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Adam Walker and his family

1 of 5 portraits of Adam Walker

Adam Walker and his family, by George Romney, 1796-1801 -NPG 1106 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Adam Walker and his family

by George Romney
1796-1801
53 1/4 in. x 65 1/4 in. (1352 mm x 1657 mm)
NPG 1106

This portraitback to top

The figures were identified by the donor, [1] as follows:
Adam Walker is seated in the foreground, extreme right: an elderly bald man wearing a blue-grey coat, poring over a diagram. [2]
In the background from the left, his three sons:
William Walker (1706?-1816) who continued his father’s lectures; dark brown eyes, grey powdered wig, deep brown coat, pointing to the end of a telescope.
Adam John Walker (1769/70-1839), rector of Bedston, Salop.; with white powdered hair.
Deane Franklin Walker (1778-1865) who succeeded his brother William as a lecturer; brown eyes, dark hair, deep blue coat, grey breeches.
In the foreground from the left, his wife and daughter:
Mrs Eleanor Walker (married c.1764, d. c.1801); blue eyes, grey haired, wearing white.
Eliza Walker (d. 1856) married Benjamin Gibson of Gosport; brown hair, wearing white.
The uneven execution and the curiously ill-balanced composition of NPG 1106 are explained by its early history. Romney was already beginning to suffer from that 'lassitude of body, and restlessness of mind’ which clouded his last years when he began the picture. Hayley recounted how 'Towards the end of 1796, though still dejected, he began a picture of the respectable lecturer in philosophy, Mr Walker and his family, a gentleman endeared to the painter by an intimacy of many years’; on 25 December 1796 Hayley’s son told him that 'Romney was preparing to finish the group in what he called his favourite picture of friendship’. [3] On 30 December Farington noted in his diary that Romney had tolk Sawrey Gilpin 'He will paint no more portraits, the last he has begun, - portraits of Walker the Experimental Phiosopher & some of His family’. Apparently he never completed it, for on 27 January 1802 Walker wrote to thank him for his 'last most agreeable present, my family picture. I have got the draperies painted, and a handsome frame, so it is the great lion of my parlour’. [4] On 4 May 1804 William Blake told Hayley he had seen ’the last performance of Romney. It is of Mr Walker and family, the draperies put in by somebody else. It is a very excellent picture, but unfinished. The figures as large as life, half length, Mr. W., three sons, and I believe two daughters, with maps, instruments &c.’ [5] Walker was a lifelong friend of Romney; [6] with his wife he had appeared in one of Romney’s earliest paintings, the Boating Party on Lake Windermere of c.1758, and he modelled drapery for Romney’s King Lear in the Tempest c.1761. [7] After Romney’s death he told Hayley of their long association, affectionately recalling the painter’s pride and impatience, and listing, among the Romney paintings he owned ’my own portrait at full length ... My own head taken fifteen years ago; and my whole family in one piece, one of his last performances. These I hold invaluable.’ [8].

Footnotesback to top

1) As transcribed by her solicitor, J. G. Wilson, Durham, 13 October 1897; NPG archive.
2) Athenaeum, 18 September 1897, p 394, as ’exhibiting an orrery’.
3) W. Hayley, A Life of George Romney, 1809, p 252.
4) A. B. Chamberlain, George Romney, 1910, p 218.
5) A. Gilchrist, Blake, 1945 ed., p 183.
6) For Walker’s friendship with Romney see also Rev. John Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney ... also some particulars of the life of Peter Romney, his Brother, 1830, pp 29, 30, 41-44, and Connoisseur, LIV, 1919, p 90.
7) See A. Kidson, George Romney, exhibition catalogue, Liverpool, NPG, San Marino, 2002, no.7.
8) Letter of 3 June 1804 from Walker to Hayley; partly transcribed from the MS owned by Mrs Gibson, the donor of NPG 1106, in 1897 (NPG archive). Walker otherwise had by Romney a Lear and Cordelia, a copy of a print by Steinkirk ('the first picture he ever attempted’), two landscapes ’of his early production’, a marauding pieve, The Vicar of Kendal, and A Bacchanalian.

Referenceback to top

Chamberlain 1910
A. B. Chamberlain, George Romney, 1910, pp 218, 238-39.

Ward and Roberts 1904
H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works, 1904, II, p 163.

Provenanceback to top

By descent1 to the sitter’s granddaughter, Miss Ellen Elizabeth Gibson, Durham, by whom bequeathed 1897.

1 The Romney Ledger has an entry under no.81: 'Mr Walker, George Street, Hanover Square, half-whole-length; gift, unfinished’ (H. Ward & W. Roberts, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Rainsonné of his Works, 1904, II, p 163).

Exhibitionsback to top

Romney, Kenwood, 1961 (41); Regency Portraits, Kenwood, 1986.


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.

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