British picture restorers, 1600-1950 - D
An online resource, launched in 2009, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2021. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].
Updated March 2016
Charles George Danieli. At 160D Oxford St, London 1842, 315 Oxford St 1843-1846, jeweller and silversmith; 81 Newman St, Oxford St, 50 Upper John St, Fitzroy Square 1846, Italian picture restorer and artist; Islington 1851, artist; Leamington Priors, Warwickshire 1861-1866, picture restorer.
Charles George Danieli (1816-66), son of Charles and Sophia Danieli, was born in 1816 and christened at St Mary Marylebone in 1819. He married Charlotte Emma Annis at All Souls Marylebone in 1840 and died at Leamington Priors, Warwickshire, in 1866 (he is not the Charles Danieli who died in the St George Hanover Square district in 1847, as Baldwin Hamey has kindly pointed out, see his London Street Views blog). His name can be found variously spelt as Danieli, Danielli and Daniely.
By the early 1840s Danieli was working as a jeweller. His father, the Italian-born Charles Danieli (c.1789-1845), traded in Oxford St as a jeweller, silversmith and general dealer for many years. He was recorded there in the 1841 census, age 51, with his wife Sophia. In the same census, Charles George Danieli was recorded in Little Titchfield St, Marylebone as a jeweller, age 25. When his father was subject to bankruptcy proceedings later in 1841 and imprisoned (London Gazette 31 August, 17 December 1841, 25 March 1842), he seems to have taken on the business for a time (London Gazette 31 March 1843). His brother, James Danieli, also traded as a jeweller in Oxford St but at no.304.
Charles George Danieli gave up the jewellery business by 1846. He then tried his hand as a picture restorer, judging from three promotional leaflets, in which he calls himself Carlo Giorgio Danieli, Italian picture restorer and artist. These leaflets are from 81 Newman St, from 50 Upper John St (with manuscript date 1846), and again from 50 Upper John St but addressed specifically to picture dealers (City of Westminster Archives Centre, Accession 1396/6, from an album of Charissima Emma Annis, 13 Little Titchfield St). Danieli claimed ten years practice as an artist, mainly copying old masters, as well as experience in Italy. He restored pictures after the ‘Italian method’. He added that he was aware that many picture dealers restored their own pictures but advertised that he worked for the trade only.
Within this group of material of family descent is a Winsor & Newton moist watercolours catalogue with testimonials dating to 1837, a draft of Danieli’s account to a Miss G. Reeves, possibly a family connection, for lessons in watercolours in 1838 and a bill from the London artists’ supplier, Giovanni Arzone (see British artists' suppliers on this website), who provided colours to Danieli in 1839, including ultramarine and madders to the value of 11s.
Danieli can be found in the 1851 census in Islington as an artist with his wife and two children and in 1861 at Leamington Priors, Warwickshire as a picture restorer with his wife and three children. He died at Leamington Priors in 1866, leaving effects worth under £200, with administration of his estate granted to his widow.
Sources: Information on the jewellery business, the Reeves connection, the 1851 and 1861 censuses, Danieli’s death and grant of probate in 1866 comes from Baldwin Hamey’s London Street Views blog.
Added March 2016, updated January 2017
Edward Robert Davis, 20 Denmark Place, Charing Cross Road, London WC 1905-1909, 3 Percy Mews, W 1910-1914, 67A Osnaburgh St, NW1 1915-1920. Lining and stretching frame maker.
Edward Robert Davis (1881-1929), sometimes listed as Edwin Robert Davis, was born in the West Bromwich district in 1881, married Louisa Cordrey in the Wandsworth district in 1906 and died in the Lewisham district in 1929. In census records, he can be found in Battersea in 1901 as a carpenter, age 20, working on his own account but living with his father, Alfred Davis, and in 1911 in Honor Oak Park in Lewisham as a stretching frame maker and employer, with his wife Louisa. Davis’s father is perhaps the Alfred Davis who traded at 17 and 19 Kings Road, Chelsea, initially as an artists’ colourman and later as a carver, gilder and picture framemaker.
From 1905 until 1920 Edward Davis traded independently under his own name. He described himself on his billhead as ‘E. Davis, Lining and Stretching Frame Maker’ and as ‘Specialist in panel work. Old panels rejoined and cradled. Transferring a speciality’ (National Gallery archives, NG16/48/1). At the National Gallery, c.1919-20, he acted as a subcontractor to George Morrill (qv), flattening parts of an altarpiece, almost certainly Pesellino’s The Trinity with Saints. Charles Holmes, the Gallery’s director, reported that Davis had damaged the panel by using too much water, a process which Davis tried to explain in an undated memorandum addressed to Morrill (NG10/4, NG727; NG16/48/1).
In London directories he was listed for a time as Edwin Robert Davis, rather than Edward Robert Davis, either side of 1915. He appears to have entered into partnership with John Reeve as Reeve & Davis, picture restorers, at 77 Cleveland St from 1920 until his death in 1929. For his later history, see under John Reeve in this resource.
Robert Davy by 1811-1843, Charles Davy 1843-1863. At 16 Wardour St, London by 1811-1823, 83 Newman St 1822-1862, 85 Newman St 1863. Artists’ colourmen, carvers and gilders.
Robert Davy was listed as a picture restorer in London directories in 1819 and 1827. He undertook picture restoration for George Home’s new gallery at Paxton House, Berwickshire, 1812-4. See British artists' suppliers on this website.
John de Critz (c.1550-1642) carried out a very wide range of work in his role as Serjeant Painter from 1605, as discussed in British picture framemakers on this website. Here, the focus is on his limited activities as a picture restorer.
In 1619 De Critz was paid £6.13s.4d for repairing and new framing various pieces and in 1624 £22.3s.4d for mending and repairing various figures and pieces, in both cases in the King’s privy lodging at Whitehall (National Archives, E 351/544, mm.120, 193). At Whitehall Palace in 1631/2, ‘John Decreetz’ and his men repaired two great pieces by Palma, ‘much defaced’, David and Goliath and Saul’s Conversion, and also repaired and revarnished seven of the set of Titian Emperors, ‘likewise much defaced’ (Edmond 1980 pp.173-4, Croft-Murray 1962 p.199; see also Vertue vol.2, p.91).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Thomas de Critz, London. Painter and occasional picture restorer.
The work of Thomas de Critz (1607-53), son of John de Critz (see above), is not well documented but it has been suggested that he may have been responsible for some of Tradescant portraits in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Edmond 1980 pp.156-7). He died in 1653, apparently unmarried, and was buried on 22 October that year at St Martin-in-the-Fields. In his will, made 18 September 1653 and proved 6 March 1655, he left his possessions to his brother, Emanuel.
Thomas de Critz repaired paintings in the collection of King Charles I, according to the Office of Works accounts. Working at Whitehall Palace in 1632/3, he repaired various works including an old painting of Adam and Eve, a picture by Holbein, an old Dutch piece, a great piece of a musician by Titian and a great piece of Venus asleep, perhaps the work on panel by Correggio described by his near contemporary, Richard Symonds, as cleaned by ‘Decreetz.’ (Vertue vol.1, p.112). The same year, he repaired paintings in the Queen’s Cabinet at Somerset House.
Sources: Croft-Murray 1962 p.201, Edmond 1980 pp.145, 158. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Added September 2017
Joseph Deliss, Oxford, 27 Alma Square, London NW8 1946-1951, 45 Glebe Place, London SW3 1951-1957, 259A King’s Road, London SW3 1958-1969, also at Fosters Cottage, Oakley Road, Brill, Buckinghamshire by 1964-1969. Picture restorer and landscape painter.
Joseph Charles Deliss (1917-69), the son of a painter, Leo Delitz (c.1883-1965), was born 29 November 1917 as Josef Karl Delitz. He studied art at the Vienna academy and practiced as a landscape painter. He was apprenticed to the Viennese artist, art historian and picture restorer, Erich Wagner (1890-1974), a friend of his father (Runeberg 2005 pp.351-2). He worked as a restorer in Vienna from 1933 (Runeberg 2005 p.357).
Deliss came to England in 1938 and served in the army and as a glider pilot in the Second World War. After the war he returned to picture restoration, working in private practice as a restorer in London and Oxford. He changed his name from Delitz to Deliss and was naturalized in 1947 (London Gazette 18 March 1947). He married firstly Ruth Blower in the Richmond district in 1941 and they had sons Louis in 1942 and Max in 1946. He married secondly Chantal Van Delft in the Chelsea district in 1956.
Deliss worked for the National Gallery, 1949-53, being paid £66 in 1949, £113 in 1950, £168 in 1951, £32 in 1952 and £115 in 1953. Among other pictures, he cleaned David Teniers’ Peasants at Archery, 1949, Hendrick Avercamp’s Scene on the Ice, 1950-1 (NG1/12, p.335) and Bartolomeus van der Helst’s Man in Black, 1951-2 (NG16/49/2). By 1953 most conservation at the National Gallery was done in-house by salaried restorers.
Following the death of Sebastian Isepp (qv) in 1954, Deliss undertook much work for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1954-68, including restoring Claude’s Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia, Canaletto’s damaged View of Dolo on the Brenta and Bellucci’s large canvas, Alexander and the Family of Darius. He also treated the Rubens style Landscape: A Storm, as well as Luca della Robbia’s Fortnum Madonna (Burlington Magazine, vol.108, 1966, p.414; vol.104, 1962, p.431).
Deliss worked for Oxford colleges and the university, cleaning the painted chapel ceiling and Marcus Gheeraerts’s panel, Lord Downe at Trinity, portraits and Anton Raphael Mengs’s altapiece, Noli me tangere, at All Souls, and paintings at Christ Church, including Giulio Procaccini’s Susannah and the Elders. He also worked at Oriel, New College and St John’s. For the university he cleaned and restored Marcus Gheeraerts’s panel, William Camden (Bodleian Library), as well as musical portraits from the Music School and full-length portraits from the Examination School. See Burlington Magazine, vol.102, 1960, p.452; 105, 1963, p.537; 106, 1964, p.201, n.2.
Private clients included Lord Plymouth, for whom he treated Benjamin West’s Clive and the Great Mogul, and the Duke of Marlborough, cleaning Thornhill’s ceiling in the great hall at Blenheim. The account in this and the preceding paragraph is indebted to the obituary letter in The Times (by J.B.S. [James Byam Shaw] and I.L., The Times 31 May 1969).
Deliss reviewed The Cleaning of Paintings by Helmut Ruhemann (qv) for the Burlington Magazine in 1969 (vol.111, pp.311-2), shortly before his death that year. Deliss’s son, Max, followed his father as a painting conservator and has left his own recollections of his father’s work at the Ashmolean (Max Deliss, ‘My Father and the Ashmolean’, Ashmolean, no.72, autumn 2016, pp.28-9).
Deprez & Gutekunst, see Robert Guéraut
Added August 2019
Derix de Wild (1869-1932) and Martin de Wild (1899-1969). Picture restorers.
Outside the immediate scope of this online resource but mention is made here of the De Wild family's work on British collections, whether undertaken in London, Edinburgh or The Hague. For more information on the De Wild family of restorers, see Esther van Duijn and Mireille Te Marvelde, ‘Hopman and De Wild: The historical importance of two Dutch families of restorers’, Burlington Magazine, vol.158, 2016, pp.812-23. Derix's brother, Carel Frederick Louis de Wild (1870-1922), moved to the United States in 1911 and is not discussed here, but see the article by Van Duijn and Te Marvelde for information, as also for Carel's son, Louis (1900-88).
Derix de Wild worked for the Mauritshuis and on Dutch private collections. He is particularly noted for his treatment of the large Frans Hals paintings in the museum at Haarlem in the years from 1918. Like his brother he also worked for Knoedler's but in London rather than New York. He can be seen in the studio at Knoedler's premises at 15 Old Bond Street in a photograph with his son Martin and possibly his nephew Louis, next to an easel on which stands a self-portrait by Joshua Reynolds (RKD, The Hague, repr. Van Duijn and Te Marvelde, p.821). Derix or more probably his brother may have worked for the Duke of Devonshire, perhaps at Chatsworth, from references to De Wild undertaking conservation in 1908 (information from Charles Noble). Subsequent references from 1926 onwards are to D. de Wild, and thus to Derix.
Martin de Wild, or to give him his full name, Angenitus Martinus de Wild, trained under his father. He studied chemistry at the technical university in Delft, completing his PhD dissertation in 1928, a thesis which was published in English the following year as a book, The Scientific Examination of Pictures.
De Wild and the National Gallery, London: By the early 1920s Derix was working on the collection of Lord Crawford, who told Sir Charles Holmes, director of the National Gallery in London in 1922, ‘For my part his cleaning of Dutch pictures seems incomparably better than that of the ordinary men one goes to in London – indeed the contrast of some of his work compared with that recently done for me by Dyer, Holder, and others, is very telling against the London firms.’ However, Crawford was unable to persuade Holmes to employ De Wild to clean a painting by Carel Fabritius acquired by the National Gallery in 1924. Holmes later admitted to being ‘frightened’ by De Wild’s drastic handling of another work, possibly Gainsborough’s The Painter’s Daughters with a Cat, which ‘M. de Wild’ allegedly cleaned with Hydrogen Peroxide before its acquisition by the Gallery in 1923 (Self & Partners, p.380; National Gallery archive, NG10/13, inv.3812). Much later in 1951 Martin de Wild was employed to clean two Dutch pictures for the National Gallery in London, Hobbema’s Avenue at Middelharnis and Brederode Castle (National Gallery archive, NG1/13, p.27).
De Wild and the National Gallery of Scotland: It may be that Prof. A.P. Laurie, who was well known to James Caw, director at the National Gallery of Scotland, encouraged Caw to get in touch with the De Wilds, whose work he had featured in an article in 1925 (‘The preservation and cleaning of pictures’, Connoisseur, vol.73, 1925, pp.131-7). It was the son, Martin de Wild, who responded to the Gallery’s approach in October 1926. He was invited to Edinburgh the following spring to inspect the Dutch pictures in the collection (National Gallery of Scotland, Trustees’ minutes, 20 October 1926, 15 June 1927; James Caw, The Scotsman, 21 August 1928). In his report on 75 Dutch and Flemish pictures in May 1927 De Wild put forward certain overarching ideas about picture restoration and identified what work, if any, would be required on individual pictures (National Gallery of Scotland archive, ‘Report on the state of Dutch pictures by De Wild’). This was the beginning of an enduring and productive professional relationship with Stanley Cursiter, Caw’s successor as director. Over the next 12 years De Wild treated many works, including paintings by Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer. For a full account, see the conservation history for the National Gallery of Scotland on this website.
De Wild’s first great success came in 1928. At his suggestion a panel painting in the collection by Frans Hals was x-rayed at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1927, revealing a partly over-painted image which matched an early engraving. He then cleaned the picture at Knoedler’s in London in July 1928, leading to its identification as Hals’s long-lost Verdonck, thanks, he said, to a diagnosis made by purely scientific methods. The process was treated in an illustrated case study in his book, The Scientific Examination of Pictures, in 1929.
De Wild continued to work on the Edinburgh collection over the next ten years, generally charging between £20 and £80 a picture. In 1929 he cleaned and restored Rembrandt’s A Woman in Bed, then known as Hendrickje Stoffels, at Knoedler’s (RKD, images of letters, 1 February, 14, 15 March 1929, see https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/22236, Research and restoration projects). He gave it a toned varnish so that the difference after cleaning would ‘not be too striking at the same time giving a sufficient effect’. In 1932 at the time of an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, De Wild again treated the picture, removing the canvas from the supporting panel and relining and revarnishing with ‘only the slightest tone in the varnish’ (RKD, letter, 30 September 1932, and full report by Cursiter; The Scotsman, 1 August 1933). How far De Wild used a toned varnish on Edinburgh pictures remains to be established. He claimed in 1937 that ‘Pictures as a rule should be treated such that they have in no way a “cleaned” appearance when rehung and the less is said about them the better.’
De Wild reported very fully on his progress on Vermeer’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, in three letters to Cursiter in the course of November 1935 (National Records of Scotland, NG6/7/24) for which see the conservation history for the National Gallery of Scotland on this website.
De Wild was a proponent of wax-resin linings, a method much used in the Netherlands. It was embraced at the National Gallery of Scotland and more cautiously at the London National Gallery in the 1930s. In 1936 De Wild and Cursiter discussed research on relining mediums using wax and resin in different proportions (National Records of Scotland, NG6/7/24). The two men published several articles on wax relining in Technical Studies in the Field of the Fine Arts, most particularly in 1937, with a series of 13 illustrations of Hendrick ten Oever’s Canal Landscape with Figures Bathing, a picture from the Edinburgh collection that De Wild had lined using a 40% resin, 60% bees wax mixture (vol.5, pp.157-78).
Unlike most commercial restorers of his day, De Wild was well equipped to employ scientific techniques in the examination of pictures. In 1930 he used x-rays and chemical analysis to confirm that The Haybinders, purchased for the Edinburgh collection as by Jean François Millet in 1924, was not by the artist (National Records of Scotland, NG5/2/35, report, 14 July 1930). De Wild carried out a scientific examination in 1931 of two further Edinburgh acquisitions, Still Life: Souvenirs, purchased as by Edouard Manet but now described as by an imitator and The Entombment, then given to Eugene Delacroix but now catalogued as French 19th century (see National Records of Scotland, NG6/7/24, invoice, 7 September 1931).
These were not the only pictures subject to scrutiny. At the request of the collector, Alexander Maitland, a lender to the Edinburgh Gallery, Cursiter arranged for Van Gogh’s Orchard in Blossom to be sent to De Wild for testing in 1937, before Maitland would decide on purchasing the picture. ‘Van Gogh Genuine Age Tests Entirely Convincing’, De Wild telegraphed in June that year and the picture eventually came to the Gallery as part of the Maitland gift in 1960 (NG6/7/24). At some stage De Wild also verified the age of a paint sample from Van Gogh’s Olive Trees in the Edinburgh collection (Stanley Cursiter, The Scotsman, 28 February 1949). Cursiter’s nervousness was understandable in the light of the recent trial in Germany in 1932 of Otto Wacker for faking Van Gogh’s work, a trial at which De Wild played a key part in presenting technical evidence relating to the pigments used.
De Wild treated various pictures from the Edinburgh’s Torrie collection in the five years from 1934 (National Records of Scotland, NG6/7/23). Four pictures were conserved in 1934, a further seven were brought to Holland in 1935, two more in 1936, four in 1937 and eight in 1938, before the threat of war put an end to this remarkable programme.
De Wild and other British collections: The Wallace Collection sought the advice of Martin de Wild in 1930 on its Dutch paintings, following his treatment of pictures in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland (National Archives, AR 1/204).
Martin de Wild worked on the Sutherland pictures from Bridgewater House in the 1930s and subsequently, many of which are now on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. These include the set of Poussin Sacraments, which De Wild treated in 1934-5, and Rembrandt’s Young Woman with Flowers in her Hair, among eight pictures which he restored in 1937-8 (National Records of Scotland, NG6/7/24). In 1962 De Wild used the National Gallery of Scotland's studio to reline Titian’s Allegory of the Three Ages of Man on loan to Edinburgh from the Sutherland collection (National Galleries of Scotland, Trustees’ minutes, 30 October 1962). He treated a Tintoretto from the Sutherland collection in his studio in The Hague in 1966, a work he had previously restored in 1937 but which had been damaged (Esther van Duijn, thesis, 2003, cited below).
De Wild treated pictures from the Gulbenkian collection in the early 1950s while the collection was still in London. In the 1960s he undertook work for Lord Salisbury at Hatfield House (RKD, Martin de Wild archive, Salisbury file, 1960-8). He was one of those who entered into lengthy correspondence with the artist, Helen Gluck (‘Gluck’), concerning the permanence of artists’ materials (RKD, Martin de Wild archive, Gluck file, 1962-8).
Sources: Esther van Duijn and Michiel Franklin kindly provided information. See also Esther van Duijn, Goltzius, De Wild en Van Bohemen; drie namen, één schilderij. Onderzoek naar de restauratiegeschiedenis van Jupiter & Antiope (1612) van H. Goltzius, naar aanleiding van de restauratie van het schilderij, conservation thesis, 2003, pp.33-40.
Doig, McKechnie & Davies 1857-1884, Doig & McKechnie 1885-1895, Doig, Wilson & Wheatley 1895-1957.At 60 George St, Edinburgh 1857, 69 George St 1857-1861, 89 George St 1862-1875, 90 George St 1876-1957. Picture dealers, carvers and gilders, picture restorers and printsellers.
See British picture framemakers on this website.
Genaro Domizio came to prominence in London in the early 1790s as a picture dealer and a restorer. He is presumably the Gennaro D’Domizio who married Ann Davis in 1782 at St James Westminster and had a daughter, Carolina, baptized in 1788 (National Archives, RG 8/0063). ‘James Domizio’ was recorded in Broad St and Poland Street in rate books in 1792.
As a dealer Domizio advertised his exhibition of pictures by old masters at 47 Brewer St in April 1791, describing it the following month as an exhibition of paintings by the most celebrated Italian masters (The Oracle 20 April 1791, The Times 12 May 1791). In June, he advertised that he was taking a very commodious house at 14 Broad St (The World 25 June 1791), subsequently stating that he had added a new room for showing Old Masters, the entrance being at 62 Poland St (The World 23 December 1791). Shortly afterwards, it was advertised that Mr Genaro Domizio would be leaving the Kingdom and that his collection of pictures, prints and drawings would be sold at his exhibition room at 62 Poland St (The Times 29 January 1792). According to a curious advertisement the following year, he then went overseas, leaving his wife destitute in London (Morning Herald 5 July 1793). It is perhaps worth noting that a Gennaro Di Domizio, ‘natural de Napoles’, son of Don Pasquale and Donna Vincenza di Domizio, was recorded in Florida in 1805 (Bruno Roselli, The Italians in Colonial Florida: A Repertory of Italian Families..., 1940, p.28).
As a picture restorer, Domizio used his trade card to advertise, probably in 1791, ‘G. Domizio No.14 Broad Street, Golden Square. Repairs, cleans, lines and restores pictures that have been defaced or injured, to their original beauty, by a new process never before discovered. NB. Pictures bought, sold or exchanged.’ (Heal coll., the card depicting Mercury and a cherub holding a scroll among the clouds).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Aitken Dott 1842-1879, Aitken Dott & Son 1880-1984, Aitken Dott Ltd 1984-1988, Aitken Dott plc from 1988. At Lady Lawson St, Edinburgh 1842, 12 South St David St1844-1847, 16 South St David St 1846-1863, 14-16 South St David St 1863-1874, 26 South Castle St or Castle St 1874-1982, 94 George St 1982-1993, 16 Dundas St, EH3 6HZ from 1993. Carvers and gilders, framemakers, artists’ colourmen, from the 1890s also fine art dealers and picture restorers.
See British picture framemakers on this website.
Updated September 2018
John Doubleday, 5 Hyde St, London 1832-1833, 32 Little Russell St 1834-1840, 5 Little Russell St 1845-1856. Dealer in casts of coins and seals, object restorer.
John Doubleday (c.1796/99-1856) was described in the 1851 census as having been born in New York but a British subject. If so, he cannot readily be identified with the John Doubleday born 26 February and christened 22 April 1798 at St Mary Marylebone, the son of John and Sarah Doubleday.
Doubleday had presumably married his wife Elizabeth by 1832 since their eldest daughter of five, also Elizabeth, was born in 1833. He became a member of the Numismatics Society. He is recorded in the 1851 census as John ‘Doublday’, artist, age 53, born in New York, with his wife, five daughters and a visitor described as a governess, at 5 Little Russell St.
Doubleday is said to have worked for more than twenty years in a printer's oflice, sometimes superintending the manufacture of types, so giving him experience in casting in metals and other materials, according to his obituary (Athenaeum 2 February 1856). He then took up business as a copyist of coins, medals and ancient seals and was used by the Royal Mint to prepare castings (Gentleman’s Magazine, vol.45, 1856, p. 431). He gave a collection of casts from mediaeval seals to the British Museum in 1830, the earliest evidence of his activity. He was first listed in London directories in Pigot’s 1832 edition at 5 Hyde St under the heading ‘Curiosity, shell & picture dealers’ and in Robson’s 1833 directory as a dealer in ancient seals. He lived close to the British Museum. An American visitor in 1834 remarked that Doubleday was permitted to copy anything he wished in the British Museum and was also allowed to make copies in the Bibliotheque Royale in Paris (American Journal of Science and Arts, vol.27, 1835, pp.74-8, accessed through Google Book search, kindly communicated by Jan Mitchell).
Doubleday was employed by the British Museum in a freelance capacity, 1836-56, principally to restore antiquities in the Department of Antiquities (British Museum collections website). He has been described as the Museum’s first specialist restorer (Oddy 1993 p.11). In a court case in 1849, concerning a theft of coins from the British Museum and its trustees by a visitor, he appeared as a witness, described as a moulder of casts employed in the British Museum (Morning Post 31 March 1849).
Doubleday’s greatest triumph was the restoration of the Portland Vase, after it had been wilfully broken into numerous pieces in 1845, for which he was paid an extra £25 (see David M. Wilson, The British Museum: A History, 2002, p.112; see also Andrew Oddy (ed.), The Art of the Conservator, 1992, p.46 for a photograph of Doubleday with the restored vase). Less positively, his attempts to treat Mesopotamian clay tablets through firing or through immersing them in preservative solutions were unsuccessful, leading to the disintegration of the surface of the tablets or of the tablets themselves (see E.A.W. Budge, The Rise & Progress of Assyriology, 1925, pp.148-9).
Doubleday died in January 1856 after a long illness and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery, when his age was given as 59 (information from Jan Mitchell). In his will, as an artist of 5 Little Russell St, made 19 January and proved 28 February 1856, he left his whole estate to Elizabeth Bewsey, spinster, the daughter of a deceased bookbinder, James Bewsey, an unusual bequest which overlooked his wife and daughters. His library was sold at Sotheby’s later that year. He was the subject of a profile portrait print by H. Corbould, published in 1836 (examples in National Portrait Gallery and British Museum, see Henry Hake, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits… in the British Museum, vol.6, 1925, p.136).
Doubleday’s wife, Elizabeth, continued to live at 5 Little Russell St for a time after his death and she is recorded there with two of her daughters in the 1861 census.
Sources: Jan Mitchell kindly provided information on Doubleday’s early career, including the 1836 date for Corbould’s portrait. See also John Doubleday (restorer) - Wikipedia, where Doubleday’s 1830 gift to the British Museum is sourced to James H. Fennell, ‘A Familiar Description of the British Museum and its Contents’, The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 22 January 1842, vol.1(4), p.56.
James Douglas (1810-88), portrait painter and picture restorer, see entry for the National Galleries of Scotland in this resource.
Henry Thomas Dover, see Henry Thomas Schäfer
Updated September 2018, March 2021
William Drown 1914-1956, William Drown Ltd 1957-1972, William Drown (Bond Street) Ltd 1973-1980. At 8 Fitzroy St, London 1914-1937, 1 Duke St, St James’s 1938-1944, 110 New Bond St 1945-1980. Picture liners, restorers and cleaners.
William James Moses Drown (1863-1948) was born in 1863 in the Hendon district. He married Jane McDonall in 1886 in the Chelsea district. He can be found in census records. In 1871 in Kentish Town in the household of his father, William, age 42, a picture restorer. In 1881 as a picture restorer in Chelsea in the household of his uncle, John Wells. In 1891 at 37 Ashmore Road, Paddington, as a picture restorer, born Willesden. In 1901 boarding at 55 Chetwynd Road, Portsmouth (presumably on a job), as a fine art restorer, with his family at 213 Bravington Road, Kilburn, namely his wife Jane, age 37, daughter Phoebe, age 13, listed as a picture restorer, and four young children. In 1911 at 18 Dynham Road, Hampstead, as a picture restorer and employer, with wife and seven children, including William Henry John, age 20, and Frederick, age 14, both picture restorers, and Dudley, age 8. He died at the age of 84 in 1948 in the Newbury district, leaving estate worth £612, with probate granted to his son-in-law, William George Thomas Hookins (qv), picture restorer.
There is evidence that members of the Drown family were active in picture restoration in the late-19th century. Not only was William Drown’s father, also William, recorded as a picture restorer in the 1871 census but there was a John Rigby Drown, picture liner, who traded in partnership as Fitch & Drown from 4 Foley St, 1897-9.
William Drown claimed to have been established for 40 years in 1932 (advertisement, Burlington Magazine, vol.60, March 1932, p.viii), and advertised the ‘Cleaning and Restoration of Old Masters’ in 1934 (The Artist, vol.7, June 1934, p.lvii). He held an account with the artists’ suppliers, Roberson, from 8 Fitzroy Square and 1a Duke St, 1930-9 (Woodcock 1997). The business’s premises in Duke St were totally destroyed by bombing on 23 February 1944 (National Gallery archive, NG16/49/1). The business held an appointment to King George VI from 1949 and to Queen Elizabeth II from 1955 (London Gazette 4 January 1949, 15 July 1955).
From 1939 William Drown’s three sons, W.H.J. Drown, F.E. Drown and D.R.M. Drown, were listed in the London directory as partners in the business, a listing which continued until 1956. Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery, described the Drowns in 1943 as ‘the best ordinary, workmanlike restorers in the country’ (see Morwenna Blewett, ‘The Art of Conservation VI: Helmut Ruhemann, paintings restorer in Berlin and London’, Burlington Magazine, vol.158, 2016, p.642). The partners can be identified as William Henry John Drown (1890-1981), Frederick Elgin Drown (1896-1990) and Dudley Robert M. Drown (1902-73), all born in the Paddington district. W.H.J. Drown acted as the first chairman of the British Association of Picture Restorers, 1944-54, and subsequently served as President (BAPR minutes). His brother-in-law, George Hookins (b.1897), continued to undertake restoration work in the business (information from David Drown, February 2009) and was awarded a royal warrant as picture repairers to the Queen in 1958 (London Gazette 1 January 1958; annually to 1 January 1966). Subsequently the business underwent a number of changes, becoming William Drown Ltd in 1957 and William Drown (Bond Street) Ltd in 1973. A further business, presumably related, traded as Drown & Co Ltd, picture restorers, at 117 Boundary Road in St John’s Wood from 1983 to 1987.
David Drown (b.1933), Dudley Drown’s son, became a director of Drown & Co Ltd in 1965. He was paintings conservator at the National Maritime Museum in 1977, returning to Drown and Co the following year (IIC Bulletin, no.2, 1990, p.2).
William Henry J. Drown married Marthe G. Vanden Berghe in 1914 in the Hampstead district, having a son Wiliam R. Drown in 1920 in the same district. This son traded as an old master picture dealer and picture restorer at 45 Dover St from 1957 until 1970, before moving to 41 St James’s Place from 1971 until 1990.
Restoration work: Relatively little has been published relating to the work of the Drown family. For the Royal Collection, Drown repaired a panel joint in 1950 in Rubens’ Farm at Laeken (McClure 1998 p.93). The business restored the Coronation Coach before the Coronation in 1953 (William McGaffin, ‘They're modernizing the Queen's Coach’, Popular Science, April 1953, pp.151-4, accessed through Google Book Search; Economic Digest, May 1953, vol.6, p.196, from Board of Trade Journal, 21 March 1953).
For museums and institutions, Drown restored pictures for the Ashmolean Museum, 1934-46, including cleaning, lining and restoring a Northern European Truth presenting a Mirror to the Vanities as now identified (A653) for £12 in 1939, cradling the panel of Palma Vecchio’s Holy Family for £16 in 1942 and treating G.B. Panini’s Roman Capriccio in 1946 (Ashmolean Museum, Dept of Western Art, receipted bills; Ashmolean Report, 1946, p.36). The business provided advice on the condition of John Michael Wright’s ‘Fire Judges’ at the Guildhall in 1943 and in 1949 (Vivien Knight, The Works of Art of the Corporation of London, 1986, p.6, n.14; London Metropolitan Archives, COL/LBD/AG/01/002). For the National Gallery it restored various works, 1942-8, including cradling Rubens’ Chateau de Steen, 1947, and removing additions and cleaning Quinten Massys's panel, An Old Woman, 1947-8 (National Gallery archive, NG16/49/1; Campbell 2014 p.452). For the Tate Gallery it cleaned Samuel Scott’s Westminster Bridge for £15.15s in 1947 or 1948, and cleaned and relined John Ferneley’s The Bay Horse for £24.10s in 1948 (Tate archive, TG 18/1/1/4). It undertook work at Southampton Art Gallery, 1946-53 (Southampton Archives Service, SC/ART 1/4/5, Southampton Art Gallery).
The Baroda Museum at Vadodara, to the north of Bombay, first approached the British Association of Picture Restorers for advice in 1944 (BAPR minutes, 1 September 1944) and as a result a number of visits were made by British restorers to advise on the collection. F.E. Drown and his assistant, Roger Hulme, undertook restoration work at the Baroda Museum in 1958 (see Mohan Khokar, 'Restoring Old Paintings', Illustrated Weekly of India, 15 June 1958, with reproductions of three paintings before and after restoration, copy in National Portrait Gallery archive, Subject File, Conservation). They treated over 100 paintings, including David Teniers' A Village Fete, Pierre Patel's Italian Landscape, Dirck Stoop's Catherine of Braganza and Edward Hughes' The Poor Seamstress.
For private clients, Messrs Drown were employed, c.1932-4, to remove from the walls of Sickert’s studio his painting on wallpaper, The Raising of Lazarus (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, see Gott 2007 pp.76-7). Roger Fry knew the business and wrote to his cousin, Lewis, in 1932, 'I think Drown, 8 Fitzroy Street, is a very capable man. He has succeeded in everything I have had to do with.' (Denys Sutton, ed., The Letters of Roger Fry, 1972, vol.2, p.674). The business cleaned and restored Thomas Gainsborough’s Byam Family (Private coll.) before it was shown at Tate Gallery in 1935 (The Times 31 January 1935). It cleaned Michael van Miereveldt’s Viscount Wimbledon, c.1972 (Private coll., ex-loan to National Portrait Gallery, information from Tim Moreton). The business also worked for Sotheby’s, and later for Christie’s (information from David Drown, February 2009).
For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Added January 2017
John Dujardin, 5 Westbourne Place, Chelsea, London 1837-1846, 41 Markham Square, Chelsea 1847-1866. Artist and picture restorer.
John Dujardin the picture restorer would seem to be the artist, John Dujardin junr (1818-66), rather than his father of the same name, also an artist, John Dujardin (c.1785-1865). Certainly, he was the man who worked for the Society of Dilettanti and probably he restored the other works listed here.
John Dujardin junr was born in 1818 in Bristol and baptised the following year at St James Pentonville in London, when his father was described as a goldbeater. He married Charlotte Bessell at St Anne Soho in 1837. He can be found in census records in 1851 and 1861 with his wife and children living in his father’s household at 41 Markham Square, Chelsea. He showed some works at public exhibitions but it was his father, a landscape painter, who was the prolific exhibitor. He died in 1866, just one year after his father, leaving effects worth under £3000.
Restoration work: John Dujardin junr was the restorer who worked for the Society of Dilettanti in 1860, relining pictures, covering them with plate glass and regilding the frames (Lionel Cust, History of the Society of Dilettanti, 1898, p.233).
It remains to be ascertained that it was Dujardin junr, rather than his father, who treated the following works. ‘John Dujardin’ cleaned pictures for the collector Joseph Gillot from the mid-1840s until 1859 or later; Gillot ‘always gave strict instructions as to exactly what he wanted him to do with the pictures, whether, for instance, washing, varnishing (although often specifically not varnishing), lining or mending cracks.’ (Jeannie Chapel, ‘The Papers of Joseph Gillott (1799–1872)’, online appendix, p.6, to Journal of the History of Collections, 2008, vol.20, pp.37-84, with interesting further details). ‘Dujardin’ cleaned Benjamin Robert Haydon’s The Judgement of Solomon for Sir Edwin Landseer in about 1853), probably the picture now in Plymouth Guildhall (Report of the National Gallery Site Commission, 1857, p.134) and restored pictures for H.A.J. Munro (Report from the Select Committee on the National Gallery, 1853, p.244).
Added March 2015, updated January 2017
Dulwich Picture Gallery (known as Dulwich College Picture Gallery until 1979), Dulwich, London, established 1811, opened 1817.
As one of the oldest established collections open to the public, Dulwich Picture Gallery has a history of picture conservation extending back two centuries. At a much earlier date in 1626 Dulwich College’s founder, the actor and entrepreneur, Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), left his portraits and subject pictures to his college. Then in 1686 the actor and bookseller, William Cartwright (1606-86), bequeathed his portraits, landscapes and seascapes (the pictures were said to have been ‘neglected in a garret’ at Dulwich in 1752 (Jan Piggott, Dulwich College: A History, 1616-2008, 2008, p.62, cited hereafter as Piggott 2008).
The founding collection of old masters, largely formed by Noel Desenfans (1745-1807), came through bequest from his close friend and associate, the artist, Sir Francis Bourgeois (1756-1811). ‘I know pretty well what will be the expense on average of having them cleaned,’ Bourgeois is said to have pronounced of the pictures, ‘it will be about [£]100 a year’ (see Giles Waterfield (ed.), Soane and Death, 1996, p.124). Dulwich College Picture Gallery opened in 1817, purpose built to the design of Sir John Soane, although it was not until 1884 that it was decided to add the Cartwright and Alleyn pictures to the Picture Gallery (Board minutes, 29 April 1884). And it was not until 1994 that responsibility for the Gallery and its collections passed from the Governors of Dulwich College to an independent charity with its own board of trustees.
Certain features emerge: the active role of the Gallery’s keeper, usually an artist, in restoring pictures in the 19th century, the importance of the advisory role played by Royal Academicians in the care of the collection from its early years until the mid-20th century, the reforms of the 1850s which set up a Board of Governors for the College and a committee for the Picture Gallery which then commissioned reports from two leading experts at the South Kensington Museum, the downgrading of the keeper/curator role to that of attendant in the 1860s, the financial and other problems threatening collections care and leading to a crisis in the 1960s, and the resolution of problems by the appointment of a professional director in 1979 and an independently constituted Gallery board in 1994, so promoting renewed consideration for conservation.
The collection’s conservation has been the subject of pioneering and authoritative histories by the Gallery’s first director, Giles Waterfield, cited here as Waterfield 1995 and Waterfield 1998 (see Sources below). References by box number are to records kept at Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG). References to Board minutes and other minutes are to the minutes of the College’s Board of Governors and other committees, from 1857, kept at Dulwich College Archives (DCA).
Before the Gallery: Little is known of the care of pictures at Dulwich before the foundation of the Gallery. However, it is recorded that the full-length portrait of the founder, Edward Alleyn, was repaired by George Paterson of St Botolph, Bishopsgate in 1790 (Ingamells 2008 p.20); he was possibly the man of this name active in Bishopsgate from 1774 to 1805, who can be found trading as a floor cloth maker and painter at 145 Bishopsgate Without in 1790 (Holden’s London directory). Horace Walpole, in his usual witty style, wrote about seeing ‘an hundred mouldy portraits’ at Dulwich College in 1791 (Walpole’s Correspondence, vol.11, 1944, p.289). In July 1809, ‘Whichelo’, presumably the landscape painter and illustrator, John Mayle Whichelo (1784-1865), was paid £5.5s for cleaning an unspecified painting (DCA, Weekly Accounts 1805-1813).
The Gallery’s first Keeper, Ralph Cockburn (qv, 1779-1820), an occasional Royal Academy exhibitor, hung the Bourgeois collection in the new building in August 1814 and cleaned several college portraits, as his friend Joseph Farington witnessed in September 1814 (Farington, vol.13, p.4570). Cockburn seems not to have been permanently appointed as keeper until October 1816, at a salary of 200 guineas a year for ‘his attendance and care of the pictures, and for his personal labour and his expences in varnishing and cleaning them’ (DCA, ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’, 6 June 1817).
Restoration work on pictures other than those in the Bourgeois bequest was largely carried out by the landscape painter and leading picture restorer, Robert Brown (qv, c.1763-1834), resident in St John’s Wood, who attended to the collection from 1810 until 1817, and who has left a fairly detailed record of his work in the form of two account books (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1993/3/1; see also DPG, box C2/3ff, copies of his original bills). Brown’s work was carried out for John Allen, Warden of Dulwich College. He worked mainly on English portraits from the Alleyn and Cartwright collections, which he described as ‘in the old Gallery’ or ‘the old Picture Gallery’ (Ingamells 2008 pp.32-43, 49-83, 241-3; see also DPG, box C2/3ff). By far his most expensive task at £16.12s was cleaning and repairing a copy of Raphael’s Transfiguration in 1810, a recent gift to the College for its chapel (Piggott 2008 p.79).
As to the Desenfans pictures which formed the basis for the Bourgeois bequest, Desenfans’s catalogue of 1802 records that Titian’s Departure of Adonis for the Chase, which had been ‘daubed in different parts’, was cleaned by a French emigrant, conceivably Bourgeois himself, ‘extremely fond of painting’, who removed the new paint, notably in the sky (Noel Desenfans, A Descriptive Catalogue… of some Pictures of the Different Schools purchased for His Majesty the Late King of Poland, 1802, vol.1, p.80, information from Sophie Plender).
That a good deal of money was spent on the pictures while in Desenfans’s hands is clear from their richly ornamented, exceptionally heavy and magnificent frames of a sort fashionable in the 1790s and early 1800s. At one stage Desenfans claimed to have spent the very considerable sum of £1200 on framing (undated letter to Benjamin West, in copy of Galt’s Life of Benjamin West, 1816, at Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia). It would seem reasonable to suppose that paintings were put in order at the same time as they were framed. But such work has yet to be documented.
In May 1813, shortly after Bourgeois’s death, the antiquary, John Britton (1771-1857), identified that several pictures were in bad condition, 'with the paint cracked, chipped, chilled and otherwise injured', and he thought that it would be essential to restore them and that some of them would need to be lined (DCA, MS XVII, summary catalogue of collection at Bourgeois’s house; DPG, copy in box H1); Britton identified several pictures in particular as being in poor condition, including Nicolas Poussin’s canvas, Ascension of the Virgin, which he described as having the ‘paint rubb’d off’, and a panel after Andrea del Sarto, Madonna and Child with St John, ‘the paint is off in many places’.
Later it was claimed in advertisements for a patent fluid for cleaning pictures that Bourgeois himself had used a particular mixture to clean the whole of the Dulwich Gallery collection (‘Every Gentleman his own picture cleaner’, see The Times 18 September 1837; ‘TWINBERROW'S INVITA MINERVA, as used by Sir F. Bourgeois to clean the collection in the Dulwich Gallery’, see The Art-Union, vol.3, 1841, p.111). While Bourgeois claimed to know the cost of maintaining the pictures and may have ‘improved’ certain paintings by making additions (Waterfield 1999 pp.121-2), it is less clear how significant a part he played in cleaning the collection. Farington referred to Desenfans as having planned ‘to have Bourgeois qualified to touch pictures’ (Farington vol.6, p.2297, writing in 1804 of Bourgeois’s training, c.1777). Later, Dulwich’s keeper, Stephen Denning, claimed that the pictures in the founding bequest were ‘more or less painted on by Sir Francis Bourgeois’ (see below).
The early 19th century: In the 19th century, considerable attention was paid to the care of the collection, as research by Giles Waterfield into the overall approach, and John Ingamells into individual pictures, has revealed.
By 1810 Francis Bourgeois had conceived the idea of leaving his collection to Dulwich College, subject to a life interest to Desenfans’s widow, Margaret (1731-1813), telling his fellow Royal Academician, Joseph Farington, that the distance from London was moderate and the country about Dulwich delightful, but expressing a reservation: ‘I have had an apprehension of the pictures sustaining injury from being in the hands of people ignorant of art who might have them injudiciously cleaned and thereby injured, but to guard against this I have thought of appointing that the President of the Royal Academy for the time being should be a Visitor to the Collection at stated periods, & that nothing shd. be done to the pictures but under His direction’ (Farington, vol. 10, p.3822). Though not repeated in his will, Bourgeois’s thinking set the basic parameters for the collection’s care over the next 150 years.
Bourgeois’s wishes were reinforced in Margaret Desenfans’s prescriptive will, written in 1813, that the President and Academicians should be requested to visit the collection each year on St Luke’s day to give their opinion on the state of preservation of the collection and should be entertained to dinner (National Archives, PROB 11/1559/326). In a similar vein Bourgeois’s friend, Lancelot Allen, wrote in 1822 that Bourgeois had wanted the collection to be inspected each year by the President of the Royal Academy and ‘one or two persons skilled in the Arts, who would point what Pictures wanted cleaning’ (Giles Waterfield (ed.), Soane and Death, 1996, p.124). Reportedly another factor in Bourgeois’s decision to bequeath the pictures to Dulwich was its distance from London, which, for the pictures, ‘would operate favourably in preserving them from the atmospheric and other evil influences of the metropolis’ (Library of the Fine Arts; or, Repertory of Painting, vol.3, 1832, p.425).
The Keeper from 1821 until his death more than 40 years later was the miniature painter and watercolourist, Stephen Poyntz Denning (1793-1864). As set out in 1821, he was to have general care of the pictures and was to point out such pictures as needed cleaning and then, subject to approval, 'to clean and varnish them at his own expense' (DCA, ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’, 20 January 1821; see also Giles Waterfield, in Rembrandt to Gainsborough: Masterpieces from Dulwich Picture Gallery, 1999, p.37). Quite how this worked in practice is unclear: while the keeper was to seek permission before cleaning pictures, such permissions, if formally sought, were not recorded in the governing body’s minutes or the ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’.
The fullest insight into Denning’s working methods comes from his own testimony to the National Gallery Site Commission in 1857 (Report, pp.41-7). He claimed that the pictures in the founding bequest had been ‘more or less painted on’ by Bourgeois, leading to problems in removing modern paint from the surface of some pictures. When asked about cleaning the pictures, he said he had ‘done something to almost all the leading pictures’, also stating with remarkable frankness compared to the other witnesses to the commission, ‘I do not believe I ever cleaned a picture in my life, as to which I did not, at some point or other, find that I had done injury… any way which should exist of removing the old varnish as well as taking off the dirt, may here and there move a portion of the paint that is on the surface, and in that respect it does injury.’ (Report, p.42). He specifically named Antonio Bellucci’s Martyrdom of St Sebastian, acquired in 1852, as a picture he cleaned, removing the varnish and then wiping it with linseed oil rather than revarnishing it (p.44).
House-keeping by successive keepers took the form of applying linseed oil to paintings which were then carefully rubbed with a soft cloth, a practice which continued until as late as 1934, when the Gallery’s then keeper, Charles Andrew New, recorded that over the previous 44 years he had regularly revived pictures with a mixture of one part mastic varnish, two parts linseed oil and two parts turpentine, as used by his predecessors, a recipe not so very different to the notorious ‘gallery varnish’ at the National Gallery (DPG, box C2/38, photocopy).
There was a payment in November 1821 of £1.4s.2d for ‘beer to the picture cleaners’. Otherwise external intervention, starting in April 1821, seems to have been limited at first to repairing and regilding frames at the hands of the picture framers and restorers, Harris & Pearse (paid £69.5s.6d in 1821), later trading as Samuel Pearse (£8.17s in 1829) and as Pearse & Biggs (£30.0s.6d in 1834). For this partnership, see under John Harris in British picture framemakers on this website. However, the successor to this business, William Biggs (c.1797-1851), not only treated the frames, being paid more than £30 a year from 1835 to 1840, but was also responsible for ‘relining a picture of Cuyp’ for £4.14s in 1835, cleaning and lining a picture by Van Dyck for £4.10s in 1844, ‘securing’ Murillo’s Virgin’ and ‘relining 2 others &c’ for £17.11s.6d in 1848, and other picture lining and repair work until 1853 (DCA, ‘Dulwich College, 2nd Series, LXXXII Bourgeois’ Bequest 1812-1857’).
One of the few visitors to comment on the condition of the Dulwich collection, Gustave Waagen, on his visit in 1835, found 'the original pictures… in many cases, totally disfigured by cleaning' (Works of Art and Artists in England, 1838, vol.2, p.379). In particular, he singled out Van Dyck’s Earl of Bristol, then identified as the Earl of Pembroke (‘the hands injured by cleaning’), a pair of landscapes by Berghem, a Van de Velde river scene, Velasquez’s Philip IV (‘the hands are effaced by cleaning’) and pictures by Claude Lorraine (‘so defaced by cleaning’).
The reforms of 1857 and their aftermath: Following reforms to the governance of Dulwich College under the terms of an Act of Parliament in 1857, a Gallery Committee was set up and a survey of the collection was commissioned in March 1858, not through the Royal Academy, the Gallery’s usual source of advice, but from Richard Redgrave (1804-88), Superintendent for Art at the South Kensington Museum and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, who was paid a fee of 20 guineas (Gallery Committee minutes, 2 February, 27 March 1858). He described Denning’s approach as curator as ‘conservative rather than ameliorative’, the pictures having been ‘slightly oiled and then carefully rubbed’, with revarnishing ‘studiously avoided’ (Redgrave report, DPG, box C2/64, photocopy). He commented favourably on the condition of the collection but recommended that its care should be improved and that many pictures should be revarnished and protected on the reverse by ‘a light painted cloth’ (Waterfield 1995 p.9).
Stephen Poyntz Denning died in office in 1864 and was followed by an even more minor landscape artist and copyist, Thomas Francis Hodgkins (1807-1903). However the post was now generally known as gallery attendant, rather than keeper or curator, and in appointing him the Gallery Committee decided to consult a ‘duly qualified person’ on the state of the pictures (Board minutes, 8 November 1864). They turned once more to the South Kensington Museum, inviting John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), then Superintendent of Art Collections, to give six-monthly reports on the condition of the Gallery and its collections at a fee of 12 guineas a time (Board minutes, 11 April 1865). He visited the gallery on several occasions, inspecting the collection with Hodgkins, and he made reports on 12 June 1865, 29 March 1866 and 20 August 1867 (Board minutes). His initial survey found the best pictures to be in the best preservation.
Robinson’s recommendations focussed on preventative conservation but also addressed questions of lining and varnish removal. He suggested that loose canvases should be tapped out and protected both by glazing and by adding canvas backings to prevent the accumulation of dirt (as had been done at the National Gallery). He also felt that some varnish removal might be necessary in the case of some of the more ‘chilled’ examples and that some pictures might need relining. He singled out two pictures as in need of immediate attention: Teniers’ little panel, Gypsies in a Landscape, which as a result was treated by Hodgkins with Robinson’s approval, and Murillo’s Flower Girl (Waterfield 1998 p.128 n.16; Board minutes, 13 June 1865). In his second report he identified Murillo’s Madonna del Rosario as having been damaged by partial varnish removal, probably within the last 20 or 30 years (see above: was this Biggs’s work in 1848?), and he recommended that two works by Poussin, a landscape and Venus and Mercury should be lined. In his final report he yet again drew attention to the need to protect the back of pictures on canvas and he made recommendations for revarnishing several pictures and lining others.
Waterfield has identified that following Robinson’s report a programme of conservation was carried forward over the next 15 years, starting with the treatment of 29 pictures in 1866, often involving surface dirt removal and revarnishing, also regilding frames, all of which was carried out at the Gallery by the keeper (Waterfield 1998 pp.126-7). When further expertise was subsequently needed, Dulwich reverted to seeking advice from Royal Academicians, including William Boxall, Frederic Leighton and Edward Poynter, who would occasionally inspect the collection.
Glazing the pictures usually meant altering the frame to take glass. Many of these frames have now been restored but at the time of writing Raphael’s two small predella panels, St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua both retain front ‘windows’, with keyholes at left and hinges on the right-hand back edge, as do a few others in the collection. Some glazing and frame repair work was carried out by James Henry Chance (1810-1902) of Fitzroy Square, a leading London carver, gilder and picture framemaker, at a cost totalling £103.6s in 1866 (Board minutes, 10 April and 22 December 1864; see also DPG, box C3/18-27). For Chance, see British picture framemakers on this website.
It would seem that Hodgkins, the ‘Gallery attendant’, was a man of considerable technical skills. To understand the nature of his work, it is worth turning to the Dulwich College board minutes for the year 1875. On 9 March Hodgkins reported that he had fixed loose paint, removed surface dirt and varnished a Landscape with Figures after Cuyp, also gilding the frame and recommending that it should be lined. On 11 May, inter alia, it was Bourgeois’s William Tell that he had lined, repaired, surface cleaned and varnished, and on 12 October it was Van Dyck’s Portrait of a Lady (now given to Cornelius Johnson) that he had ‘lined and put in order’. In 1876 he lined and restored the full-length portrait of the founder, Edward Alleyn, and in 1878 the large chapel altarpiece after Raphael’s Transfiguration (Board minutes, 14 March 1876, 8 October 1878). In 1883 he cleaned and restored 40 of the Cartwright pictures and was in the process of treating the remainder (Board minutes, 13 October 1883).
More interventive work and some lining work was sent to leading London restorers. In 1864, Henry Merritt (qv, 1822-77) was employed to clean Cuyp’s A Road near a River when the painting was relined by George Morrill (qv, c.1812-1865) (Board minutes, 13 September 1864, Finance committee minutes, 4 November 1864; see also Waterfield 1995 p.52). Morrill’s son, William (1838-1910), received numerous payments for lining unspecified pictures from 1870 until 1888 (Board minutes, 30 March 1871, 2 December 1875, 28 February 1878, 26 February 1880, 27 January 1881, 30 June and 2 November 1882, 17 June 1884, 21 February 1888); at one time or another he worked on Robert Streeter's Landscape (new stretcher), the attributed Bourgeois, Called Noel Desenfans on horseback (stretcher stamped: W. Morrill/ Liner) and Bourgeois' Self-portrait (lined 1873, stretcher stamped as preceding item) (Ingamells 2008 pp. 85, 103, 195, see also pp.34, 62). In 1871, William Dyer (qv, 1821-96) lined Gainsborough’s Samuel Linley and Thomas Linley (Ingamells 2008 pp.132, 136). In 1874, John Reeve (qv, c.1831-96), surface cleaned and varnished Bourgeois’s Seashore and in 1879 on the advice of Frederic Leighton he treated Herman Saftleven’s View on the Rhine for £10.10s (Board minutes, 8 July and 14 October 1879, 26 February 1880). Reeve’s successors continued to undertake work on the Dulwich collection (see below).
From 1886 Thomas Francis Hodgkins, by now almost eighty, shared his post with his son. His own role was reduced to that of assistant, allowing his son, also Thomas, to be named as Chief Custodian in 1886 and then as Curator following his father’s death in 1903 (Board minutes, 15 June 1886, 1903 p.31). From 1890 Charles Andrew New (1859-1938) acted as Gallery porter.
The early 20th century: In 1908 the newspaper proprietor and collector, Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928), was appointed Gallery chairman and took a very active role in its curatorial affairs. When Thomas Hodgkins junr died in 1909, Thompson chose to add another porter to the staff, rather than promote New as curator, and turned instead to the Academician member of his committee, Walter William Ouless, arranging for him to ‘periodically visit the Gallery to inspect the Pictures… with a view to advising the Committee whenever a picture required attention from an expert’ (Picture Gallery committee minutes, 20 December 1909); Ouless remained on the committee until his death in 1933.
Through Thompson Dulwich received a major gift of British paintings from the artist, collector and dealer Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919) in 1911. Perhaps this gift was a spur to action. In the years before the First World War and up to 1915, considerable restoration work on the Dulwich collection was undertaken by William Holder & Sons (qv), a business led by William Addison Holder (1883-1947). Work included treating Veronese’s St Jerome and a Donor and lining Gainsborough's Thomas Linley the elder, Richard Wilson's View of Tivoli and John Opie's Self-portrait in 1911, lining and cleaning P.J. de Loutherbourg's Landscape with Cattle and Figures in 1911, and lining John Greenhill's William Cartwright and his James II as Duke of York in 1914 (Waterfield 1995 p.27; Ingamells 2008 pp. 22, 46, 50, 54, 63, 94, 112-13, 116, 122, 127, 130, 163, 168, 172, 189-90; see also DPG, box C2).
For a period during the First World War, some of the finest pictures in the collection were stored in the basement of the Royal Academy, leading to a spoof petition, printed early in 1917: ‘The Humble Petition of Eleven Old Masters now languishing in the basement of a house in Piccadilly… We long for the sunshine of Dulwich. Moreover the company, with some exceptions, is not altogether quite such as we have been accustomed to… Hoping for a compassionate consideration of the subject… Signed by Rembrandt. Velasquez. A. Watteau. J. Reynolds. Thomas Gainsborough. And some others.’ (example, DCA, ‘Dulwich Gallery Notes 1916’). The petition was granted and the pictures returned to Dulwich but behind this episode lay a debate about how best to protect pictures during wartime (see DCA, ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’, containing notes made by Yates Thompson).
Work was needed on the collection after the war, although there was a shortage of funds. In 1921 Walter William Ouless was authorised to spend up to £50 on the pictures most urgently in need of attention (Picture Gallery committee, 3 December 1921). As a result, H. Reeve & Son (qv) worked for the Gallery, 1921-31, lining Bourgeois’s Seashore (1922), treating George Romney's William Hayley (1923), cleaning Joshua Reynolds’s Recovery from Sickness and John Wood’s Thomas Stothard (1923), lining, cleaning and repairing Zuccarelli’s Landscape with a Waterfall (1923) and relining and filling holes in Charles I after Van Dyck (1931) (Ingamells 2008 pp. 60, 97, 116, 181; information from John Ingamells; DPG, box C2, conservation files, ‘Summary list of expenditure 1913-26’).
In the mid-1930s attention focused on the treatment of frames, panels and stretchers affected by woodworm, a problem which was the subject of a letter from the Gallery’s then chairman, Sir Evan Spicer, to The Times (15 January 1935). As Keeper, Charles Andrew New reported that paraffin oil had traditionally been used as a remedy for furniture beetle (DPG, box C2/50-53). As to the pictures, he also reported in October 1934 that it had been the practice for the previous 44 years, that is throughout his time at the Gallery, to use a preparation of mastic varnish, linseed oil and turpentine, applied to pictures with a piece of ordinary lint, a 'reviver' which he said had been quite approved of by 'Mr Holder (senior)', presumably during the years Holder was working at the Gallery from 1911. New retired at the age of 78 in September 1938 and died later the same year (DPG, Picture Gallery committee minutes, 1930-39).
The Second World War and its aftermath: The outbreak of the Second World War put a stop to plans for Horace Buttery (qv, 1902-62) to clean Joshua Reynolds’s Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse (DPG, ‘Conservation files, 1926-40’; for informative correspondence, see ‘Buttery’ in this online resource). On the return of the collection from storage in Wales during the war, it was noted that of the 367 pictures sent away, 334 needed treatment (Piggott 2008 p.285). Many were blistered and required immediate attention, but all the pictures needed some treatment and only 24 were considered worthy of exhibition (Board minutes, 27 July 1945, information from John Ingamells). Sir Gerald Kelly, President of the Royal Academy from 1949, examined the collection and recommended entrusting its care to Dr Johannes Hell (qv, 1897-1974), a German refugee who had come to London in 1937, whom Kelly described as ‘the best cleaner in England’ (DPG, typescript report to College Governors, 9 December 1947). This was at a time when the Picture Gallery did not have a curator and Kelly was very closely involved, really acting as curator from a distance and describing himself as ‘Honorary Surveyor’ (DPG, ‘Conservation file, 1950-‘).
Kelly told the governors, ‘I have made for you so good a bargain with Dr. Hell that it does not surprise me that you do not recognise how good it is. Do you recognise why I was able to get Dr. Hell so cheaply? Knowing that he missed the association with a permanent gallery that he so much enjoyed in Berlin at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, I offered to give him the post of cleaner to the Gallery, and to allow no-one else to clean for us, if he would accept a fee which you could afford to pay.’
Hell was paid £500 a year for two days a week, soon rising to £750 for three days, plus expenses of £100 (DPG, ‘Conservation file, WWII-1949’, copy letters of appointment, 2 August and 29 October 1945). Hell was assisted by the young John Brealey (qv, 1925-2002), 1947-51. Hell produced an initial report on his activities, probably in 1946, recording his visits to see pictures in store including emergency treatment, conservation work on several pictures including consultation with relevant experts, photographic documentation and his assessment of the conservation history of the collection and the way forward (DPG, ‘Dr Johann Hell and the Dulwich Picture Gallery’, dossier produced by his widow, c.2006, item 10).
Hell worked for Dulwich from 1945 to 1970, though he left little formal record of his work, restoring many old masters, including David Teniers’ A Castle and its Proprietors, Murillo’s Madonna of the Rosary and Veronese’s St Jerome and a Donor, 1948-53 (see Waterfield 1995 pp.27, 39, 42). He also restored many of the English pictures (see Ingamells 2008). His treatment of the collection and his scrupulous regard for works of art was praised in the Burlington Magazine when the Gallery re-opened in 1953 (editorial, vol.95, p.229). Perhaps the most detailed account of his work comes in Kelly’s illustrated report on ten of the most important pictures (Illustrated London News, 25 April 1953, pp.664-5). In 1962 a visit by restorers who were members of the Association of British Picture Restorers, led to the comment that the pictures had been ‘with one or two exceptions, nicely restored’ (ABPR, minute book, 6 June 1962).
The later 20th century: The period since 1950 is not the main focus of this history. However, it is worth noting that conservation has formed an important part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s work. In 1952, as part of post-war rebuilding, an air circulation system was installed to improve atmospheric conditions.
After Johannes Hell’s retirement, his pupil John Brealey undertook limited conservation work on the collection before moving to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1975. In 1978, the conservation department of the National Maritime Museum, headed by Westby Percival-Prescott until 1983 and then by Gillian Lewis, was asked to provide advice on the collection and, as a result, improvements were made in collections care and a number of paintings were restored by the Maritime Museum in the years to 1986, when the relationship came to an end (DPG, box C3/4-17). Dulwich then turned initially to the agency, AMSSEE (Area Museums Service for South-East England, staffed by Deidre Mulley and others), which produced a report, 30 September 1986, on work undertaken.
During the directorship of Giles Waterfield, 1979-96, a concerted effort was made to put care of the collection at the heart of the Gallery’s work. A conservation appeal in 1988 allowed for a new air-conditioning system, while support from the Getty Grant Program enabled a survey of the collection to be carried out in 1989-90 by Patrick Lindsay (qv, 1933-2012), monitored by Gillian Lewis and Martin Wyld, chief restorer at the National Gallery (DPG, box C3). Lindsay’s report formed the basis for the Gallery’s conservation policy. Sophie Plender was appointed as consultant conservator in 1989, a position she still holds, with Nicole Ryder (Sophie Plender, ‘Memories of Paintings, Paint and People’, The Picture Restorer, no.38, 2011, pp.19-20; interview, The Picture Restorer, no.45, 2014, pp.6-9). The Getty Grant Program provided further support for picture conservation until 1994. In 1995 Giles Waterfield focused wider public attention on conservation at Dulwich by mounting an exhibition of recently restored paintings with a detailed historical essay, to which this account is indebted.
Various conservators have worked on the collection in recent years: John Bull and Katharine Reid (1971), John Brealey (1974-5), Eva Friedrich (1976-8), AMSSEE (1986-94), Herbert Lank (1988, 1993, 1995), Simon Bobak (1988, 1995), Sophie Plender (from 1989), Nicole Ryder (from 1991), Hamilton Kerr Institute (1994-6), Courtauld Institute of Art (1994-2001), Tony Reeve (1997/8) and, on a Designated Challenge Fund for Dulwich, Andrea Gall, Isabel Horowitz, Amanda Paulley, Jennifer Richenberg and Carol Willoughby (2000-2). These details come from annual reports, published from 1991, DPG, box C2/70-80 and information from Sophie Plender. Conservation remains a priority at Dulwich.
Sources: For minutes for the years to 1857, see Dulwich College archives, ‘Private Sittings’ (examined from 1805) and the ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’ (relating specifically to the Picture Gallery); from 1857, see the printed Board minutes, generally incorporating sub-committee minutes including those of the Picture Gallery committee, as well as the notes made by Yates Thompson at the back of the ‘Bourgeois Book of Regulations’. For reports by Redgrave, Robinson and Hell, see Board minutes, and for more recent reports, see Dulwich Picture Gallery records. For financial records, for the years to 1857, see Dulwich College archives, Weekly cash books and, relating specifically to the Picture Gallery, ‘Dulwich College, 2nd Series, LXXXII Bourgeois’ Bequest 1812-1857’; from 1857, see Board minutes. Other records include a memorandum referring to the cost of picture restoration, written by Lancelot Allen, Master of Dulwich College, in 1822, printed in full in Soane and Death, ed. Giles Waterfield, Dulwich Picture Gallery, exh.cat., 1996, pp.123-5.
Printed sources include Giles Waterfield, ‘Conservation at Dulwich Picture Gallery 1811-1995’, in Conserving Old Masters: Paintings recently restored at Dulwich Picture Gallery, exh.cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery, 1995; Giles Waterfield, ‘Conservation at Dulwich Picture Gallery in the Nineteenth Century’, in Christine Sitwell and Sarah Staniforth (eds.), Studies in the History of Painting Restoration, 1998, pp.121-8; John Ingamells, Dulwich Picture Gallery: British, 2008 (supplemented by details kindly supplied by the late John Ingamells in 2005 on the work of early restorers at the Gallery). With thanks for help received from Calista Lucy at Dulwich College and Sorcha Ni Lideadha at Dulwich Picture Gallery. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.
Added December 2020
John Dunthorne, East Bergholt until 1824, London from 1824, 4 Grafton St, Fitzroy Square 1827-1828, 35 Charlotte St 1828, 31 Grafton St 1829-1832. Artist and picture restorer.
John Dunthorne the younger (1798-1832) was born at East Bergholt, Suffolk in 1798, the son of John Dunthorne the elder and his wife Hannah. He died there in November 1832. For a fuller account of his life and work, see Ian Fleming-Williams and Leslie Parris, The Discovery of Constable, 1984, pp.195-204; see also https://suffolkartists.co.uk.
Both father and son knew and worked with John Constable. Dunthorne the younger came to London in 1824 and acted as Constable’s studio assistant. He was a landscape artist in his own right, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the British Institution, 1827-32, before his early death in 1832.
Dunthorne’s work as a picture restorer was featured in 1829 in the magazine, London Literary Gazette (see Sources below), in particular his restoration of Joshua Reynolds’ triple portrait, Henry Fane, Inigo Jones and Charles Blair (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, see Katharine Baetjer, British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875, 2010, p.68). According to the article, it was Sir Thomas Lawrence who recommended that Dunthorne should treat the painting. He was said to have devoted much of his time to the ‘recovery of old pictures’.
Sources: London Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres, no.657, 22 August 1829, p.554.
Added March 2019
Robert Dunthorne in Liverpool by 1885, Dunthorne & Brown 1897-1901, Robert Dunthorne 1901-1921, Robert Dunthorne & Son by 1921. At 36 Castle Street, Liverpool 1884-1885, The Rembrandt Gallery, 28 Castle St, Liverpool 1886-1924, also at 30 Castle St 1894-1900, perhaps for longer. Print dealers and publishers, picture dealers and restorers.
Robert Dunthorne (1850-1925) initially traded in partnership with William Robert Deighton as Deighton & Dunthorne, dealers in furniture and fine art publishers at 320 High Holborn and at the Cabinet of Fine Arts, Vigo St, London until subject to liquidation proceedings in 1879 (London Gazette 1 July 1879). Dunthorne then set up as a print dealer at 5 Vigo St where he was trading by 1884 if not before. He married Jessie Walker in 1881 and they had six children. He can be traced in successive censuses as a print publisher from 1881 to 1911, in 1881 at 42 Castle St East, Marylebone, and in later censuses at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in 1901 also as a picture dealer. Dunthorne died in 1925, leaving effects worth £40,630. When Charles Holmes at the National Portrait Gallery asked for information in 1913 about the two John Dunthornes who were friends of Constable, Robert Dunthorne told him that his ancestors were of the Norfolk branch of the family (National Portrait Gallery archive, NPG 104/4/3).
Dunthorne & Brown, at the Rembrandt Gallery in Castle St, Liverpool, was the Liverpool arm of Robert Dunthorne’s London business. It remains to be established what brought Dunthorne to Liverpool in the first place but he was there by 1884 when it was reported that he had opened a new gallery at 36 Castle St (Liverpool Mercury 21 May 1884). His activities as a print dealer and publisher in London are not traced here, beyond noting that the business continued for many years, trading as Robert Dunthorne & Son from 1921 and then as Robert Dunthorne & Son Ltd until wound up in 1937 (London Gazette 21 December 1937). For more information see the British Museum collections site. For Dunthorne’s dealings with Whistler from the late 1880s, see The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler: Dunthorne .
Dunthorne’s trade card from the Cabinet of Fine Arts, 36a Castle St, Liverpool, describing him as a Publisher of Etchings and Dealer in Prints and Drawings, must date from the mid-1880s (British Museum, Banks, 100.49). He published an etching in 1885, Marlow Ferry, by Robert W. Macbeth after F. Walker, from 5 Vigo St, London, and 36A Castle Street, Liverpool (The Orchar Collection, St Andrew's University). Dunthorne’s new gallery at 28 Castle St opened in 1886 (Liverpool Mercury 27 May 1886). He can be found in the 1889-90 Liverpool electoral register with a shop at 28 Castle St, while residing at 19 Rocky Lane, West Derby, Liverpool. His premises in Castle St were again described as his new gallery in 1895 when named as the Rembrandt Gallery (Liverpool Mercury 2 November 1895).
In 1894 A. Randolph Brown was listed in Kelly’s Directory of Liverpool and Birkenhead under the address Robert Dunthorne, print publisher, 28 & 30 Castle St. He presumably became a partner in the business when its name was changed to Dunthorne & Brown in 1897. He can be identified with Adam Randolph Brown (1865-1901), son of the Scottish landscape painter, William Beattie Brown. He was listed in the 1891 census as a picture dealer, born Edinburgh, residing as a boarder at Toxteth Park, Liverpool. He died in Liverpool in June 1901. Dunthorne continued to trade in Liverpool until about 1924.
The Dunthorne business as picture restorers: Dunthorne & Brown advertised from the Rembrandt Gallery in Castle St, Liverpool, that they restored paintings, prints and drawings (Chester Courant 25 August 1897, 22 August 1900, 13 March 1901, Welsh Newspapers Online, National Library Wales).
Dunthorne & Brown treated six paintings from the collection of the Liverpool Royal Institution in 1897, apparently including The Flight of Cloelia, now in the Walker Art Gallery and now attributed to Betholet Flemal (Liverpool Royal Institution, Annual Report, 1897/8, p.6). Dunthorne & Brown also treated George Romney’s eighteen large Cupid and Psyche cartoons, which proved to be particularly troublesome for the Institution. They were worked on in 1898, 1903-5 and 1913-14, according to successive annual reports. In 1898 the cartoons were cleaned, relined and restored by Dunthorne & Brown (Annual Report, 1898/9, p.8). Robert Dunthorne was instructed to put further cleaning and restoration work in hand in 1912/13, work which took time to complete because the unidentified restorer working for Dunthorne could only take two cartoons at a time; the cost totalled some £217 (Annual Reports, 1912/13-1914/15).
Frederick Augustus Dyer (1876-1948?), youngest son of William Dyer, was listed as a picture restorer in the 1901 and 1911 censuses (see William Dyer below). He set up independently in King St in or before 1924, with F. Dyer and L. Dyer (presumably Lawrence Dyer, his son) as partners. In 1935 and 1936 the business was trading from neighbouring Bury St with only F. Dyer as a partner.
Updated September 2018
William Dyer 1866-1891, William Dyer & Sons 1892-1941. At 77 Stanhope St, Hampstead Road, London 1866-1867, 209 Stanhope St 1868-1886, 11 Blenheim St, New Bond St 1871-1872, 4a Orchard St, Portman Square 1873-1886, 8 Orchard St 1885-1892, 7 Mount St 1893-1926, 30 Grosvenor Place 1927-1941. Picture restorers, later also art dealers.
William Dyer (1822-96) claimed to have worked for 20 years with the picture dealer and restorer Henry Farrrer (qv), according to his business card. He set up independently at Farrer’s death in 1866 although his sons much later claimed that the business had been established in 1857 (National Portrait Gallery records, RP 1913, invoice, 23 March 1928). He was described by the collector, W.G. Rawlinson, writing to Whistler in 1888, as ‘the renowned picture doctor in Orchard St’ (see Sources below).
William Dyer appears to have been born in 1822 and christened the following year at St Marylebone, the son of William and Mary Dyer. He was described as an artist in the 1841 census when living with his parents in Buckingham Place, Marylebone, the eldest of four children. As William Dyer, artist, of 17 Buckingham Place, the son of William Dyer, picture dealer, he married Margarette Johnson in May 1844 at St George Bloomsbury.
Dyer can be traced in subsequent censuses, in 1851 at 12 St James’s Place, Somers Town, as a painter restorer with his first wife Margaret, in 1871 and 1881 at 209 Stanhope St as a picture restorer and dealer in works of art, born Marylebone, with his second wife Emma, in 1881 with nine children, including William Henry, age 18, and Arthur Edward, age 16, described as picture restorers, in 1891 at 99 Camden Road as a cleaner and repairer of pictures, with five children, including Albert Charles, age 20, and Alfred Ernest, age 18, listed as picture restorers. He died in August 1896 at the age of 74 (The Times 27 August 1896). Probate in his estate was granted in November that year to two of his sons, Arthur Edward and Alfred Ernest, with effects valued at £7,969, subsequently revised upwards to £8,515 (information from Lorne Campbell).
From 1892, the business was carried on as William Dyer & Sons. Five of William Dyer’s sons became picture restorers, as Lorne Campbell has observed: William Henry (1863-1883?), Arthur Edward (1865-1942?), Albert Charles (1870-1891?), Alfred Ernest (1872-1941) and Frederick Augustus (1876-1948?). In the 1901 census, Arthur Edward, Alfred Ernest and Frederick Augustus were listed as restorers. They were again listed as picture restorers in 1911: Arthur Edward was living in Croydon, an employer, with wife Emma and son, Arthur Thomas, an assistant picture restorer, age 25; Alfred Ernest, was also in Croydon, a picture restorer and employer, with wife Emma, and two sons, Alfred Leslie, age 13, and Roy Stanley, age 5; while Frederick Augustus was living in Tufnell Park, a worker, with wife Jessie and three children of whom Lawrence was recorded as age 6.
William Dyer’s brother, Charles Dyer (1837-1901), was also a picture restorer, and was so described in successive censuses from 1851 to 1901, when he was recorded with his 28-year-old son, Charles Walter Dyer (1872-1924), also a picture restorer.
Restoration work: At the National Gallery, according to his obituary notice in 1896, Dyer had had charge of the pictures for the previous 15 years. He was recommended by the artist and occasional picture restorer, George Richmond (qv), and was working for the Gallery as early as 1878, being paid £24.7s in January 1879 for restoring pictures (National Gallery archive, NGA1/10/169, NG6/5/442, NG13/1/5). Among other pictures, he cleaned and restored Sebastiano del Piombo’s Raising of Lazarus for £100 in 1881 (NG13/1/6; The Times 27 August 1896), Parmigiano’s Vision of St Jerome for £35 in 1883-4 (An Exhibition of Cleaned Pictures (1936-1947), exh.cat., National Gallery, 1947, pp.55-6), three Flemish 16th-century panels, 1887 (Campbell 2014 p.234, 520, 562) and Holbein’s Ambassadors for £150 in 1891 (Martin Wyld, ‘The Restoration History of Holbein’s Ambassadors’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol.19, 1998, p.9). Clearly, the National Gallery had continuing confidence in William Dyer’s sons since in 1903 Sir Edward Poynter, then the Gallery’s director, told a collector that rather than Buttery (qv), ‘in a very difficult case’ he would employ Dyer, who ‘has the lighter hand’ (Penny 2004 p.xv). Subsequently, before its acquisition by the National Gallery, Dyer cleaned and restored Titian's Vendramin Family in 1928, when Morrill (qv) relined the picture (Penny 2008 p.210).
It is not surprising that when in about 1885 Lady Eastlake took advice on her late husband, Sir Charles Eastlake’s pictures from her nephew, Charles Eastlake junr, keeper at the National Gallery, she should turn to ‘Dyer’, presumably William Dyer, to carry out the work (Susanna Avery-Quash, ‘”A gallery of Art”: Fresh light on the collection of Sir Charles Eastlake’, British Art Journal, XIV, no.3, 2015, p.20).
The business worked for the National Portrait Gallery between 1889 and 1894. It cleaned and repaired John Partridge’s Earl of Aberdeen for £10.10s in 1894, a picture already lined by William Morrill, and cleaned John Everett Millais's Wilkie Collins for £1.10s the same year (National Portrait Gallery records, Duplicates of Accounts, vol.3, pp.13, 75). The business worked for the Gallery again in 1928 (Duplicates of Accounts, vol.9, p.99).
At Sir John Soane’s Museum, William Dyer was asked to report on the pictures in 1882 (Dorey 1997 p.31 n.53). His subsequent work on the collection followed on that of John Seguier (qv) in the 1840s and William Barber Smart (qv) in the 1860s. Dyer’s work, ‘cleaning etc’, may relate to surface cleaning, particularly necessary in the dirty London atmosphere of the 19th century. He treated the following paintings (all Sir John Soane’s Museum, information from Hilary Floe and Helen Dorey, 2008): William Beechey’s Sir Francis Bourgeois, Francis Bourgeois’s A Hen defending her Chickens from the Attack of a Cat, A.W. Callcott’s The Passage Point and his The River Thames below Greenwich, Canaletto’s A View in Venice: The Piazza di San Marco, Hogarth’s two series, The Rake’s Progress, and The Election (relined and probably cleaned, and ‘Covered with oil varnish’, cost£60), Henry Howard’s Lear and Cordelia (relined and repaired), George Jones’s The Smoking Room at Chelsea Hospital, Samuel Scott’s The River Thames, near the Tower of London, James Thornhill’s Sketch for the Ceiling of the Queen’s State Bedchamber at Hampton Court, and Zucherelli’s A Landscape. The same year, 1882, Dyer also charged for remounting and providing new frames for two watercolours by J.M.W. Turner, View in the Vale of Chamouni, Piedmont: St Hugo denouncing Vengeance on the Shepherd of Cormayeur, and View of Kirkstall Abbey (in fact it was not given a new frame). In 1885 he cleaned the copy on copper of Fra Bartolomeo’s Virgin and Child with Saints, and Joshua Reynolds’s The Snake in the Grass. Subsequently the Dyer business relined, following damage, Luigi Mayer’s View of an Ancient Temple of Agrigentum in 1905, and repaired William Beechey’s Sir Francis Bourgeois in1910.
For Dulwich College in 1871, Dyer lined Thomas Gainsborough’s Samuel Linley and Thomas Linley (Dulwich Picture Gallery, see Ingamells 2008 pp.132, 136). At the Fitzwilliam Museum, he cleaned a painting of St Sebastian for £21.18s in 1886, presumably the large panel now attributed to Master Tommaso, given to the museum in 1885 (Fitzwilliam Museum Library, accounts ledger, stock no.960692).
For Oxford Dyer inspected the old Ashmolean Museum collection and undertook cleaning work, receiving a payment of £8.12s.6d in 1885. Later in about 1890 he relined, cleaned and varnished three Tradescant pictures, including the copy after Van Dyck, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as a boy, and portraits by unknown artists of Edward, Earl of Manchester and Elizabeth Woodville (see Ashmolean Museum). At the recommendation of Charles Locke Eastlake, keeper at the National Gallery, Dyer was selected to treat eight pictures in the University Galleries in 1889, including Bronzino’s Giovanni de Medici, Agnolo di Domenico’s SS Bartholomew and Julian and the Florentine Baccio Orlandino (Ashmolean Museum, AMS 41, pp.95-7, 118, 121).
For George Frederic Watts, William Dyer undertook work, 1893-4, 1903, varnishing pictures, providing advice and, in 1894, working on portraits of Dean Stanley and Mrs Ellice (National Portrait Gallery archive, GFW/1/8/69-70, GFW/1/9/19).
For the Duke of Norfolk, W. Dyer & Sons cleaned and lined Le Nain’s Adoration of the Shepherds in 1904 or 1907 (National Gallery, see Wine 2001 p.206). Dyer cleaned Gainsborough's Going to Market for Lord Iveagh in 1926 (Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, see Bryant 2003 p.198). The business was employed at the Foundling Hospital to clean various pictures, 1928-37, receiving more than £427 over this ten-year period (London Metropolitan Archives, A/FH/B/03/028/002-003).
Sources: Biographical information kindly supplied by Lorne Campbell relating to William Dyer and his children. Business card (example in National Portrait Gallery records, NPG7/1/2/3/5). For Whistler, see The Correspondence of James Mcneill Whistler at www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography
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