmaceutical Chemist, (from Waugh & Co., Chemists to the Queen)’ (Glasgow University Library, MS Whistler R81). The pamphlet features letters of recommendation from artists including R.W. Macbeth, T.C. Farrer, Edward Slocombe, W.L. Wyllie and Charles Robertson, and lists etchings done on Rhind's plates. It also lists wholesale and retail agents as Winsor & Newton, G. Rowney & Co and, as agents for America, John Sellers & Sons (qv) of 17 Dey St, New York, and 151 Arundel St, Sheffield. The business advertised ‘Rhind’s liquid etching grounds used by most eminent etchers’ (The Studio vol.75, 14 December 1918, p.vi), and ‘Etching Materials as used by Ian Strang, R.E. And many other eminent Etchers’ (The Artist, vol.2, September 1931).
Rhind provided the sculptor Alfred Gilbert with modelling wax in 1897 (Cecil Gilbert, The Studio Diaries of Alfred Gilbert between 1890 and 1897, vol.2, 1992, p.34). Several of the ‘eminent etchers’ who provided personal notes on their methods to E.S. Lumsden for his book, The Art of Etching, 1924, refer to using Rhind’s etching ground, including Augustus John, Percy Smith, Laura Knight and John Everett. Augustus John also used Rhind’s ‘English Mordant’ and Everett his stopping out varnish.
*George Riley, Queen St, Mayfair, London 1770, Stone's Head, Curzon St, Mayfair 1771-1781, St Paul’s Churchyard 1781, 41 Newgate St 1783, 33 Kings Arms, Ludgate St 1783-1795, 3 Creed Lane 1794-1798, 65 or 66 Old Bailey 1798-1801, 27 Fleet Street 1800, 1 Ship Court, Old Bailey 1801, London Road, Southwark 1801, 17 Warwick Square, Newgate St 1802, 2 Charles St, Hatton Garden 1807, also pencil manufactory at Lambeth. Bookseller and stationer, newspaper proprietor, printer and printseller, pencil maker and crayon pencil supplier.
Successor to A. Cooke and initially a bookseller and stationer, George Riley (1743-1829) turned to making pencils and crayons, advertising heavily, with mixed results for he was twice made bankrupt, in 1778 and again in 1801 (London Gazette 17 March 1778, 5 May 1801). He advertised watercolours and pencils from the Sliding Patent Pencil Shop, 33 Ludgate St in 1787 (Whitley papers, quoting the Chelmsford Chronicle 12 October 1787; see also The Times 11 April 1788) and his superfine India cake colours, imprinted ‘Riley's Patent Colour shop’, were on sale in Bath in 1787 (Bath Chronicle 25 January 1787, see Bath Georgian Newspaper Project).
In an advertisement in 1788, Riley featured ‘New Invented Coloured Crayon Pencils… of elegant shades, put in fine Cedar, to use as a Black Lead pencil, price only £1.7s. the complete set, or 9d. single… prepared and sold by G. Riley, sole Patentee’; these hardened crayon pencils were made to the patent of the late Thomas Beckwith (d.1786), painter and antiquary (The World 5 April 1788; for Beckwith’s obituary, see Gentleman’s Magazine, vol.59, March 1786, p.265). Riley issued a sheet with colour samples of his patent coloured crayon pencils, with 32 shades, at £1.1s for a complete set in a mahogany box (example in private coll., Dorset, information from Gwen Yarker, April 2011); his text is similarly worded to one of his newspaper advertisements in 1798 (Sun 11 January 1798), suggesting a date in the late 1790s although his address on the sheet, 82 Pall Mall, is not otherwise recorded.
Riley later advertised his crayon pencils, papers etc, in his book, A Concise Treatise on the Elementary Principles of Flower-Painting and Drawing in Water-Colour..., 1807 (British Library, 1044.d.24.(2)), and in La Belle assemblée, vol.2, advertising supplement, July 1807, p.42, accessed though Google Book Search).
Sources: Maxted 1977 (for the above addresses). For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Updated March 2013 and September 2014
Ripolin Ltd, 110 Fenchurch St, London EC 1900-1908, 35 Minories E 1909-1915, 22-23 Little Portland St W 1916-1921, 9 Drury Lane WC2 1922-1956, Balfour Road, Southall, Middlesex 1956- 1968. Paint manufacturers.
This French household paint was invented in Holland. It came to prominence when a joint company was set up in France in 1897 by Briegleb, a German merchant in the Netherlands, and Lefranc (qv), the French manufacturing artists’ suppliers business (Picasso express, see Sources below, pp.123-4). A London office opened in or shortly before 1900 and Ripolin paints were soon afterwards advertised in England as an enamel paint for interior and external use. A factory was established at Southall in 1932 (National Archives, BT 56/47). Ripolin Ltd’s notepaper in 1939 described the company as ‘Manufacturers of Ripolin and Festinol Paints and Rieps Ship Compositions’, London, Paris, Amsterdam and 67 Bridge St, Manchester 3 (V&A National Art Library, TLC.1.80).
Ripolin paints featured in a Paris artists’ supply catalogue as early as 1903 (Dupré et cie, Fournitures Générales pour Artistes, Dessin… Catalogue Géneral, 7th ed., p.47) but not, it would seem, in those of Lefranc. Ripolin was used by Picasso as early as 1912 (Picasso express, p.130).
The use of Ripolin and house paint by artists has been the subject of much recent study (see two special issues of Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, vol.52, issues 3 and 4, 2013). Among other material, it contains Harriet A.L. Standeven’s article, ‘Oil-Based House Paints from 1900 to 1960: An Examination of Their History and Development, with Particular Reference to Ripolin Enamels’, which examines these paints in the context of the Ripolin enamels used by, among others, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, and Sidney Nolan.
British artists using Ripolin paint: Ripolin was used by Ben Nicholson for the final coat of paint on 1935 (white relief), 1935 (Tate), and for the frame of 1941 (Painted Relief - Version I), 1941 (Christie’s New York 9 November 1999 lot 537); he was perhaps influenced by Picasso in his choice of this paint (Hackney 1999 p.161). Barbara Hepworth, in response to a request for information concerning the materials used for her painting, Prelude I, 1948 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery), stated that the paint that she used for her grounds during the years in question, 1948-51, was Ripolin flat white, which later became unobtainable (Cobbe 1976a p.27). Ripolin was used for her sculpture, The Wave, 1943, interior surface repainted c.1955 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art).
Ripolin paint was used in John Piper’s Tall Forms on Dark Blue, 1937 (with Fine Art Society, see John Piper 1903-1992, exh.cat., 2012, no.2) and Sea Buildings, 1938 (Bonhams 8 November 2007 lot 59), John Craxton’s Cart Track, 1942-3, and Aldershot Mill, 1943-4 (‘We mixed tube colours with the Ripolin and they have retained their luminosity where other paintings of the period have not’, see Ian Collins, John Craxton, 2011, p.54), Gilian Ayres’s Distillation, 1957 (Tate, repr. Jo Crook & Tom Lerner, Impact of Modern Paints, 2000, p.20) and her mural for South Hampstead School (letter from artist, Financial Times Weekend Magazine, 22/23 December 2012, p.13) and Bernard Cohen’s Early Mutation Green No.11, 1960 (Tate, see Mary Chamot et al., Tate Gallery Catalogues. The modern British paintings drawings and sculpture, 1964, p.113).
Sources: Michael Raeburn on ‘Brand Ripolin’, in Picasso express, Antibes, Musée Picasso, 2011, pp.123-7. For Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, see Alun Graves, ‘Casts and continuing histories: material evidence and the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth’, in David Thistlewood, Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered, 1996, p.176.
Updated March 2015
*Charles Roberson 1819-1828, Roberson & Miller 1828-1839, Charles Roberson 1840, Charles Roberson & Co 1840-1907, C. Roberson & Co Ltd 1907-1987. At 54 Long Acre, London 1819-1827, 51 Long Acre 1828-1855, 99 Long Acre 1853-1937, 101-104 Park St, Camden Town 1937-1939, street renamed and numbered 1939, 71 Parkway 1939-1987. Also at 154 Piccadilly 1889-1906, 155-6 Piccadilly 1907-1940. Registered at 1a Hercules St, N7 6AT from November 1993. Artists’ colourmen and picture restorers.
One of the major artists’ suppliers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Roberson ledgers, part of a larger archive, are a rich and unique source of information into the trade in artists’ materials. A wide-ranging list of account holders to whom Roberson supplied materials has been published by Sally Woodcock for the period 1820-1939 (Woodcock 1997).
Charles Roberson, 1819-1828: In 1819 Charles Roberson set up in business as an artists’ colourman at 54 Long Acre at the age of just twenty (see notebook entry in Roberson Archive, after 1870, ‘Charles Roberson succeeded to Mr Matley in 1819 at 53½ Long Acre’ (HKI MS 785-1993, fol. 54v, information from Sally Woodcock).These premises had been used for the sale of brushes and colours since 1803, firstly by John Culbert (qv), then from 1814 by his apprentice, Henry Matley (qv), who died in March 1820. Roberson was listed initially as ‘Colourman to Artists and hair pencil maker’, a description previously used by Matley.
Charles Roberson (1799-1876) was christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields. He was the son of Christopher Roberson (d.1825), who had a leasehold interest in New Slaughters Coffee House in St Martin’s Lane, which he bequeathed to his wife, Mary. It is worth noting that John Middleton (qv) traded at the adjoining premises in St Martin’s Lane. It was later claimed by Charles Roberson & Co that the business had been founded in 1810 and there is an earlier general merchant’s book in the Roberson archive (HKI MS 87-1993, lecture by Sally Woodcock, Courtauld Institute of Art, 20 January 1998), suggesting that the Roberson family may have been trading in some other capacity before 1819 (see Woodcock 1995). Sir Thomas Lawrence was an early customer (see Lawrence's materials and processes on this website).
Roberson & Miller, 1828-1839: From January 1828 Charles Roberson was in partnership with Thomas Miller (qv), trading as Roberson & Miller at 51 Long Acre. Miller is said to have been his assistant (Woodcock 1997 p.viii) on the evidence of a mention in a Roberson ledger for 1820-1 (HKI MS 139-1993), but it remains to be seen whether he is one and the same individual as the Thomas Miller who set up independently as a colourman by 1822.
During the Roberson & Miller partnership, payments were listed to Roberson, February 1828 to October 1839, and to Miller from 15 April 1828 until 30 December 1839 (Woodcock 1997 p.184); a final settlement on the partnership being reached on 31 December 1839 (Woodcock 1997 p.viii), when the partnership was dissolved (London Gazette 31 December 1839).
Roberson & Miller’s trade sheet listed watercolours in cakes and in boxes, Roberson & Miller’s prepared lead pencils, drawing papers etc, bladder colours for oil painting, ‘prepared cloths and tickens’, prepared panels and millboards, ‘hatchment cloths’, chalks, ‘brushes and pencils’, varnishes, oils and sundries (Materials for Drawing and Painting, n.d.). They advertised N. Partridge’s Venetian Composition for preparing oil colours in 1836, stating that it had been tried by William Beechey (The Times 13 June 1836). Roberson & Miller subscribed to George Field’s Chromatography, 1835 (Carlyle 2001 p.18 n.25).
Artists using Roberson & Miller’s colours include Andrew Plimer (George Williamson, Andrew & Nathaniel Plimer, 1903, p.67), Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose estate made payment of £76.7s on 21 August 1830 for ultramarine supplied the previous year (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1938/1923; Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 943-1993) and Samuel Palmer, who wrote from Rome in 1838 and 1839 to request John Linnell to obtain cakes of their pink madder (Lister 1974 pp.119, 274, 280).
Artists using marked Roberson & Miller supports (canvas stamp repr. Leach 1973) include George Richmond (1st Viscount Sidmouth, 1833, label on reverse of card, set within an artist’s palette, ‘ROBERSON & MILLER,/ 51, Long Acre, London./ Manufacturers of/ Prepared Cloths Panels/ and/ MILL BOARDS,/ FOR ARTISTS/ with Improved, Oil or Absorbent Grounds/ and every requisite for the Fine Arts’, National Portrait Gallery), Horatio McCulloch (Summer Day: Arran, c.1833, board, printed label: ‘A New Sketch Book… & Miller’, coll. Martyn Gregory, see Smith 1988 p.48), Edward Matthew Ward (Thomas Sowdon and Agnes Sowdon, 1834, private collections, photos on National Portrait Gallery files), Asher Brown Durand (Wrath of Peter Stuyvesant, 1835, New York Historical Society, see Katlan 1987 p.303), Henry William Pickersgill (Syrian Maid, exh.1837, Tate 417, information from Sally Woodcock), William Fisher (Walter Savage Landor, 1839, marked: ‘PREPARED BY/ ROBERSON & MILLER/ 51 LONG ACRE. LONDON’ and ‘R & M 1081’ in frame, National Portrait Gallery), Robert Ronald McIan’s A Girl attacked by Eagles, 1830s, marked as previous item (Tatton Park, information from Alastair Laing), and James Henry Nixon (Richard's Dream, private coll., information from Sally Woodcock). Roberson & Miller canvases were also used by J.M.W. Turner (Dawn of Christianity: Flight into Egypt, exh.1841, and Heidelberg Castle, c.1844-5, both Tate, see Butlin 1981, Townsend 1993, Townsend 1994 p.146). Turner purchased paper from Roberson’s to the value of 4s.6d in May 1839 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 943-1993 p.87).
Thomas Sidney Cooper made Roberson & Miller, and then Charles Roberson & Co, his preferred suppliers over many years, 1833-1901 (Westwood 2011 p.135, repr. three different panel labels). Roberson & Miller marked supports used by Cooper include A Boy driving Cows near Canterbury, 1833, labelled panel (Phillips 20 November 2001 lot 24, see Westwood 2011 p.174), Farm Yard, Milking Time, exh.1834, marked canvas (Tate, information from Sally Woodcock), The Resting Place, 1837, labelled panel (Sotheby's 27 June 2006 lot 55) and Cattle in a Kent Meadow, 1839, labelled panel (Sotheby's 15 November 2011 lot 32), as well as various others, the latest dated 1841 (see Westwood 2011 pp.186, 195, 200, 206, 209, 213, 220; see also p.182 for a marked canvas). Charles Roberson & Co supplied the supports for Cooper’s Cattle Reposing, 1846, marked canvas (Fitzwilliam Museum) and An Evening Scene, labelled panel, 1852 (Wallace Collection, see Ingamells 1985). For other supports identified as supplied by Roberson from 1840 onwards, see Westwood 2011.
William Shiels used Roberson & Miller’s canvas for several of his animal portraits in the National Museums of Scotland including Old Norfolk Ram and Longhorn Cow, 1833-8, marked: R & M 1242, Wild Welsh Forest Cow, 1839-41, marked: Prepared by Roberson & Miller, Long Acre, London, R&M 1328, Ryeland Ram, Ewe and Lamb, Exmoor Ram and Ewe, Suffolk Punch Horse, Hereford Cow and Calf, Brecon and Glamorgan Goats (with additional stamp, L. Mundell, EDINBURGH)' and Old Lincoln Ewe and Lamb (information from Fiona V. Salvesen Murrell, February and September 2012). In 1834, the business supplied Shiels with seven Bishops Half Length canvases as well as canvas on a roll.
An artist in Australia using their materials was John Glover (Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’s Land, 1838, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, see Burgess 2003 p.242). Roberson & Miller have been described as the colourmen of choice for Australian professional artists wishing to order a large stock of painting materials from England (Erica Burgess and Paula Dredge, ‘Supplying Artists’ Materials to Australia 1788-1850’, in Ashok Roy and Perry Smith (eds), Painting Techniques History, Materials and Studio Practice: Contributions to the Dublin Congress, International Institute for Conservation, 1998, pp.199-204).
Charles Roberson & Co, 1840-1907: When Charles Roberson split with Miller in 1839, he continued at 51 Long Acre, trading as Charles Roberson & Co from 1840. The freehold of these premises, consisting of a residence, shop and warehouse, belonging to the late Nathaniel Hadley, was sold in 1849 subject to Roberson’s lease for a further 42 years at an annual rental of £114 (Morning Chronicle 14 September 1849). Roberson remained a force in the business for many years, relocating to 99 Long Acre in 1853, and establishing his company as one of the major firms of artists’ suppliers. He was recorded in the 1851 census, with two nephews in the business, Charles Park, clerk, age 31, and Charles Roberson, age 20, described as ‘assistant’; he was listed at 99 Long Acre in both the 1861 and 1871 censuses. He died there in 1876, age 76, leaving a substantial estate of nearly £120,000 (National Probate Calendar; see also Woodcock 1997 pp.viii, 166 for individual bequests to members of the Park family).
Roberson was succeeded by his nephew, Charles Park (1820-98), who was his sister Charlotte’s son by Charles Park senior. In the 1881 census Charles Park, artist, and his nephew and clerk, Charles Percival Park (1858-1920), were recorded as living at 38 Russell Square. In due course, the business passed to this nephew and to Charles Park’s son Charles Roberson Park (1867-1930) (Roberson trade catalogues, e.g. Catalogue 1949, 36pp). The former was living in Primrose Hill Road, and the latter in Belsize Grove, Hampstead at the time of the 1901 census, each with wife and three children.
The business advertised extensively. C. Robe[r]son, rather than Roberson & Miller, advertised 'Unction', a new vehicle for oil painting (The Art-Union February 1840 p.29, March 1840 p.46, and subsequently, as 'Unction Mc’Guylp’), while Charles Roberson advertised 'Simpson's Chinese Fluid' for watercolour painting (The Art-Union June 1840 p.101). It was not until 1841 that the business advertised as Roberson and Co, featuring various painting and drawing materials, including oil colours in metallic collapsible tubes, and referring to their ‘New List of Materials for Drawing, Painting, &c’ (The Art-Union November 1841 p.178, and subsequently).
Roberson & Co exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and their catalogue featured a wide range of products, including Parisian lay figures (Price List of Materials for Drawing and Painting, 68pp, bound into the Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition 1851, vol.16, copy in V&A National Art Library, EX.1851.135). Six Roberson trade and retail catalogues, dating from about 1840 to 1907, are listed in Carlyle 2001. Roberson’s published many fewer instruction manuals than Rowney or Winsor & Newton (for Hamerton’s Etcher’s Handbook, see below). Roberson’s opened a branch in Piccadilly in 1889, and this branch was listed with its own account, December 1889 to February 1904 (Woodcock 1997). The business advertised in The Year's Art (1888-1904, 1912-13), giving an address in Paris and featuring a Royal warrant of appointment to Queen Alexandra (1902).
Specialisms: Roberson’s had a wide-ranging reputation which extended to certain specific areas. It specialised in supplying lay figures to artists, 1840s to 1920s, using various subcontractors (see below). The Roberson archive includes a number of life-size lay figures (Woodcock 1998). For a detailed and well illustrated survey, see Sally Woodcock, ‘The Life of a London Lay Figure: Charles Roberson, a Case Study’, in Jane Munro, Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish, 2014, pp.62-71.
Roberson’s also became known for the lining and restoration of pictures, being listed as picture liners from 1853, using Frederick Haines as a subcontractor (see below), and later advertising testimonials from artists such as William Holman Hunt, 1897, George Clausen, 1899 and Thomas Sidney Cooper, as given in their catalogues (Artists Colours Materials, c.1931-2, 126pp). Cooper recalled the ‘perfect manner’ in which Roberson in 1882 repaired his Monarch of the Meadows, slashed from its frame (T.S. Cooper, My Life, 1891, p.309). Samuel Lane’s Frederick Lane, has the label of Roberson as ‘backliners’ (Dulwich Picture Gallery, see Ingamells 2008 p.203, where recorded as Robinson, rather than Roberson).
The business was particularly known for Roberson’s medium, one of its most widely distributed products (see Carlyle 2001 pp.128-9), which was used, for example, by Ford Madox Brown, Charles Allston Collins, James Collinson, Edward Hughes, John Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti among Pre-Raphaelite artists (as documented by Carlyle in Townsend 2004 p.63), and subsequently by Edward Armitage, Philip H. Calderon (see below), Sir John Gilbert and Lord Leighton (The Portfolio 1875 pp.15, 32, 63, 1876 p.13).
Roberson’s had a connection with Thomas Gambier Parry (1816-88) and his ‘Spirit Fresco’ system, developed in response to the failure of fresco at the Palace of Westminster. Gambier Parry first published his technique in 1862 and modified the recipe in 1880. Roberson’s manufactured and sold it as a medium, possibly from 1861, until early in the 20th century. It was used by Leighton, Ford Madox Brown and Frank Salisbury, among others (information from Sally Woodcock; see, 'The "spirit fresco" technique and its historical context', in Thomas Gambier Parry 1816-1888 as artist and collector, Courtauld Institute of Art, exh.cat., 1993, pp.46-52, and Tracey Manning, ‘Spirit fresco': its genesis, development and dissemination, Courtauld Institute of Art, unpublished diploma thesis, 1994).
Overseas: E. Mary & Fils, followed by George Mary, acted as Roberson's Paris agent and held an account with Roberson 1882-1908 (Woodcock 1997 pp.viii, 144; see also Woodcock 1995 and Constantin 2001); their trade catalogue featured various Roberson materials (E. Mary & Fils Catalogue des Couleurs Fines, Toiles, Panneaux et Materiels Divers, July 1888, 198pp). Subsequently this role as Paris agent was filled by G. Sennelier (Woodcock 1997 p.viii), but no account appears to be listed; Roberson gave Sennelier’s address as their Paris Depot in their trade catalogue as late as c.1937 (Artists Colours Materials, 127pp; this catalogue also featured their appointment to the King and Queen of Italy). Roberson’s Medium was widely stocked overseas but otherwise Roberson products were carried by a limited number of foreign companies. In the United States they were sold by William Schaus, New York (Katlan 1987 p.11; trade catalogue, c.1857-61, quoted at length by Katlan 1992 p.363; see also Schaus’s Price-List of Materials for Oil, Water Color and Pastel Painting and Drawing, c.1875-85, 24pp; the company later turned to Winsor & Newton materials). In 1853, the American artist William Sydney Mount, wrote to Schaus expressing his delight in Roberson colours (Katlan 1987 p.11). Companies with an account with Roberson include: Bullock & Crenshaw, Philadelphia, 1850-5; William Schaus, New York, 1852-85; Scholz & Janentzky, Philadelphia, 1865; A.A. Walker & Co, Boston, 1867-80; Frost & Adams, Boston, 1887-91; and Wadsworth, Howland & Co, Boston, 1897 (Woodcock 1997).
Roberson’s contractors, 1828-84: The business used a variety of contractors over many years to supply it with certain materials, as is apparent from the Roberson purchase ledgers (Hamilton Kerr Institute, Roberson Archive, MS 944-1993, 148-1993, 180-1993, 183-1993). Ledgers covering the years, 1828-84, have been summarily examined to inform the following selective and preliminary listing, which is subject to review. Leslie Carlyle has used these ledgers in preparing her book, The Artist's Assistant (Carlyle 2001), which provides additional details.
For colours, Roberson went to Giovanni Arzone (qv) in and following 1828, paying some £120 for Ultramarine in 1828-9, to George Field (qv) for vermilions and madders, 1842-54, to Noble & Rolls, later Nobles & Hoare for ‘Guimets Ultramarine', 1842-94 (Carlyle 2001 p.473), to George Druke (qv) as early as 1820 and then to his widow Sarah, including for cobalt blue in the 1850s, until her death in 1859, followed by her brother John Cox, to Lewis Berger & Sons (qv) for many years, and to John Shea, 1874-82. For tubes for paint, Roberson went to John Rand and successor companies until 1865, and to H.G. Sanders and Sons (qv) for large quantities of tubes from at least 1863 until 1884 or later.
For oils and drying oils, Leslie Carlyle has identified Thomas Hopkins, later Hopkins, Purvis & Sons, as Roberson's main supplier for linseed oils, 1829-93, Sherborn & Tillyer (qv) for poppy oil, 1857-1900, and Charles Turner, 1842-97, and Noble & Rolls (later Nobles & Hoare), 1845-1902 for drying oils (Carlyle 2001 pp.343-5). For litharge, a drier used in preparing drying oil, Roberson mainly used Lewis Berger & Sons (qv), 1830-53 (Carlyle 2001 p.42). For the occasional purchase of dammar varnish, Roberson turned exclusively to Charles Turner, 1842-1903 (Carlyle 2001 p.86) and for lac varnish George Field, 1843-54, Charles Turner, 1866 and Nobles & Hoare from 1879 (Carlyle 2001 pp.92, 97 n.39).
For brushes, John Capes (qv) was a significant supplier from at least 1842 until his death in 1879; he was followed in business by his daughter, Jemima Gascoine, who continued to supply Roberson (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 944-1993 p.102, 180-1993, 183-1993). G.C. Beissbarth (qv) of Nurnberg, supplied camel hair and other brushes, 1867-75. For Pitet Ainé in Paris, see below.
For lay figures, Roberson went to Auguste Gagnery in Paris, 1842-51, C. Barbe and Lechertier Barbe (qv), French connected but trading in London, 1851-3, Pitet Ainé in Paris, 1851-84 (also for brushes and other materials) and R. Briggs & Son (qv), later C. Briggs, in London, 1863-93 (new figures and repairing and hiring existing figures). For further details and additional suppliers, see Woodcock 1998 pp.445-64, especially n.30.
For copper plates, Roberson initially used William Stiles (qv), 1857, but then Russell Pontifex & Co (qv), 1857-8, 1874-84, and most especially Hughes & Kimber (qv), 1859-83, who supplied copper and zinc plates, etching grounds and other etching supplies (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 180-1993, 183-1993). Roberson made a speciality in materials for etching and copper plate printing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It published P.G. Hamerton’s The Etcher’s Handbook in four editions from 1871 to 1912, with appended catalogues of etching and other materials.
For picture framing work and some picture strainers, Roberson turned to a neighbour in Long Acre, James Ryan, 1844-77 (see British picture framemakers on this website) and, following Ryan’s death, to Alfred Jeffries (qv), 1878-83, and to Henry J. Murcott, 1882-99 (see British picture framemakers). For picture restoration, Roberson regularly used Frederick Haines, 1862-92, and for occasional paper restoration William Baldwin, 1865, and following his death his manager, William Grisbrook, 1869-83. Roberson may also have used Henry Woolcot. For these restorers, see British picture restorers on this website.
Artists using Roberson's materials, 1840-1910: Roberson’s supports were used by numerous artists, as the surviving Roberson ledgers testify (see Woodcock 1997). Examples of Roberson’s labels and stamps are reproduced by Leach 1973 and Katlan 1992 pp.464-6. Staff at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, have used the Roberson Archive to establish the dates of various canvases in the Walker collection and that at Sudley House (see Morris 1996; several of the Walker paintings listed below are recorded as frame labels). Similarly, staff at Tate have used the Archive in research on Pre-Raphaelite painting techniques (see Townsend 2004), and some of the examples given below depend on entries in the Roberson ledgers, rather than on marked canvases. The supply of colours by Roberson to Charles Allston Collins, James Collinson, William Holman Hunt, John Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti has been documented by Leslie Carlyle (Townsend 2004 pp.39-49).
The relationship between Roberson and four significant artists working in the second half of the 19th century has begun to be explored in detail: William Holman Hunt, Lord Leighton, William Powell Frith and Edward Burne-Jones, as summarised here.
William Holman Hunt had an account with Roberson 1850-1906, which has been published for the years 1895-1900 (Woodcock 1997 pp.xi-xiii). He also entered into correspondence with the business concerning the quality of individual colours (Carlyle 2001 pp.271, 461-2) and was upset by Roberson's supply of adulterated orange vermilion pigment in 1873, used for example in Thomas Fairbairn, 1873-4 (Fairbairn family coll., see Bronkhurst 2006 pp.29, 235). Examples of Holman Hunt’s work on Roberson supports include The Eve of St Agnes, 1847-57 (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988), Valentine rescuing Sylvia from Proteus, 1850-1 (Birmingham Museum & Gallery, see Townsend 2004 p.113), The Hireling Shepherd, 1851-2 (Manchester City Art Gallery, see Townsend 2004 p.140), The Light of the World, 1851-3 (Keeble College, Oxford, see Townsend 2004 p.148, Bronkhurst 2006 p.152), Our English Coasts, 1852 (Tate, see Townsend 2004 p.158), Fairlight Downs: Sunlight on the Sea, 1852, label on panel reverse (Lord Lloyd-Webber coll., see Bronkhurst 2006 p.159), The Hireling Shepherd, replica, begun 1853, canvas supplied 1852 (Makins coll., see Bronkhurst 2006 p.161 n.2), The Thames at Chelsea, Evening, 1853 (Fitzwilliam Museum), The Awakening Conscience, 1853 (Tate, see Townsend 2004 p.174, Bronkhurst 2006 p.168, n.18), Honest Labour has a Comely Face, 1861, panel stamp (Christopher Gridley, see Bronkhurst 2006 p.191), John Blount Price, 1887, canvas supplied 1885 (private coll., see Bronkhurst 2006 p.264, n.8), The Lady of Shalott, begun ?c.1888, canvas supplied 1885 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, see Bronkhurst 2006 p.271) and May Morning on Magdalen Tower, 1890 (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988). Holman Hunt used a dilute copal preparation by Roberson as a medium until 1853 (see The Portfolio 1875 p.45), for example in Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus, 1850-1 (Birmingham Museum & Gallery, see Bronkhurst 2006 p.143). See also Melissa R. Katz, ‘Holman Hunt on Himself: Textual Evidence in Aid of Technical Analysis’, in Erma Hermens (ed.), Looking Through Paintings, Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol.11, 1998, pp.415-44.
Lord Leighton held an account from 1860 until his death in 1886 and his relationship with Roberson’s has been examined by Sally Woodcock, who published an extract from his account for the purchase of canvas, probably for Flaming June, November 1894 (Woodcock 1996). Examples of his works on marked canvases include Sir Richard Burton, 1872-5 (National Portrait Gallery, see Later Victorian catalogue), Lucia, 1870s? (Metropolitan Museum, New York, see Katharine Baetjer, British paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875, 2009, p.284), Elijah in the Wilderness, 1877-8, Elegy, 1888, and Perseus and Andromeda, 1891 (all Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Psamathe, 1879-80, and Fatidica, exh.1894 (both Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994) and The Last Watch of Hero, c.1887, and Captive Andromache, c.1888 (both Manchester Art Gallery).
Roberson advertised in The Year's Art (1887-1900), quoting a letter from William Powell Frith, 28 September 1896, on the perfect state of preservation of his picture, The Derby Day, 1858 (Tate). Marked canvases used by Frith include The Proposal, 1859 (Sir David and Lady Scott coll., Sotheby’s 19 November 2008 lot 127) and New Shoes, 1860 (Christie’s 23 November 2005 lot 124). Frith held an account with Roberson for 59 years from 1850 until his death in 1909 (Woodcock 1997) and the canvases for such set pieces as Ramsgate Sands, 1856 (Royal Collection), The Derby Day, 1858 (Tate), The Railway Station, 1862 (Royal Holloway College) and The Marriage of the Prince of Wales, 1865 (Royal Collection) were all ordered from him, as were many artists’ materials (Sally Woodcock, ‘ “Very efficient as a painter”: the painting practice of William Powell Frith’, in Mark Bills and Vivien Knight (eds.), William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age, 2006, pp.145-56).
Edward Burne-Jones, followed by his executors, had an account with Roberson from 1857 to 1900 (Woodcock 1997); this has been analysed and examined by Eleanor Beyer (Eleanor Beyer, An Examination of the Painting Techniques of G.F. Watts and Edward Burne-Jones set in the context of the techniques of the Pre-Raphaelites, MA thesis, University College London, 2004) and in greater detail by Fiona Mann, ‘A “born rebel”: Edward Burne-Jones and watercolour painting, 1857-80’, Burlington Magazine, vol.156, pp.657-64. Examples of his works on marked canvases or stretchers include Laus Veneris, 1873-5, stamped on canvas: PREPARED BY/ CHARLES ROBERSON/ 99 LONG ACRE/ LONDON (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle) and The Beguiling of Merlin, 1874, The Annunciation, 1879, and The Tree of Forgiveness, 1882 (all Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994).
John Everett Millais used Roberson for various works including Ophelia, 1851-2 (Tate, see Hackney 1999 p.76, Townsend 2004 p.135, and www.tate.org.uk/ophelia/materials_frame.htm), The Prescribed Royalist 1651, 1852-3 (Lord Lloyd-Webber, see Townsend 2004 p.160), The Order of Release 1746, 1852-3 (Tate, see Townsend 2004 p.171), Mrs Charles Freeman, marked panel, 1862 (Christie’s 15 December 2010 lot 44), My Second Sermon, 1864 (Birmingham Museum & Gallery, repr. Cobbe 1976 p.86, Katlan 1992 p.287), and Benjamin Disraeli, 1881 (National Portrait Gallery).
Five further artists using Roberson products were James Baker Pyne, John Linnell, D.G. Rossetti, Sir John Gilbert and Alfred William Hunt. Pyne had an account with Roberson, 1843-69 (Woodcock 1997). He records using Roberson’s canvases for various paintings and even includes diagrams of the back of some of these canvases, showing Roberson’s canvas stamps, including Snowdon from the Bridge, 1847 (the canvas stamped CR 468), The Salute and Dogana, 1848 (the canvas stamped CR 467) and The Moselle at Coblentz, 1847 (Pyne’s Picture memoranda, V&A National Art Library, MSL/1947/1562-1563). He also notes using Roberson’s permanent white mixed with other pigments in Littlehampton Harbour, 1851, and The Island of Burano, 1854, as well as Roberson’s copal varnish in the 1860s.
John Linnell had an account, 1849-87 (Woodcock 1997), making his first purchases of colours and canvas in 1848 according to his account book (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 22-2000). It would seem that Roberson replaced Thomas Brown (qv) as one of the artist’s main suppliers.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti held an account with Roberson, 1851-82. In 1855 Rossetti wrote to Ford Madox Brown referring to visiting Roberson’s: 'I have a feud with the wretches…, but for oil colours they are the only eligible demons' (Fredeman 55.19). Rossetti makes further references to Roberson in his correspondence in 1872, 1873 and 1876 (Fredeman 72.68, 73.43, 76.14).
Sir John Gilbert had an account, 1859-97 (repr. in Sally Woodcock, 'Utility, Versatility and Obscurity: the Sources and Selection of Sir John Gilbert's oil painting materials', in Spike Bucklow and Sally Woodcock (eds), Sir John Gilbert: Art and Imagination in the Victorian Age, Guildhall Art Gallery, 2011, pp.220-39). Gilbert used Roberson’s Medium as a thick medium for oil painting (The Portfolio 1876 p.15). He used Roberson’s canvas for Don Sancho Panza, 1875, and Onward, begun 1888 (both Manchester Art Gallery) and for The Slain Dragon, 1885, and Landscape with Gypsy Encampment, 1888 (both Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996).
The watercolour artist, Alfred William Hunt, had accounts with Roberson in Durham and then London, 1863-96 (Woodcock 1997). He told his future wife, Margaret Raine, in about 1860 that in ordering watercolours, ‘Winsor & Newton’s or Roberson’s are the best’, and he himself used numerous Roberson sketchbooks between about 1866 and 1893 (Ashmolean Museum, see Newall 2004 pp.14, 173-8).
Marked supports found on the works of other artists from the 1840s and subsequently include Thomas Sully’s Elizabeth Cook, 1839 (Yale University Art Gallery, repr. Katlan 1992 p.466; however, the address 99 Long Acre would suggest a date after 1853), Alfred Walter Williams's Eel Bucks at Goring, 1844? (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Frederick Richard Say’s 1st Earl of Ellenborough, c.1845, and 5th Duke of Newcastle, 1848 (both National Portrait Gallery), Hippolyte Bellange’s Le Retour de la Ville, 1848, labelled: CHARLES ROBERSON AND COMPANY/ MATERIALS OF DRAWINGS AND PAINTINGS/ 51 LONG ACRE LONDON (Rouen, Musée des beaux-arts, accessed through Joconde), Walter Deverell’s Self-portrait, c.1849 (Fitzwilliam Museum), and Alfred Stevens's Study for Parmigianino painting The Vision of St Jerome, 1840s? and Six paintings for the Crystal Palace, 1850s (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996).
From the early 1850s and subsequently, Henry Le Jeune’s Contemplation, panel stamped with address 51 Long Acre, indicating a panel date before 1855, and Rush Gatherers, exh.1852 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), John Frederick Herring's Still life of dead birds, fruit, vegetables, 1852, A Farmer’s Hack and Greyhounds, 1854, label repr. in catalogue, One of the Scots Greys, 1855, address 51 Long Acre and A Grey and a Dark Bay drinking at a Trough, 1855, address 99 Long Acre (all four Christie's 22 November 2006 lots 104-5, 107-8), J.L.E. Meissonier’s The Recital, exh.1853, The Lost Game, 1858, and The Roadside Inn, 1860s (all Wallace Collection, see Ingamells 1986 pp.171 173, 175), Edward Lear's The Temple of Apollo at Bassae, c.1854-5 (Fitzwilliam Museum), Bethlehem, 1861 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Jerusalem, 1865, and The Plains of Lombardy from Monte Generoso, 1880 (both Ashmolean Museum), William Sydney Mount’s Coming to the Point, 1854 (New York Historical Society, see Katlan 1987 p.299), and two William McTaggart life studies of female nudes, 1850s (National Gallery of Scotland, NG 2858, 2860, information from Helen Smailes, July 2012).
From the later 1850s and subsequently, Frederick Edwin Church’s Cotopaxi, 1855 (National Museum of American Art, see Katlan 1987 p.292), James Smetham's Counting the Cost, exh.1855 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Alfred W. Williams’s River Landscape with sheep and cattle, 1855 (Saint-Quentin, Musée Lécuyer, see http://musee.louvre.fr/bases/doutremanche), John Frederick Lewis’s A Syrian Sheet, 1856 (Fitzwilliam Museum), Jerome Thompson’s Apple Gathering, 1856, stencilled canvas (Brooklyn Museum, see Carbone 2006 p.1002), Philip H. Calderon’s Broken Vows, 1857 (Ashmolean Museum, information from Jon Whiteley), James Collinson’s Short Change, 1858, panel (Sotheby’s 17 December 2009 lot 35), Charles West Cope’s The Parting of Lord and Lady William Russell, 1858, labelled and stamped panel with address 51 Long Acre (Christie’s South Kensington 14 November 2013 lot 38) and Yes or No?, 1872 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), William Jacob Hays’s Terrier’s Head, 1859 (New York Historical Society, see Katlan 1987 p.306, repr. Katlan 1992 p.464), Henry Wallis’s A Coast Scene, Sunset, Seaford, late 1850s (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988) and his Thomas Love Peacock, 1858 (National Portrait Gallery).
From the 1860s, F.R. Pickersgill's Prospero and Miranda, early 1860s (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), James Hayllar’s Guilty or Not Guilty, 1860, panel stamp (Sir David and Lady Scott coll., Sotheby’s 19 November 2008 lot 67), Robert Martineau’s The Poor Actress’s Christmas Dinner, c.1860 (Ashmolean Museum), George Healy’s Col. Albert Brochett, 1861 (National Museum of American Art, see Katlan 1987 p.293), Edward Matthew Ward's Antechamber at Whitehall during the Dying Moments of Charles II, exh.1861 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Heinrich Schiött's John Delane, 1862 (National Portrait Gallery), Mary Newton's Self-portrait, exh.1863 (National Portrait Gallery), Horatio McCulloch’s Sundown: Loch Achray, 1864 (Glasgow Art Gallery, see Smith 1988 p.90), Frederick Sandys’s Mrs Jane Lewis, 1864 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, see Elzea 2001 pp.181, 340) and Mrs Anne Susannah Barstow, 1868-9 (Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead, see Elzea 2001 pp.192, 340), Ford Madox Brown’s The Coat of Many Colours, 1866 (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988), Thomas Creswick’s Forest Glade with Deer, 1869 or before, with Richard Ansdell, and Landscape, Morning (Crossing the Stream), 1869 or before (both Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), William Fettes Douglas’s Women in Church, 1860s, labelled board (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, see Lees 2012 p.298), George Clayton Eaton's Alfred Stephens in his Library, late 1860s or early 1870s (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996).
From the 1870s and subsequently, Camille Pissarro’s Fox Hill, Upper Norwood, 1870 (National Gallery, see David Bomford et al., Art in the Making: Impressionism, 1990, p.134), Hugh Carter's Sir Francis Ronalds, c.1870 (National Portrait Gallery), Arthur Hughes’s ‘As You Like It’, 1872-3 (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988), Frederick Daniel Hardy’s The Art Lovers, impressed panel, 1873 (Christie’s South Kensington 10 November 2011 lot 195), Charles Hunt’s The Stolen Child, 1874 (Sir David and Lady Scott coll., Sotheby’s 19 November 2008 lot 112), Briton Rivière’s The Last of the Garrison, 1875 (Manchester Art Gallery) and Thomas Faed’s Free From Care, 1878 (Sudley, Liverpool, see Bennett 1971). Roberson’s Medium was used by Philip H. Calderon (The Portfolio 1875 p.15, listing nine paintings including The Young Lord Hamlet and A Moonlight Serenade). Edward Armitage used Roberson’s deep yellow madder (The Portfolio 1875 p.63).
From the 1880s and subsequently, Charles Gregory's Weal and Woe, 1880 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Henry Holiday's Dante and Beatrice, exh.1883 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Edward Poynter’s The Ides of March, 1883 (Manchester Art Gallery), Philip Morris's Quite Ready, exh.1884 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), W.W. Ouless’s Sir George Scharf, 1885 (National Portrait Gallery, see Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue) and Prof. Sir G.M. Humphry, 1886 (Fitzwilliam Museum), J.M. Strudwick’s Circe and Scylla, exh.1886, Love's Palace, 1893, St Cecilia, 1896 (both Sudley, see Morris 1996) and When Apples were Golden and Songs were Sweet, exh.1906 (Manchester Art Gallery), Richard Beavis's Goats: Outskirts of Cadiz, by 1888 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996) and Emile Friant’s Madame Seymour, 1889, labelled panel (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, see Lees 2012 p.336). John Brett used some Roberson canvases in the mid-1880s (Lowry 2001 p.38), including for The Norman Archipelago, 1885 (Manchester Art Gallery). Frank Holl's biographer described Roberson as his colourman (A.M. Reynolds, The Life and Work of Frank Holl, 1912, p.251); examples include Francis Holl and Sir W.S. Gilbert, 1886 (both National Portrait Gallery).
From the 1890s and subsequently, Luke Fildes’s The Doctor, 1890-91 (Tate, see Completing the Picture 1982 pp.65-8, repr.), Sydney P. Hall's Gladstone reading the Lesson in Hawarden Church, 1892 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), Walter Richard Sickert’s Minnie Cunningham, 1892 (Tate, see ‘The Camden Town Group in Context’, research project, at www.tate.org.uk ), Evelyn de Morgan's Life and Thought emerging from the Tomb, 1893 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), William De Morgan, 1909 (National Portrait Gallery) and The Vision, 1914, labelled on blind stretcher (Sotheby's 15 November 2011 lot 62), John Swan's Orpheus, 1896 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), John Collier's Sir Edward Inglefield, 1897 (National Portrait Gallery), Joseph Southall’s Sigismonda Drinking the Poison, 1897, and Beauty Receiving the White Rose from her Father, 1898-9 (both Birmingham Museum & Gallery, see Dunkerton 1980 p.19). John Singer Sargent used sketchbooks supplied by Roberson, c.1890 and c.1910 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, see Stewart 2000 pp.24, 26).
From the 1900s, Lawrence Alma-Tadema's Among the Ruins, 1902 and Love's Missile, 1909 (both Sotheby's 14 December 2006, lots 121, 128), John Bacon's The Homage-Giving, 1903 (National Portrait Gallery), Alfred Wolmark’s George Uglow Pope, 1903, stretcher label (Bodleian Library, information from Dana Josephson, August 2012), Arthur Cope’s Viscount Knutsford, 1906 (National Portrait Gallery) and Albert Rutherston’s Laundry Girls, 1906 (Tate, see ‘The Camden Town Group in Context’, research project, at www.tate.org.uk).
C. Roberson & Co Ltd, from 1907: By the First World War the company was in relative decline. It relocated to Camden Town from 25 March 1937 (The Artist March 1937, advertisement) and was obliged to close its West End branch in or before March 1940 (The Artist March 1940, advertisement). The business remained in the family until the 1970s, when sold to a Dutch firm, going into liquidation in 1987 (London Gazette 29 June 1987). The name was bought by the owner of Cornelissen (qv), who continues to use it for a small range of high-quality materials (Woodcock 1995). ‘It now thrives as a trade-only supplier supplying many of the products for which the company was famous in the past’, trading as Roberson & Co, website at www.robco.co.uk. It is one of three historic businesses listed (as at February 2005) in the Companies House register as incorporated at 105 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3RY: Brodie & Middleton Ltd, incorporated 1945, L. Cornelissen and Son Ltd, incorporated 1980, and C. Roberson & Co Ltd, incorporated 1985.
The business advertised ‘Roberson's Matt Colours Prepared with Parris' Marble Medium. The most suitable for ceiling or mural paintings' (The Year's Art 1913). It was one of five, including Winsor & Newton, George Rowney, Reeves & Son and James Newman, acting together as Associated Colour Merchants, which signed an agreement in 1916 with J. Barcham Green & Son to produce a range of papers for them, watermarked ‘A.C.M.’ and the words ‘Watercolour Paper England’ (Barcham Green 1994, p.35).
Works on Roberson supports from the 1910s and subsequently include Philip de László’s Sir George Henschel, 1917 (National Portrait Gallery) and his Raymond Johnson-Ferguson, 1922 (Bonham’s 17 March 2010 lot 35), John Arnesby Brown’s In June, exh.1917, and Tom Mostyn’s Silver and Gold, 1918 (both Lady Lever Art Gallery, see Morris 1994), and Ambrose McEvoy's Sir John Alcock, 1919 (National Portrait Gallery).
From the 1920s and 1930s, Oswald Birley's Glyn Philpot, 1920 (National Portrait Gallery), Arabella Huntington, 1924 (Huntington Library and Art Gallery, see Asleson 2001 p.32), Earl of Birkenhead, 1932, and Viscount Camrose, c.1933 (both National Portrait Gallery), Henry Lamb's Sir Paul Vinogradoff, c.1924 (Bodleian Library, information from Dana Josephson), Terrick Williams's Festa Notturna, Venice, c.1925 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Roland Penrose’s Painting 1925 (Sotheby’s 28 June 2006 lot 34), Henry Tonks’s A conversation, Betteshanger Barn, 1927-8 (Christie’s 16 December 2009 lot 78), Geoffrey Rhoades’s Landscape at Charlbury, 1932 (Ashmolean Museum), James Gunn's Chesterton, Baring and Belloc, 1932 (National Portrait Gallery), Sir William Nicholson’s Trout, 1935 (Sotheby’s, Soames coll., 17 December 2014 lot 244), Michael Whelan's Malcolm MacDonald, exh.1937 (National Portrait Gallery) and William Coldstream’s Freesias with a Skull, 1939 (Ashmolean Museum). Sir Winston Churchill used Roberson as a London supplier (David Coombs and Minnie Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill’s Life through His Paintings, 2004, p.222), e.g. for Weald, c.1935, stamped canvas (Sotheby’s, Soames coll., 17 December 2014 lot 187).
From the 1940s and 1950s, Victor Pasmore’s Snow Scene, 1944, and John Downton’s Susan Saneon, panel, c.1948 (both Ashmolean Museum), William Scott’s Flowers and a Jug, 1946, also Roberson colours and probably canvas, and Keith Vaughan’s Harvest Assembly, 1956, also Roberson colours and canvas (both Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; see Cobbe 1976a pp.30-1), Rodrigo Moynihan’s Sir Archibald Gray, 1956 (Royal College of Physicians), and Graham Sutherland’s Still Life with Apples and Scales, 1957, marked stretcher (Sotheby’s 11 November 2009 lot 31) and Edward Sackville-West, 1957-8, Roberson colours (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; see Cobbe 1976a p.29). From the 1970s, John Bratby’s Top of The House, Cupola & Tower of the Winds, 1979, stamped canvas (Sotheby’s, Tim Ellis collection, 19 November 2014 lot 88).
Sources: Leach 1973 (for the firm’s addresses); Katlan 1992 p.464; Woodcock 1995 (for the firm’s addresses); Woodcock 1996; Woodcock 1997; Sally Woodcock, ‘The Roberson Archive: a colourful past’, The Picture Restorer, no.12, 1997, pp.14-17; Carlyle 2001 pp.279-80 (for a description of the Archive). The company’s records include ledgers (c.400) and records, 1815-1960s, including correspondence with client companies and artists, recipe books 1831-85, personal account books and ‘bought ledgers’ 1828-1907 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge). Many of these papers have been studied in detail by Sally Woodcock and have been used by Leslie Carlyle (see Sources below). Information from Jevon Thistlewood on marked supports in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
*Archibald Robertson, Saville Row Passage, adjoining Squib’s Auction Room, Conduit St, London 1781, 15 Charles St, St James's Square 1782-1796. Engraver and publisher, landscape painter and drawing master.
Archibald Robertson (active 1765, died 1804) was not only an engraver and publisher, but also a landscape painter and drawing master. His trade card, as printseller and drawing master, address Saville Row Passage, and so apparently dating to 1781 or before, advertised, among other products, ‘Best Swiss-Crayons, variety of Drawing Paper, Port Crayons, all sorts of Italian and French Chalks, Colour Boxes, the best black Lead and Hair Pencils, Indian Ink, Port-folios with or without Leaves, Ladies black Tracing Paper, and very fine Transparent Do. for Etching, with Copper Plates prepared for Do. Etching Needles’ (Banks coll. 56.23, Heal coll. 100.61, repr. Clarke 1981 p.92; Museum of London, repr. Wedd 2001 p.31). The vignette view of his premises at the head of this trade card was drawn by Paul Sandby, whose preparatory sketch is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (repr. Luke Hermann, Paul and Thomas Sandby, 1986, p.159).
Robertson engraved or published jointly with Paul Sandby a set of aquatints of drawings by Pietro Fabris in 1777 (British Museum collection database). He was using Conduit St as his address in the Royal Academy exhibition catalogue in 1781. He stocked Reeves’s colours in 1781 (Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser 1 June 1781). Robertson advertised the publication of an engraving from 15 Charles St in 1794 (The Times 26 June 1794). He is sometimes confused with the miniature painter, Archibald Robertson (1765-1835). In his will, made 8 August 1786 and proved 26 September 1804, Archibald Robertson, drawing master of Charles St, left his estate to his wife, Elizabeth.
*Joshua Rogers 1835-1867, Joshua Rogers & Sons 1868-1878. At 133 Bunhill Row London EC 1835-1878, also 1 Shaftesbury St, New North Road 1853, 64 Shaftesbury St 1854-1865, retail 13 Pavement, Finsbury Square 1866. Oilman and tallow chandler, wholesale artists’ colourman.
Joshua Rogers (c.1800-1865) traded in the 1830s as an oilman and tallow chandler, but by the 1840s he was generally listed as an artists’ colourman. In censuses he was recorded in 1851 at Geranium Cottage, Wick Lane, Hackney, as an artists’ colourman, age 52, with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Avis, age 16, and in 1861 at Shaftesbury Terrace in Hoxton as a toy colour box maker, age 60, with his wife. He died at Shaftesbury Terrace in 1865, age 65, leaving an estate valued at under £3000, with his wife Elizabeth, his son William, artists’ colourman, and George Riley, oilman of Hoxton, as executors.
Rogers was awarded the Society of Arts’ silver medal for his shilling box of watercolours (Journal of the Society of Arts, vol.1, 17 June 1853, p.365), an innovation which apparently led to the sale of no fewer than 11 million such boxes by 1870 (Hardie 1966 p.24). The business used this award in advertising, describing it as the ‘Society of Arts Large Special Prize Council’s Medal’ for the superiority of their colours, brushes, pencils, etc (Post Office directory, 1869). It also advertised as a wholesale manufacturing artists’ colourman, featuring a wide-ranging stock and claiming to be artists’ colourman to the Royal Family, the Society of Arts, the Royal Academy, the Old and New Water Colour Societies etc (J.S.C. Morris, The Imperial Court Guide, London, 1866, advert p.3). The business had an account with Roberson, 1872 (Woodcock 1997), and supplied them with colour boxes from at least 1862 to 1871 or later (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 180-1993).
Updated September 2015
Richard Rowney, corner of King St, St Giles, London 1785, Broad St, St Giles 1789-1793, jeweller and silversmith. Thomas Rowney by 1790, T. & R. Rowney by 1783?-1801, c.1802?-1806, [subsequently the two brothers traded independently, Richard as a perfumer and Thomas (see below) as a colourman], Richard Rowney 1801-1825, Richard Rowney & Son 1811. At 95 Holborn Hill 1783-1803, 106 Hatton Garden 1801-1825. Hair merchants and perfumers, later described as wholesale perfumer and hair merchant.
Guest & Rowney, 82 Pall Mall 1801-1802, colour preparers, T. & R. Rowney, 106 Hatton Garden c.1802?-1806, perfumers and colourmen, Thomas Rowney by 1809-1816, artists’ colourman, Rowney & Mash 1813, Rowney & Forster 1815-1831, colour preparers, varnish manufacturers and lithographic printers, George Rowney & Co 1832-1844, Rowney, Dillon & Rowney 1844-1848, George Rowney & Co 1848-1923, George Rowney & Co Ltd 1923-1985, Daler-Rowney Ltd from 1985, artists’ colourmen and pencil makers. At 30 Bartlett’s Building, Holborn by 1809-1816, 14 Oxford St 1814-1818, 51 Rathbone Place 1817-1862, 52 Rathbone Place 1854-1884, 29 Oxford St 1862-1881, street renumbered 1881, 64 Oxford St 1881-1907, 61 Brompton Road 1905-1925. Retail outlet at Princes Hall, Piccadilly from 1884 (no.190 until 1896, no.192 until 1893). Factory and wholesale (later head office) at Percy St W (no.10 1850-1970, no.11 1859-1970), retail shop at 12 Percy St from 1952 onwards. Factories at Diana Place, Euston Road, NW1 (no.10 from 1869, no.9 from 1875, no.12 from 1885) and Malden Pencil Works, Kentish Town, NW1 from 1880. Head office and colour factory relocated to Bracknell, Berks 1968.
Rowney’s is one of very few artists’ supply businesses in the world with its origins in the 18th century still trading today, as Daler-Rowney, albeit no longer in family hands. It was Winsor & Newton's closest rival and the only British firm other than Winsor & Newton and Reeves with significant ongoing overseas business.
Early days as perfume makers: The Rowney brothers, Thomas (??1760-1832) and Richard Rowney (c.1755-1824), are said to have come to London from Evesham and started a business in perfumery in 1789 (‘Brief History of George Rowney and Company Ltd’, typescript prepared by George Rowney and Co Ltd, n.d., c.1952-57). Accounts of the business’s origins are confused. It has been said that Thomas Rowney began his career as a lawyer before starting to supply law officers with a variety of writing and other supplies (John Balston, The Whatmans and Wove Paper, 1998, p.253, quoting a letter from Tom Rowney, 29 November 1980).
What we do know is that both brothers were in London by the late 1770s. Richard married Ann Hudson at St Pancras old church on 1 November 1778. Thomas married Ann Mayne at the same church two months later on 19 January 1779. It would therefore seem likely that they were born earlier than traditionally held and on the basis of his recorded age at death Richard’s birth is given here as c.1755, rather than 1764 as traditionally held. Both couples had children christened at St Andrew Holborn. Thomas and his wife Ann were at Chick Lane when their eldest son, Benjamin Mayne Rowney, was christened in 1779, moving to Bartlett’s Building Passage by 1780 and to Holborn Hill by 1783, which was still their address when their youngest son, George (see below) was christened in 1792. Thomas appears in land tax records in Holborn from 1783 and these records may provide further information. Richard and his wife Ann were also in Holborn Hill in 1784 when one of their sons, Richard Benjamin Rowney, was christened.
It would appear that the brothers were established at 95 Holborn Hill by 1783 on the evidence of a payment in a sewer rate book (‘Rewriting a company’s history’, The Times 30 March 1982). They took out insurance on the property in 1794 as perfumers and hairdressers, also insuring their manufacturing facility in the adjoining Union Court, Thomas’s dwelling house in Islington and Richard’s household goods in his dwelling house at 14 Charles St, Hatton Garden (Sun Fire Office policy registers, 397/628933).
Richard Rowney traded initially as a jeweller and silversmith. Two of his silver marks are recorded, the first entered as a small worker on 1 April 1785 from 95 Holborn Hill, the second on 30 August 1785 from the corner of King St, St Giles’s (Arthur Grimwade, London Goldsmiths 1697-1837: their marks and lives, 1976, p.648). Richard Rowney advertised in 1793 from Broad St, Bloomsbury, that he was selling up his stock-in-trade ‘on going into the wholesale perfumery business’, giving 95 Holborn Hill as the address of T. & R. Rowney (True Briton 1 May 1793).
The business was advertising from this address by 1791 (The Times 7 April 1791) and stocked T. Reeves & Son’s artists’ colours in 1799 and those of George Blackman (qv) the following year (The Times 22 July 1799, Morning Herald 31 March 1800). The brothers’ trade card, with royal coat of arms and Prince of Wales feathers, advertised ‘T. & R. ROWNEY, Perfumers, Pocket Book Makers, Cutlers, Comb Makers, & Superfine Patent Pallet Water Colour Preparers, to their Majesties, the Prince of Wales, & Royal Family. No. 95 Holborn Hill London. WHOLESALE & FOR EXPORTATION’ (Heal coll. 89.134).
The partnership between Thomas and Richard Rowney as wholesale perfumers at 95 Holborn Hill was dissolved in 1801, the business being carried on by Richard Rowney (London Gazette 29 September 1801). A subsequent partnership between the two brothers as wholesale perfumers, hardwaremen and colourmen at 106 Hatton Garden was dissolved as from 31 December 1806 (London Gazette 8 March 1808). A trade card in the name of Richard Rowney from 95 Holborn Hill advertised Honey Water (Banks coll. 93.38, with added date 1804). While the shop in Holborn Hill may have been kept on until 1803 or later, Richard Rowney had leased premises nearby on the north side of Hatton Garden as early as 1801 for a rent of £38 pa, according to an auction sale advertisement for a substantial brick-built freehold dwelling, late the property of Richard Farmer deceased (The Times 11 July 1801). Richard is said to have acted as an agent for his brother’s colours when his brother Thomas set up as an artist’s colourman (see below).
Richard Rowney was made bankrupt in 1811 (London Gazette 19 February 1811, 11 May 1816). The perfumery business was listed as Richard Rowney & Son in two directories in 1811. Richard Rowney died in 1824 and was buried on 10 December 1824 at Elim Chapel, Fetter Lane, as of 106 Hatton Garden, age 69 (register transcription, see www.findmypast.co.uk). In his will, made in 1815 and proved 15 December 1824, Richard Rowney, perfumer of Hatton Garden, mentions his son James Thomas Rowney. In 1822 and 1823, a possibly connected business, M. Rowney, perfumer and toy warehouse, was listed at 38 Upper North Place, Gray’s Inn Lane Road.
Thomas Rowney as colourman: Thomas Rowney went into a short-lived partnership with the artist, Thomas Robert Guest, in or about 1801, preparing artists’ colours, called newly invented patent pallet colours, at 82 Pall Mall (‘Brief History of George Rowney and Company Ltd’, see above) or, according to one newspaper advertisement, at 81 Pall Mall (these premises, on the south side of Pall Mall, were rented at £70 pa by Messrs Guest & Rowney as under-lessees according to an auction advertisement in The Times 24 September 1801). Thomas Robert Guest (1754-1818) took out a patent in 1801 for boxes to contain articles for drawing and painting, with a new arrangement of the palette of colours (The Repertory of arts and manufactures, vol.15, 1801, p.161, accessed through Google Book Search). Guest & Rowney’s patent pallet colours in sets from 6s to £3.3s were advertised for sale by W. Middleditch, chemist at Ipswich, in 1802 (Ipswich Journal 9 January 1802). The partnership, as Guest & Rowney, colour preparers at 82 Pall Mall, was dissolved shortly thereafterwards (London Gazette 16 February 1802), and the lease and stock-in-trade, including colours, colour boxes, drawing desks, sketchbooks, drawing boards, drawing paper, portfolios, pencils and crayons, were sold at auction (The Times 10 February 1802).
Following the dissolution of his partnership with Thomas Robert Guest, Thomas Rowney entered into a new partnership with his brother, Richard until 1806 or later. By about 1809 he was trading independently from Bartlett’s Building, Holborn. His partnership with Thomas Mash, as Rowney & Mash at Bartlett’s Buildings, was dissolved in 1813 (London Gazette 21 May 1814). At his death in 1832, Thomas Rowney described himself as Gentleman of Tottenham in his will, made 30 August 1830 and proved 1 February 1832, and made no mention of his business, suggesting that he had already passed on his interest.
Rowney & Forster, Rowney & Co, 1814-1844: George Rowney (1792-1870), Thomas’s son, was apprenticed to his father for seven years from August 1806. He married Esther Forster (d.1865) in November 1813 (‘Brief History of George Rowney and Company Ltd’, see above); he was in partnership, as Rowney & Forster, with her brother, Richard Forster, varnish maker, from 1815 until Forster’s retirement on 31 December 1831, at which time the business was trading as fancy stationers and watercolour manufacturers (London Gazette 23 March 1832). The company then became known as George Rowney & Co, as is clear from trade directories and press advertisements (The Times 7 January 1833).
Rowney & Forster’s trade card, as ‘Superfine Colour Preparers and Varnish Makers’, giving their address at 14 Oxford St, can be dated to c.1814-18 (Heal coll. 89.135). An early watercolour box can be dated to c.1816-17 from its trade sheet from 51 Rathbone Place, ‘ROWNEY AND FORSTER, Superfine Color Preparers & Black Lead Pencil Manufacturers TO THEIR MAJESTIES THE Prince Regent, Princess of Wales & PRINCIPAL ARTISTS’, also offering drawing papers, Bristol boards and pencils of varying degrees of hardness (Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney, information from Scott Hill, 2009). A later trade sheet, perhaps dating to the 1820s, promoted Rowney & Forster’s products including Holland’s Extra Superfine Colours colours, named after the watercolour flower painter, James Holland, pencils and materials for oil painting (Holland’s Extra Superfine Colours for fruit and flower painting…, single-sided sheet). The artist, John Linnell, made a modest purchase of chalk and paper from ‘Rowney’ in 1818, as his account book shows (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 20-2000).
In 1819 Rowney & Forster entered into the additional business of lithographic printers, advertising new publications in lithography (The Times 20 December 1819, and subsequently in 1820 and 1821). They published a series of lithographic drawing books, 1820-3 (example in British Museum Print Room; see also Michael Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850, 1970, p.190), before selling out to William Day, publisher and printer of lithographs, whose earliest recorded imprint is 1824, as ‘Successor to Rowney & Forster’.
In an Old Bailey court case in 1829 Richard Forster stated that there were twelve men in the company’s employ, but only two regularly in the shop (Proceedings of the Old Bailey). The partnership had an account with Roberson, 1828-9 (Woodcock 1997). It was listed as a subscriber to George Field’s Chromatography, 1835 (Carlyle 2001 p.18 n.25). George Rowney was a customer of the composition ornament maker, George Jackson & Sons (qv), 1836-42 (see Jackson’s account book, V&A Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2012/1/2/3).
Works on labelled millboards supplied by Rowney & Forster include Joseph Kidd’s Yellow Warbler, 1831 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, repr. Katlan 1992, p.467, see also p.263) and Andrew Richardson’s View near Bridgeport, Connecticut (New York Historical Society, see Richard Koke, American Landscape and Genre Paintings in the New York Historical Society, 1982, vol.3, p.95). An example with a similar label, but on panel board, is Sir William Allen’s Sir Walter Scott, 1831 (National Portrait Gallery). This label reads 'IMPROVED/ Flemish Ground Pannel Boards,/ PREPARED BY/ ROWNEY & FORSTER,/ Artists' Colourmen,/ 51, RATHBONE-PLACE, LONDON./ Prepared Canvass with or without absorbent grounds./ An improved White for Oil Painting./ Also, extra-fine bladder Colour./ Superior Mastic Varnish, Asphultum, and fine light Drying Oil./ With every other material for Oil Painting, of very superior qualities.' An identical label is in the Johnson Collection and another can be found on Samuel Colman’s The Tryst, panel (Christie’s South Kensington 13 March 2013 lot 98).
When the business began trading as G. Rowney & Co in 1832, very similar labels for panel boards and milled boards were produced, as found on Philip Corbet's Edward Burton, c.1838, labelled panel (Bodleian Library, information from Dana Josephson), Thomas Cole's Ruins of Kenilworth Castle, 1841 (Juniata College Museum of Art, Huntingdon, PA, see Nancy Siegel, 'An oil sketch by Thomas Cole of the Ruins of Kenilworth Castle', Burlington Magazine, vol.144, 2002, p.557). Canvas stamps from this period can be found on William Shiels’ Shorthorn Cow, 1839-42, marked with address in circular shaped stamp: G. Rowney & Co. (National Museums of Scotland, information from Fiona Salvesen Murrell, September 2012), William Scott's Robert Moffat, 1842 (National Portrait Gallery), H.P. Briggs’ Charles Druce, stamped: GEO: ROWNEY MANUFACTURER/ 51 … PLACE LONDON (Dulwich Picture Gallery, see Ingamells 2008 p.242) and Richard Caton Woodville’s Dr Thomas Edmondson, c.1844, marked board (Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore) and Self-portrait, 1848-50?, marked panel (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, see Joy Heyrman (ed.), New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, 2013, pp.85, 105).
Rowney & Forster’s watercolours were stocked in Edinburgh in 1824 by Robert Hamilton (The Scotsman 29 December 1824). James Baker Pyne records using Rowney & Forster’s bladder colours for Rye Old Harbour, exh.1840, and Rowney’s Ceruleum in the sky of S Giorgio Maggiore from the Dogana, 1859, and in some subsequent paintings (Pyne’s Picture memoranda, V&A National Art Library, MSL/1947/1562-1563). G. Rowney & Co’s colours and crayons were available from Tachet in Paris, 1838-42 (Almanach du commerce de Paris, 1838-42; see also Constantin 2001 p.58). The business also supplied paper: a sketchbook used by J.M.W. Turner in 1842? bears a green printed label, G ROWNEY & CO/ 51 RATHBONE PLACE/ LONDON (Tate, see Bower 1999 p.81).
Rowney’s advertised various products in The Art-Union: their new agent preserving envelope for oil colours, invented by Mr Templeton, to supersede the use of the bladder, also new colours for oil painting, Palladium Red and a new permanent Blue equal to Ultramarine (January 1841 p.19), 'Aquaoleum, or a new Preparation of Moist Colours to give the effect of either Oil or Water-Colour Painting', sold in compressible tubes or in small earthenware pans' (June 1842 p.144) and a new permanent White for oil painting (February 1843 p.49). The company is said to have introduced artists’ colours in tubes in 1846, invented by Stephen (information from Mr T.H. Rowney to John Kerslake, National Portrait Gallery, 5 May 1964, referring to correspondence with the inventor).
Rowney, Dillon & Rowney 1844-1848: Charles White Dillon joined the business in 1844 (‘Brief History of George Rowney and Company Ltd’), which traded as Rowney, Dillon & Rowney until Dillon’s bankruptcy in 1848 (London Gazette 26 December 1848; see also 12 October 1855). Two sons of George Rowney, George Edward Rowney (1816-64) and Frederick William Rowney (1821-1902) joined the company at this period. The business held an appointment to Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the School of Design (The Scotsman 16 December 1848). Firstly as Rowney, Dillon & Rowney, and then as George Rowney & Co, the business had an account with Roberson, 1845-1908 (Woodcock 1997).
An unillustrated trade catalogue, c.1846, featured ‘a new and very superior article in drawing pencils… of London manufacture, got up in the French style in polished cedar’, together with a list of materials for watercolour painting featuring improved drawing pencils, watercolours in cakes, Harding’s tints for miniature painting, Holland’s tints for flower painting prepared only by Rowney, Dillon and Rowney, Varley’s tints for landscape painting, boxes of watercolours, Rowney and Co’s prepared lead pencils, crayons and chalks, brushes for watercolour drawing etc, Whatman’s drawing papers etc, Turnbull’s London Boards etc, sketchbooks, portfolios, mahogany drawing boards etc, materials for sketching, pencil cases, porte-crayons, etc (no date but containing seven testimonials dating to 1845, pp, appended to H. O’Neill, A Guide to Pictorial Art. How to use the black lead pencil, chalks and water colours, Rowney, Dillon & Rowney, 1846). Similar catalogues are available online through Google Book Search.
Rowney, Dillon & Rowney supplied the panel for Ford Madox Brown's The Seraph's Watch, 1846/7, marked: ROWNEY DILLON ROWNEY/ Manufacturers/ 51 Rathbone Place/ London (private coll., see Bennett 2010 p.82). The business supplied colours to the artist in March 1848 for The First Translation of the Bible into English, 1847-8 (Bradford Art Galleries and Museums, see Bennett 2010 p.94).
George Rowney & Co 1848-1923: An idea of the scale of the business in 1861 can be gained from the census record for George Rowney, who was listed at 57 Oakley Square, Somers Town, as artists’ colourman, age 70, wife Esther, also age 70, employing 76 men and 32 boys and girls. At his death in 1870, George Rowney’s estate was worth approaching £45,000, a considerable sum.
An almost contemporary and particularly engaging description of the business, in the form of a periodical article written by or for Henry Mayhew, gives a very different estimate of the size of the business. Mayhew claimed that Rowney’s employed over three hundred hands, describing their manufacturing premises at 10 and 11 Percy St as entered by ‘a lobby lined with a phalanx of easels and rows of portfolios of the most Brobdignagian proportions’, from which one emerged into a large and lofty room, notable for ‘the array of colour-boxes, the walls of sketch-books, the plantations of brushes and groves of pencils, besides every other species of artistical materials and implements of every variety and in endless quantity’ (Henry Mayhew (ed.), ‘A visit to George Rowney and Co., artists’ colourmen, Percy Street, Rathbone Place, Oxford Street’, The Shops and Companies of London, 1865, pp.220-7, republished separately with added illustrations of Rowney’s premises, copy in V&A National Art Library, 20.J Box III).
Mayhew identified that there was ‘another branch to their business, namely, that of chromo-lithography’, whose introduction he attributed to Frederick W. Rowney, apparently in 1851. He also recognised their role as booksellers and publishers. He went on to describe the carpenter’s shop for the production of easels and drawing boards and the related finishing room and timber store, the colour grinding and drying rooms, an apartment for forming children’s colours, the crayon machine, gum-store and cake watercolours room, the large canvas preparation room, the paper store, the oil colour section with a few old-style colour-grinding slabs, the paper packing and preparation rooms, the book-binding and leather department, the counting house, the rooms for preparing stones for lithography and for preparing millboards and academy boards, a room for an artist to trace paintings for chromolithography, the pencil packing room and, at the top of the premises, a room hung with gigantic rollers of drawing papers and other rooms for specialist purposes. He described the range of colours in preparation and mentioned ‘the Lilliputian colour-boxes’, great quantities of which were being sent to Paris. He also detailed the preparation of canvas and the operation of filling tubes with colours, among other processes. Finally he mentioned Rowney’s retail establishments at 52 Rathbone Place and 29 Oxford St.
George Edward Rowney withdrew from partnership in 1854 (London Gazette 9 October 1855). In due course Frederick W. Rowney’s three sons became partners: Frederick junior (1847-1904), Arthur (1859-1942) and Walter George Rowney (1862-1947). Both Arthur and Walter were listed as manufacturing artists colourmen, aged 21 and 19 respectively, in the 1881 census, living at 16 Cumberland Terrace. Walter, the youngest son, ran the business for the first forty years of the 20th century; he lived in Hampstead for many years. Several members of the family were artists: Frederick senior, who married Emily Goodall, sister of Frederick Goodall RA, his son Walter George and Walter’s daughter, Margaret (b.1908).
Like Winsor & Newton, the business published numerous instruction manuals, which included catalogues of their products, from the 1840s until the 1920s and subsequently. An example is an 1850 watercolour manual with an illustrated trade catalogue, featuring watercolour products, including various products listed in the 1846 publication described above, but also including moist watercolours in tubes, asphaltum prepared for the use of watercolour painters, watercolour Megilp, improved drawing pencils (with numerous testimonials dating to 1848 including from Thomas M. Richardson, J.R. Pickersgill, Frederick Goodall, David Cox Jr and H. O’Neill), Turnbull’s London Boards (manufactured of Whatman’s picked drawing paper) and eight pages illustrating brushes for watercolour painting etc (Water Colour painting has of late years..., 44pp, appended to R.P. Noble, A Guide to Water Colour Painting, 1st ed., 1850).
Rowney exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and a contemporary copy of their catalogue described a wide range of products (Wholesale Catalogue, for the Trade only, 99pp, bound into the Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition 1851, vol.16, copy in V&A National Art Library, EX.1851.135). The business exhibited again at the International Exhibition in 1862 (their exhibits are detailed in a collection of circulars, Yale Center for British Art, ND1550 G36 1862). The main items featured in Rowney catalogues of 1850, c.1864, c.1867, 1892 and 1907 have been listed (Katlan 1992 pp.354-9). Later catalogues continue to feature a very wide range of products. Rowney’s pencil works at Diana Place were damaged by fire in 1889 and 1899, as were the works at Malden Crescent, Kentish Town, in 1912 (The Scotsman 4 July 1912).
Rowney advertised heavily. A few examples are given here. In 1874 Rowney advertised that they had received testimonials on the superiority of their colours from Rosa Bonheur, Abraham Cooper, W.C.T. Dobson, E. Duncan, Birket Foster, W. Hunt, Charles Landseer, H. Brittam Lewis, H.J. Lewis, T.M. Richardson, Frederick Taylor and E.M. Ward. The business advertised a new colour, Crimson Alizarine, as light fast, 1891 (see Royal Society of British Artists, 68th annual exhibition, exh.cat., 1891, p.x). It advertised regularly in The Year's Art: from the Prince’s Hall, 190-2 Piccadilly, in addition to 64 Oxford St (1887-95), their Artists' Almanac (1895-9), artists' oil colours in large tubes (1900), ‘Introducing George Rowney & Co.’s Tempera Colours' with testimonial from C. Napier Hemy (1913-14).
Rowney’s wholesale catalogue, 1910-11, contains numerous testimonials to the quality of their colours, of which the following artists appear to have been longstanding users: Robert W. Allan, W. Herbert Allen, F.A.W.T. Armstrong, T. Currie Bell, Andrew Black, W.H.J. Boot, J. Paul Brinson, Tom Browne, Owen Dexter, Walter Dexter, John P. Dowie, Mrs M.E. Duffield, J. Eyre, J. Fitz-Marshall, W.M. Frazer, John Fullwood, W.H. Gadsby, David Green, C.M. Grierson, Ferd. E. Gröne, J. Jessop Hardwick, J. Henry Henshall, R. Talbot Kelly, Albert Kingsley, Robert McGregor, Alfred W. Mason, Sir Francis Powell, Adam E. Proctor, Stephen Reid, Richard Gay Somerset, G. Hillyard Swinstead and Fred Whitehead.
Rowney was one of five businesses, including Winsor & Newton, Reeves & Son, C. Roberson and James Newman, acting together as Associated Colour Merchants, which signed an agreement in 1916 with J. Barcham Green & Son to produce a range of papers for them, watermarked ‘A.C.M.’ and the words ‘Watercolour Paper England’ (Barcham Green 1994, p.35).
Rowney products, especially watercolour paints, were widely sold overseas from at least the 1860s. In France at the decease of their Paris agent, Monsieur Dreys, Rowney opened a branch at 57 rue Sainte Anne, 1885, moving to 27 rue des Bons Enfants 1906, closing 1922; some products were also sold by H. Vieille & E. Troisgros (Fabricant de couleurs surfines, c.1883, trade sheet), E. Mary & Fils, Paris (Fournitures Completes pour la peinture a l’huile...Extrait du Catalogue general, 1888), L. Bourdillon, Paris (Fabrique de couleurs fines et matériels d’artistes, 1903 or later, 108pp), G. Sennelier, Paris (Catalogue General Illustré, 1904, cat. no.26, 160pp), J. Nicolas Ainé, Lyons (Fournitures Générales de Dessin, Aquarelle et Peinture a l’Huile, 1907, 132pp), Guyot Fils Freres, Lyons (Materiel Complet pour Artistes, 1908 or later, 64pp) and L. Joannot, Paris (Couleurs Fines et Materiel d'Artistes, cat. no.15, 1935, 32pp). In Spain by E. Texidor, Barcelona (Precios Corrientes de la casa Viuda de E. Texidor, 1910, 219pp).
Outside Europe, in Australia by H.J. Corder Pty Ltd, Melbourne (Everything for the Artist The H.J. Corder Revised Price List, c.1910, 20pp) and George Robertson, Melbourne (Trade List. Writing & Printing Papers, Account Books, Envelopes, Artists’ Materials and Miscellaneous Stationery, 1869, 110pp). In Canada through a subsidiary Rowney (Canada) Ltd at Downsview, Ontario, 1969. In the United States by A.H. Abbott & Co, Chicago (Catalog of A.H. Abbott & Co., … Artists’ Materials, School Supplies, Drawing Materials, c.1922, 266pp), Carpenter, Woodward & Morton, Boston (Illustrated Trade Price List of Artists' Materials, 1890), B.K. Elliott Co, Pittsburgh (Elliott’s Artists Materials, 1930s, 102pp), Favor, Ruhl & Co, New York (Trade Price List of Artists’ Materials, c.1905, 144pp), Geo. Finkenaur Sons & Co, New York (Price list of Winsor & Newton's and Rowney & Co.'s water colors in cakes, moist pans, and tubes, c.1890, 4pp, coll. Wintherthur Museum), Ripka & Co, Philadelphia (trade catalogue, c.1878-81, see Katlan 1992 p.354), D.F. Tiemann & Co, New York, catalogue, c.1863 (see Mayer 2011 p.146), Wadsworth, Howland & Co, Boston (Catalogue of Colors, Artists’ Materials, Drafting Instruments and Supplies, 1894, 179pp) and Williams & Stevens of New York, c.1852 (see below).
It is probable that Rowney did not have as significant a trade in artists’ canvas as Roberson or Winsor & Newton, on the basis of surviving marked canvases. Works on Rowney supports from the 1840s include Thomas Sully’s Mrs Benjamin Franklin Sands, 1840 (Baltimore Museum of Art, see Katlan 1987 p.275) and Mrs James Montgomery, c.1845 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, see Caldwell 1994 p.359), Charles Ingham’s Mrs Theodore Camp, c.1845, stencilled canvas, supplied through Dechaux, New York (Brooklyn Museum, see Carbone 2006 p.675), Unknown artist, Thomas Croker, c.1849, with label for milled boards and advertising oil colours in tubes and bladders (National Portrait Gallery) and Ford Madox Brown's The First Translation of the Bible into English, begun 1847 (Bradford City Art Gallery, see Townsend 2004 p.94).
From the 1850s and 1860s and subsequently, Frederick Goodall’s Mother and Children (The Picnic), 1851, stamped panel (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, see Lees 2012 p.375), John Taggart’s Col. Robert Milligan and Mrs Robert Milligan, 1851-2, stencilled canvases (Brooklyn Museum, see Carbone 2006 p.985), Frederick Church’s Grand Manan Island, Bay of Fundy, 1852, marked canvas, supplied through Williams & S[tevens], New York, oval stamp: G. ROWNEY & CO./ MANUFACTURERS/ 51 [RATHBONE] PLACE/ LONDON (Wadsworth Atheneum, see Kornhauser 1996 p.112), Thomas Rossiter’s Joan of Arc in prison, c.1854, labelled millboard (New York Historical Society, see Richard Koke, American landscape and genre paintings in the New York Historical Society, 1982, vol.3, p.113), William Dyce’s The Garden of Gethsemane, late 1850s (Walker Art Gallery, see Bennett 1988), Augustus Leopold Egg’s Walk on the Beach, panel, c.1855-60 (Manchester Art Gallery), Steven Pearce’s Sir Richard Collinson, 1855, Sir Henry Kellett, exh.1856, Sherard Osborn, 1857, Sir Edward Belcher, c.1859 (all National Portrait Gallery) and Atkinson Grimshaw’s Newlay Wood, Horsforth, Leeds, 1861, millboard, labelled: ‘MILL’D BOARDS,/ PREPARED/ FOR OIL PAINTING,/ BY/ GEO. ROWNEY & CO./ 51, RATHBONE PLACE, LONDON. (Private coll., see Jane Sellars (ed.), Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight, 2011, p.134) and The Crescent, 1871, millboard, similarly labelled (Bonham’s 23 June 2015 lot 53). John Brett expressed a preference for Winsor & Newton materials to those of Rowney, as he advised his artist sister, Rosa Brett, in 1859, ‘I would not use Rowneys [French blue] if I had any other’ (Bennett 1988 p.17).
From the 1870s and 1880s, David Bates's Interior of a Welsh Cottage, ?1873 (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996), Fedor Encke’s Mrs Edward Stieglitz, 1884 (Museum of the City of New York, see Katlan 1987 p.287, repr. Katlan 1992 p.469), Elizabeth King's Baron Kelvin, 1886-7 (National Portrait Gallery) and William Michael Harnett’s My Gems, 1888, stencilled mahogany panel (National Gallery of Art, Washington, see Franklin Kelly et al, American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, vol.1, 1996, p.267). William Holman Hunt was using Rowney in 1876 when a case including canvas was despatched to him in Jerusalem (Bennett 1988 p.88). The watercolour artist, Alfred William Hunt, used two Rowney sketchbooks in 1892 and 1894 (Ashmolean Museum, see Newall 2004 p.175). Frances Hodgkins used a Rowney & Co sketchbook in the 1880s (see Larsen 2009 p.5).
From the 1890s and 1900s, Adolphe Steinhell’s The Bibliophile, c.1890, impressed mahogany panel (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, see Lees 2012 p.754), Luke Fildes’s Sir Frederick Treves, 1896, William Symons's J.F. Bentley, 1902, and Frank Bennett's Sir Theodore Martin, 1908 (all National Portrait Gallery). John Singer Sargent used sketchbooks supplied by Rowney, c.1895, 1903, 1911 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, see Stewart 2000 pp.23, 26, 28, 32). From the 1910s and 1920s, Spencer Gore’s From a Window in Cambrian Road, Richmond, 1913, and Richmond Park, 1914 (both Tate, see Morgan 2008 pp.134-5, and ‘The Camden Town Group in Context’, research project, at www.tate.org.uk ) and Mark Gertler’s Staffordshire Group, 1921 (Ashmolean Museum, information from Jevon Thistlewood).
George Rowney & Co Ltd 1924-1985: The business became a limited company in 1924 with four directors, Walter George Rowney as managing director (see above), Noel Montague Rowney (b.1884), R.D.B. Woods and F.P. Dorritzi, possibly Frank Phillips Dorizzi (1879-1948). Walter George Rowney’s son, Thomas (b.1910), entered the business in 1932, becoming a director in 1935 and managing director in 1946. Serious damage from bombing occurred at Diana Place and Percy St in 1940 and 1941. An account of working practices at Rowney’s was published in 1962 (Robert Wraight, ‘Artists’ Colourman: 2. Rowney’s’, The Studio, vol.164, November 1962, pp.200-3). The business was purchased for about £600,000 for a 72% stake by Morgan Crucible Co, 1969 (The Times 28 January 1969), and from them by the Daler-Board Co, 1983, to become Daler-Rowney Ltd in 1985, see the company’s website, www.daler-rowney.com/en/content/about-us. The retail shop at 12 Percy Place was relocated to the basement of the premises in 2005, trading under new management.
From the 1930s, works on Rowney materials include Lamorna Birch's The Barle near Dulverton, 1931, with Quality X stamp (Sotheby's 27 June 2006 lot 78), Adrian Daintrey’s Beach Scene, Totland Bay, c.1936 (Ashmolean Museum, information from Jevon Thistlewood) and George Wright's Huntsmen and Hounds going away in Full Cry, before 1938, with additional stamp Quality A canvas (Walker Art Gallery, see Morris 1996). In the Philippines, Pablo Amorsolo used Rowney boards for his Piro, 1930 and Sisilyo, 1930 (both J.B. Vargas Museum, Manila, see Nicole Tse and Robyn Sloggett, ‘Southeast Asian oil paintings: supports and preparatory layers’, in Joyce H. Townsend et al., Preparation for Painting: The Artist’s Choice and its Consequences, 2008, p.151).
Among the oil paints left in Gwen John's studio on her death in 1939 was a supply of Rowney's colours, the only English colourman so represented (Bustin 2004 p.199). The company was in correspondence with Gluck concerning the appearance of her paintings from the late 1930s (Sitwell 1990). It advertised regularly in The Artist: ‘Rowney’s Sketching Equipment’ (vol.7, June 1934), also their egg tempera colours, reproducing a tempera by W. Russell Flint executed in these colours (Art Review 1935). John Armstrong used Rowney’s tempera colours in tubes (Andrew Lambirth, John Armstrong: The Paintings, 2009, p.154). Gertrude Hermes used their sketchbooks from 1952 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, see Jane Hill, The Sculpture of Gertrude Hermes, 2011, p.138). In 1978, the business featured a series of artists who used Rowney colours in backcover colour advertisements in The Artist, including Leonard Boden, Ben Maile, Leonard Rosoman, Ernest Savage and John Ward (The Artist, vol.93, 1978).
Sources: This history is partly based on a ‘Brief History of George Rowney and Company Ltd’, typescript, n.d., c.1952-7 (copy on National Portrait Gallery files); this ‘Brief History’ is largely followed by Leach 1973 and Katlan 1992. For portraits of the first four generations of the family, see the business’s wholesale catalogue of 1910-11. For family names and dates, see The Rowney Family: Painting and Production in Hampstead, exh. leaflet, Hampstead Museum, 1998. See also Katlan 1992 pp.354-9 (for trade catalogues), 466-70; Carlyle 2001 pp.278-9. The Rowney company records are limited in extent (see Carlyle 2001 pp.278-9). Mr T.H. Rowney informed a member of National Portrait Gallery staff in 1964 that the company had very poor records for the period 1810-40. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
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