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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Watt (1736-1819), Engineer

The five statues of Watt by Chantrey, erected by 1838, ‘excited the disapprobation of some narrow-minded beings ... [for whom] warriors, and magistrates, and statesmen have alone a right to statues’ (D. F. J. Arago, Life of Watt, 1839, p 90). Less than thirty years later, above the entrance to the Royal Museum of Scotland, the bust of Watt appeared alongside those of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Michelangelo.

A brief survey of Watt’s iconography appeared in J. L. Caw, Scottish Portraits, 1903, II, pp 75-76.

1792
Painting by C. F. von Breda, see NPG 186a.

c.1797
Painting by Henry Howard, see NPG 663.

1801
Painting by William Beechey, half-length seated. Doldowlod (J. Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, II, p 209, no.6). Exhibited RA 1802 (101). See NPG 1075. Engraved C. Picart 1809; J. Thomson 1820, T. Wright 1830, C. E. Wagstaff 1833.

In 1809 Watt wrote that 'There is no good portrait of me except that painted by Sir William Beechey, still in his possession, and a copy of it by himself in Mr Tuffen's collection which is more like than the original I having sate again for it' (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 531); Tuffen's replica was sold to Blairman in 1928 by Turner of Godstone, Surrey. A copy by John Partridge is in the Scottish NPG (PG 2612; J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 532), lithographed by Schenck & McFarlane 1856 when in the collection of Robert Napier, Glasgow; a copy by A. Wivell 1856 is in the Science Museum.

Copies of varying quality are in the Royal Society, Edinburgh (presented by Watt’s son in 1828); the National Maritime Museum (BHC 3084, attributed to Beechey), the Scottish NPG (PG 636) and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (6'10). See also the enamel version by Henry Bone 1804 below.

1802
Medallion by Peter Rouw, see NPG 183.

1804
Enamel by Henry Bone, the Beechey composition extended to three-quarter length. Sotheby's, 20 March 2003, lot 134 from Doldowlod (J. Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, II, p 210, no.19). Exhibited RA 1804 (358). Preparatory drawing, inscribed Mr Watt for Mrs Watt and dated 8 May 1803, in the NPG Bone albums (R. Walker, 'Henry Bone's Pencil Drawings in the National Portrait Gallery', Wal. Soc., LXI, 1999, no.538).

c.1805
Pastel by L. de Longastre, half length. By descent from Watt’s cousin Robert Muirhead to B. C. L. Whitehead in 1904 (illus. J. L. Caw, Scottish Portraits, 1903, II, pl.XC). Another was given to Matthew Boulton (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, pp 531-32).
A pastel by Longastre dated 1805 of Watt’s son, James Watt (1769-1848), is at Doldowlod (J. Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, II, p 210, no.17). Bust length pastel portraits of Watt and his wife by ‘L. de Large’ were sold Bonham’s, 16 February 1977, lot 206 (not seen).

1807
Bust by Peter Turnerelli, exhibited RA 1808 (865). Commissioned by the sitter; two plasters, one dated 1807, are in the Watt Workshop in the Science Museum, London (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., 1994, p 54).

1809
Black chalk drawing by John Henning, profile bust. Scottish NPG (PG 294; illus. J. Malden, John Henning, exhibition catalogue, Paisley, 1977, n. p.). Made for Lord Jeffrey, exhibited ASA Edinburgh 1810. A small replica formerly in the Watt Memorial Library, Greenock, engraved R. Bell 1856 (G. Williamson, Memorials of James Watt, 1856). A related porcelain medallion by Henning in the Scottish NPG (PG 419; illus. J. Malden, John Henning, exhibition catalogue, Paisley, 1977, n. p.), a glass paste profile dated 1809 in the Victoria and Albert Museum (414.1351.1885; illus. B. Rackham, Catalogue of the Schreiber Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, II, Earthenware, 1930, pl.71).

c.1812
Painting by Thomas Lawrence, three-quarter length seated. Private collection (K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Laurence: a complete catalogue of the oil paintings, 1989, no.797). Exhibited RA 1813 (222); Liverpool 1813 (31). Engraved C. Turner 1815; J. Thomson 1815; Blanchard c.1840. A contemporary copy was lent by H. W. Dickinson to the Watt Bicentenary, Science Museum, 1936 (4), and a small copy by W. Tilbury dated 1828 was sold Sotheby’s, 20 December 1961, lot 123; see also 1817-19 J. G. Gilbert below.

1814-43
Marble busts by Francis Chantrey (see A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, pp 52-54). The original commissioned by the sitter now at Doldowlod (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.36). Exhibited RA 1815 (816). Engraved S. W. Reynolds 1825, W. C. Edwards, and E. Finden 1839, the latter ‘of all the engravings of my father, that by which [he] wished his image should be conveyed to posterity’ (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 534). Watt and Chantrey shared an interest in the technology of mechanical carving aids; Watt’s ‘carving machine’ for the production of reduced replicas is preserved in the Science Museum, London.
Replicas include: Glasgow Art Gallery 1816; Greenock, Watt College, 1822 (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.136b); Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (P80’83) dated 1841 (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., 1994, no.301b, as probably commissioned for Lord Brougham in 1839). A cast iron version dated 1818 was formerly in the Darby Engine House, Ebbw Vale, Gwent.
Versions of the bust with cut away shoulders are in the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield (marble), the Scottish NPG (PG 1186) and with Julius S. Held (bronze).
Chantrey’s ledgers record payment in January 1821 for 44 casts; examples are in Westminster Abbey (presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1960); the Science Museum; the Scottish NPG (PG 347), the Ashmolean Museum (N. Penny, Catalogue of European Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1992, III, no.776) and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (P2626’85 and P2628’85); one was sent in 1820 to Walter Scott at Abbotsford.
By 1838 Chantrey was complaining that the bust ‘was pirated by Italians; and England and Scotland, and even the Colonies, were supplied with unpermitted and bad casts, to the extent of thousands’ (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 535).
Of three replicas made by Chantrey’s assistant James Heffernan, one is with the Royal Society, London (presented in 1843), and another in the Institut de France, Paris. In 1835 Chantrey had been commissioned to supply a bust to the Inistitut de France, but it was sold to Campbell in 1840 (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., 1994, no.270b). H. C. Fehr made a copy of the bust for the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1896.
Reduced copies in ivory were made by Benjamin Cheverton, using a device similar to Watt’s ‘carving machine’. A sepia drawing by George Dawe after Chantrey’s bust is in the Scottish NPG (PG 126) with another unattributed drawing (PG 1763).
The bust also served for Chantrey’s Watt monument, see 1824-38 below, and see NPG 316a(191).

1815
Painting by Henry Raeburn, bust length. Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. (63.38; R. Asleson & S. Bennett, Catalogue of British Paintings at the Huntington, 2001, no.69). Watt sat to Raeburn in Edinburgh in November 1815 and wrote that ‘Raeburn has painted a head of me which, though it has not come up to my ideas of my own face, is more comformable to them than any of the others’, and he wrote later that it ‘is thought like, only it frowns too much’. A copy was made for John Rennie (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 533).

1816
On 31 July 1816 Watt agreed, at John Rennie’s instigation, to sit to Archibald Skirving for a pastel portrait (J. P. Muirhead, Mechanical Inventions of James Watt, 1854, II, pp 366-7).

1817-19
Painting by J. G. Gilbert, bust length. Hunterian Museum, Glasgow (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 533; H. W. Dickinson & R. Jenkins, James Watt and the Steam Engine, 1927, p 85, as c.1818; exhibited Glasgow Historical Portraits, 1956, no.12, as 1819). Based, according to the artist, on Chantrey's bust and Lawrence's portrait. A copy commissioned by the sitter’s wife at Doldowlod (J. Steegman, Portraits in Welsh Houses, II, p 209, no.7 as c.1817) and another attributed to Gilbert was sold American Art Association, New York, 8 April 1916.

1818
Drawing by John Jackson, bust length. exhibited RA 1819 (529); Watt thought it looked ‘peevish’ (J. P. Muirhead, The Life of James Watt, 1858, p 534). Jackson also sketched Chantrey’s bust (H. W. Dickinson & R. Jenkins, James Watt and the Steam Engine, 1927, p 85).

Posthumous
1819
Etching by W. Nicholson, half-length seated, a drawing of a steam engine behind him. An unconvincing likeness (H. W. Dickinson & R. Jenkins, James Watt and the Steam Engine, 1927, p 85).

Medals struck on the death of Watt by H. Kirkwood for the Watt Club, Greenock; attributed to J. Marrian, and by George Mills, exhibited RA 1821, no.1052 (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, nos.981-83).

1824
Monument by Francis Chantrey, whole-length seated holding plan across his knees, ‘meditating on the extraordinary power which man wields so easily and profitably’; standing on a base bearing Watt’s crest (granted to Watt’s son in 1826), a club of Hercules crossed with the caduceus of Mercury (power and ingenuity). St Mary’s Church, Handsworth, Birmingham; commissioned by the sitter’s son (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., 1994, no.124a; M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain 1530-1830, 1964, pls.182-83; L. Jordanova, Defining Features, NPG, 2000, p 65). See NPG 1075. Exhibited RA 1824 (1010). Of the plaster model given to Oxford in 1844 only the head and shoulders survive (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; N. Penny, Catalogue of European Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1992, III, no.663). The monument was also reproduced on the Chantrey medal by William Wyon of 1846 (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Reign of Queen Victoria, 1987, no.2227) and engraved H. Adlard and H. Moses.
There were four later monuments, showing detailed differences; they are more heavily draped; the Westminster and Glasgow (George Square) monuments are over life size, the others on the scale of life:

1825-84
Watt medals include those by W. Bain, exhibited RA 1825 (959), 1828 (1098) and 1846 (1360); A. J. Stothard, exhibited RA 1826 (980); W. Hollins, exhibited Birmingham SA 1827 (88); William Wyon, exhibited RA 1836 (1041); André Gallé 1839; P-J. David d’Angers 1845; J. S. Wyon, exhibited RA 1855 (696) and 1858, no.1112 (adapted by the Institution of Civil Engineers for the Watt medal); Joseph Moore 1871 (with Matthew Boulton); Neil Macphail 1871 (for the Scottish Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders); Allan Wyon 1884 for McGill University, Montreal (see R. J. Eidlitz, Medallic Portraits of Matthew Boulton and James Watt, 1928, nos.20, 22, 23, 27, 25, 30, 34, 37; L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Reign of Queen Victoria, 1987, nos.1261, 985, 1329, 2922, 2923).
Later statues of Watt include those by Alexander Munro 1860 (Oxford Museum of the History of Science; illus. B. Read, Victorian Sculpture, 1982, fig.302) and 1868 (Chamberlain Square, Birmingham; a derivative bust in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (P2631’85); H. C. Fehr 1898 (Watt Memorial School, Greenock; exhibited RA 1899, no.1882; a duplicate in the City Square, Leeds); by William Bloye 1956, with Boulton and Murdoch (Birmingham, Broad Street; illus. J. Bennett, Discovering Statues, Central and Northern England, 1968, p 29).
A bust by J. S. Rhind 1859 is on the facade of the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and a marble bust by D. W. Stevenson 1888 on the Wallace Monument, Stirling.

1830
Glasgow, Hunterian Museum, commissioned by the sitter’s son (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.192a, fig.120). Close variant of the Handsworth monument. The statue is shown in the painting by William Stewart, Interior of the first Hunterian Museum (Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow).

Glasgow, George Square, bronze (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.194a). Version of the Westminster statue.

1832
The Westminster Abbey monument, with drapery covering shoulders and legs. Removed from the Abbey to St Paul’s, 1960, and currently Scottish NPG (PGL 370), before going to the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.193a). Lord Brougham, who composed the original inscription (‘... increased the power of man/and rose to an eminent place ...’), considered it admirably presented Watt’s features ‘at once deeply meditative and calmly placid, but betokening power rather than delicacy and refinement’ (J. L. Caw, Scottish Portraits, 1903, II, p 76).

1838
Greenock, Watt Memorial Library (A. Yarrington, I. D. Lieberman, A. Potts, M. Baker, 'An Edition of the Ledger of Sir Francis Chantrey, RA, at the Royal Academy, 1809-1941', Wal. Soc., LVI, 1994, no.195a). Commissioned by the citizens of Greenock. Lithographed A. Haenisch and McFarlane. A variant of the Westminster statue, the right leg visible below the knee.
The Chantrey head and monument became a standard source for subsequent images of Watt: marble statuette by William Scoular 1839 (Glasgow Art Gallery; S.149), exhibited RA 1840 (1169); bronze statue by Peter Slater 1852-54 in Chambers Street, Edinburgh; bronze statue by William Theed 1857 in Piccadilly, Manchester; anon. medal, with motto ingenio et labore and crest (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, no.984).

Doubtful Portraits
Paintings attributed to Raeburn, half-length oval of an old man (with William Paterson 1943), and a three-quarter length seated with a model of a steam engine (with Mrs Fredericke 1941).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.