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British picture restorers, 1600-1950 - R

An online resource, launched in 2009, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2021. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].

Introduction Resources and bibliography

[RI] [RO] [RU]

*Henry Rawling, 22 Etruria St, Stockport Road, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester 1911-1923, 70 Birch Lane, Longsight 1924-1925. Picture restorer and print cleaner.

Henry Alfred Rawling (1854-1925) worked initially for Grundy & Smith, the Manchester printsellers and framers (see British picture framemakers on this website). He was born in Manchester in 1854. In censuses, he was recorded in 1881 at the age of 26 as a traveller in the art department, in 1891 as an art repository assistant, in 1901 as an assistant art dealer (pictures), and a worker (i.e. an employee) and in 1911 at 22 Etruria St as a picture restorer working at art dealers, a widower, age 57. Shortly before Grundy & Smith closed down in 1912, Rawling seems to have set up business on his own account, in his late fifties. He died in 1925, age given as 73, at 79 Birch Lane, Longsight, leaving effects worth just £66.

Rawling used his trade label to advertise his services at length, claiming to have been with the late Messrs Grundy & Smith for over 35 years, and offering his services in the following terms: ‘Expert picture restorer and liner. Valuable old mezzotint engravings. Fine line and etchings cleaned and re-fitted. All work done personally on your own premises if desired and where practical. Hanging, arranging and alterations in collections of pictures, water colour drawings and engravings’.

This label is found on the stretcher of Charles Lock Eastlake’s Christ blessing Little Children, and in fragmentary form on William Etty’s Andromeda and Perseus (both Manchester Art Gallery, acquired 1886, 1894, respectively). It would seem that Manchester Art Gallery used Rawling to treat pictures in its collection at some time between 1911 and 1925. Elsewhere he worked on Frederick Richard Pickersgill’s The Syrens, which bears a rather simpler label:Henry A Rawling, picture restorer (Bournemouth, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, see Bills 1999 p.72).

Updated September 2018, March 2020
Ian Rawlins (1895-1969). Conservation scientist and Scientific Adviser to the National Gallery, 1934-60.

Outside the scope of this online resource, but see profile, New Scientist, vol.6, no.148, 17 September 1959, pp.456-7, and the short obituary by Norman Bromelle in IIC News, vol.5, no.4, 1969, p.16. For his philosophical interests, see Hero Boothroyd Brooks, 'The measurement of art in the essays of F.I.G. Rawlins', IIC Bulletin, no.2, 2000, pp.1-3.

Added March 2018
Wharton Ray, parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields, London 1749, parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields 1750, Long Acre 1751-1752, parish of St Paul Covent Garden 1753, parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields 1757-1758, parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields 1760-1765, Duke St, St Giles-in-the-Fields 1767-1768. Picture restorer.

Wharton Ray (?1721-1769?) was active in London from at least 1750 until 1758 or later. He is possibly to be identified with the Wharton Rea christened in Cockermouth in 1721, the son of George Rea (IGI). By his wife Sarah he had at least nine children, christened in three central London parishes: St Giles-in-the-Fields, Penelope Keturah in 1749; St Martin-in-the-Fields, Thomas in 1750; St Paul Covent Garden, Jane in 1753; St Martin-in-the-Fields again, Sarah Ann in 1757 and John in 1758; and St Giles-in-the-Fields again, Lydia in 1760, Esther in 1762, Hannah in 1763 and James in 1765. He was admitted to Bethem Hospital in February 1767 and discharged in December described as sick and weak. He was dead by June 1769 when probate was granted on his estate at the Consistory Court of London.

Ray cleaned pictures for the Charterhouse, London, in 1754, including ‘cleaning and lineing six whole length Pictures of K. Charles ye 2nd, Duke of Monmouth, Duke of Buckingham, Duke of Shrewsbury, Lord Craven and Archbishop Sheldon’ for £9.9s, as well as extensive further cleaning and lining work on smaller pictures, totalling £18.2s (Charterhouse records, information from Ibby Lanfear).

Arthur Rayner, 35-36Chenies Mews, Bedford Square, London WC 1873-1875, 32 Francis St, Tottenham Court Road 1874-1877, 26 Francis St 1878-1892, 121 Lewisham High Road. Artists’ colourman, subsequently picture dealer and restorer.

For Arthur Rayner (c.1847-1920), see British artists' suppliers on this website.

*Robert Cooper Ready (1811-1901). Antiquities restorer at the British Museum.

Robert Cooper Ready and his sons lie outside the scope of this online resource, but see under the British Museum (forthcoming) and the Ashmolean Museum. See also E.A. Wallis Budge, The Rise & Progress of Assyriology, 1925, pp.149-54, and Marjorie Caygill, ‘An Enduring Legacy’, British Museum Magazine, no.51, 2005, p.55.

Updated March 2020
Stephen Rees Jones (1909-96). Research assistant, Scientific Dept, Courtauld Institute of Art, 1935-38, rejoined Courtauld Institute 1946, lecturer-in-charge, and later professor, technology dept, Courtauld Institute, 1951-76, Professor of chemistry to the Royal Academy from 1975.

Outside the scope of this online resource, but see obituaries, anonymously in The Times, 28 December 1996; by Stephen Hackney, The Picture Restorer, no.11, spring 1997, p.35, reprinted from The Independent, 12 February 1997; and by Caroline Villiers, Burlington Magazine, 1997, p.476. See also the account of his life by his son, also Stephen Rees Jones, IIC Bulletin, no.1, 1997, pp.1-2.

Updated March 2018, December 2020
John Reeve 1868-1899, John & Harry Reeve 1900-1919, Reeve & Davis 1920-1928, Edward Davis 1929-1930, Mrs Edward Davis 1931-1933. At 77 Cleveland St, Fitzroy Square, London 1868-1933. Carpenter until 1869, picture liner from 1870, subsequently picture restorers. Harry Reeve 1920-1937, Harry Reeve & Son 1946-1967, 101 Jermyn St 1920-1937, 178 New Bond St 1946-1967. Picture restorers.

The Reeve family business has traded over four generations. It claimed to have been established in 1850, presumably when the founder Jonathan Reeve began working.

Jonathan Reeve: Jonathan Reeve (c.1831-1896), or John Reeve as he was generally known by 1868, was the son of John Reeve (1803-82), a soldier from Norfolk. From 1851 until 1869, Reeve was usually described as a carpenter or joiner, and it was as a carpenter that he was first listed in London directories in 1868. On his marriage certificate in 1854, and in London directories from 1870 he was described as a picture liner and from 1877 as a picture restorer. At some point between 1859 and 1877 he was employed by Henry Merritt (qv) to polish pictures at the National Portrait Gallery (see below). He may not have set up in business independently until 1868 when listed in the London directory.

In 1854, Jonathan Reeve married Ellen McClellan Avery in the St George Southwark district; on the marriage certificate, they were both given as living at White St, City of London (information from Anthony Reeve). In censuses he was listed as Jonathan until 1861 and as John from 1871: in 1851 as ‘Jonathan Reeves’, age 20, living at his father’s house at 11 Granby St, Waterloo Road as a carpenter (information from Anthony Reeve), in 1861 at 67 John St, St Pancras as a joiner, age 29, born St Clement Dane, with wife Ellen and two young children, in 1871 at 77 Cleveland St as a picture liner, age 39, with wife Ellen and three daughters, in 1881 as a picture liner, born City of London, employing three men, with wife Ellen, four daughters and two sons, John G., age 8, and Henry M., age 6, and in 1891 as a fine art restorer, with two daughters and two sons, John G., age 19, and Harry M., age 17. Jonathan Reeve died at 77 Cleveland St in 1896 at the age of 65 (recorded as John in the death registrations for the Marylebone district), leaving effects worth £1699.

John Reeve worked for the National Portrait Gallery, 1878-85. He approached the Gallery on 25 July 1877, following the death of Henry Merritt (qv) and the dismissal of Manfred Holyoake (qv), stating that he had polished pictures at the Gallery during Merritt’s lifetime, and offering his services at the same rate (National Portrait Gallery records, Duplicates of Estimates, p.18). His work for the Gallery, included lining Benjamin Robert Haydon’s large Anti-Slavery Society Convention for £20 in 1880 and transferring from panel, lining and putting in order Mary, Queen of Scots, after Nicholas Hilliard for £4.10s in 1881 (National Portrait Gallery records, Duplicates of Accounts, vols 1 and 2). In a letter dated 28 March 1878, Reeve explained, 'I must decline to do work at the Gallery such as Lining & Joiners Panel Work as my Business at home would be at a standstill by the removal of my plant' (Duplicates of Estimates, p.18).

Reeve worked on a picture, Venus and Mars, for the National Gallery in 1878, possibly the panel by Sandro Botticelli purchased in 1874 (National Gallery archive, NG6/5/488, see also NG13/1/5 for a payment of £5 in 1879 for lining a picture). He treated some paintings for Dulwich Picture Gallery, including surface cleaning Francis Bourgeois’s Seashore in 1874 and restoring a work by Saftleven in 1879. His successors continued to undertake work for Dulwich (see below).

In 1882 and 1883 Reeve lined Holman Hunt’s The Triumph of the Innocents (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, see Bronkhurst, vol.1, p.239 and Bennett 1988 p.90). Reeve and the next generation of the family, see below, undertook work on several works by Hunt and evidently had a connection with the artist. Reeve undertook work for Lord Darnley at Cobham Hall, Kent, in 1881 (National Portrait Gallery, Trustees’ meeting correspondence, meeting of 27 October 1881, letter from Joseph Smith to George Scharf, 20 September 1881).

The second generation: Jonathan Reeve died in 1896 but the business was not listed as a partnership between his sons until 1900. John George McC Reeve (1872-1928) traded with his brother, Harry Morgan McC Reeve (1875-1961) as John & Harry Reeve at 77 Cleveland St. John Reeve married Ellen Wood in 1897 in the Marylebone district. In censuses, in 1901 John George Reeve was living on the business’s premises, 77 Cleveland St, a fine art restorer, age 28, with wife Ellen and son, John Francis, age 1, and in 1911 in South Tottenham, a picture restorer and employer, with wife and two sons, John Francis, age 11, and Eric Stanley, age 3. He died in 1928, leaving effects worth £875.

His brother Harry was living in 1901 at 29 Chalcot Crescent, Regent’s Park, a picture restorer, age 26, recorded as working at home, with his wife Susan, age 24. His address was given as 30 Chalcot Crescent on the birth certificate of one of his children. In the 1911 census, Harry Reeve was listed at 77 Callcott Road, Kilburn, as a picture restorer, with wife Susan and sons Harry, age 7, and Reginald, age 3. He died in Norfolk in 1961 (London Gazette 7 July 1961), leaving effects worth £15,875.

J & H. Reeve used two different styles for their stretcher labels (information from Anthony Reeve), firstly in traditional format, ‘J. & H. Reeve, Picture liners, cleaners & restorers, 77, Cleveland St, Fitzroy Square, London, W. Gold frames regilt and made to order’, and secondly with text in capitals largely contained within an artist’s palette, reading, ‘Pictures carefully lined & skilfully cleaned & restored by J & H. Reeve, 77 Cleveland Street, Fitzroy Square, London W. Estd. 1850. Estimates free’, and around the palette, ‘Collections kept in order by yearly attention’ (example found on Thomas Phillips’s David Ricardo, on loan to National Portrait Gallery). Their label, dating to 1902, can be found on the structure of Robert Peake's Henry, Prince of Wales on Horseback (Mrs P.A. Tritton, see The Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin, no.1, 1988, p.22, n.11) and, from their label, they also cleaned and restored John Wootton’s Lady Mary Churchill at the Death of the Hare (Tate, information from Joyce Townsend). For one type of label, see illustration in British restorers, liners and mounters marks on this website.

In 1906 ‘Mr Reeve’ lined Hunt’s The Miracle of Sacred Fire in the Church of the Sepulchre (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, see Bronkhurst, vol.1, p.275), with label in Holman Hunt’s secretary’s hand, ‘The picture was relined by Mr Reeve May 1906 Varnished with amber varnish diluted with rectified Turpentine. Henceforth (not less than 30 years) let another coat of the same be used if necessary. The picture should always be under glass & pasted in behind by direction of W. Holman Hunt’.

Hunt’s The Light of the World (St Paul’s Cathedral) was repaired by Harry Reeve following a hammer attack by a soldier during the First World War (press cutting, unidentified newspaper, information from Anthony Reeve), continuing the family’s connection with Hunt, which went back to the early 1880s (see above). In January 1924, Edith Holman Hunt, the artist’s widow, wrote to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, asking that paintings be framed ‘by no one other than Mr. Reeve, in whom [Hunt] had total confidence’ (quoted by Melissa Katz, letter to Anthony Reeve, 20 April 1994).

The partnership between John and Harry Reeve broke up by 1919. The older brother, John George Reeve, went on to trade with Edward Davis as Reeve & Davis, picture restorers, at 77 Cleveland St from 1920 until he died in 1929. Davis is probably identifiable with Edward / Edwin Robert Davis (qv), lining and stretching frame maker. The business was continued by Davis until 1929 and by his wife until 1933, and was eventually followed by H. Williamson & H. Harrison (qv). John George Reeve’s son, John Francis Reeve (1899-1969), also traded as a picture restorer (information from Anthony Reeve, quoting his father, Reginald McClellan Reeve). He regularly undertook work for Ackermann’s, in particular cleaning Abraham Mouchet’s Rudolph Ackermann (now National Portrait Gallery) (information from David Fuller, a former director of the business, August 2018).

The younger brother, Harry Reeve, was employed in a shell factory and aeroplane works during the latter part of World War One. It then took him some time to recover business as a picture restorer, according to his own testimony (Brett 1998 p.8). He may initially have worked from home before setting up studio at 101 Jermyn St in 1920, where he was joined by his son, Reginald McClellan Reeve, in 1924 (information from Anthony Reeve). He held an appointment as picture restorer to the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1921.

In a two-page business card (information from Anthony Reeve; example at Dulwich Picture Gallery, box C2), H. Reeve & Son, ‘Picture Restorers To the Royal Institution of Great Britain’, advertised from their studio at 101 Jermyn St (and therefore dating to c.1924-37), giving the restoration of old Dutch, Italian, English and Primitive schools as a speciality, offering estimates for restoring old and modern works and also pastels, watercolours, engravings and miniatures, among other services. In addition, the business listed a wide range of clients. Among the titled classes, the Duke of Rutland, the Earl of Kintore, Viscountess Harcourt, Lords Allendale, Ashton of Hyde, Bathurst, Boyne, Braybrook, Cheylesmore, Fitzwilliam, Harewood, Henley, Melchett, Methuen, Wemyss and Woolavington, Lady Strathcona, Sir Andrew Agnew Bt, Sir Frederick H. Bathurst, Sir Hildred Carlile, Sir Milne Cheetham, Sir John Cotterell Bt, Sir Trevor Dawson Bt, Sir J.H. Du Boulay, Sir Dyce Duckworth Bt, Sir Chas Hamilton Bt, Sir John Kennaway Bt, Sir James S. Lockhart, Sir Gerald St John Mildmay, Sir John Prestige and Sir George Sitwell. In the church, the Bishop of Liverpool and Dean Inge. From the Armed Forces, Rear-Admiral Astley Rushton, Vice-Admiral L.G. Preston, Brig.-Gen G. Paynter, Brig.-Gen R.T. Pelley and Capt. E.W.S. Foljambe. In the London art world, the Royal Academy of Arts, Sir Arthur Cope RA, W.W. Ouless RA, Dulwich Gallery, the Mond Collection (National Gallery), the Royal College of Arts and Dr Borenius.

For the Mond collection, in 1910 the business lined Garofalo’s A Pagan Sacrifice (National Gallery), which is inscribed on the stretcher (information from Anthony Reeve). Harry Reeve lined Paul Delaroche’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps for the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 1920, but found it difficult to compete with local businesses such as Grindley & Palmer (qv) when seeking further work (Helen Brett, ‘The Conservation History of “Samson” by Solomon J. Solomon’, The Picture Restorer, no.14, 1998, p.8). The Reeve business undertook work for Dulwich Picture Gallery, lining Francis Bourgeois’s Seashore in 1922, cleaning and varnishing Joshua Reynolds’s Mother and Sick Child and John Wood’s Thomas Stothard in 1923, lining, cleaning and repairing Zuccarelli’s Landscape with a waterfall in 1923 and relining and filling holes in Charles I after van Dyck in 1931 (information from John Ingamells).

The third generation: Reginald McClellan Reeve (1908-1993) assisted his father, Harry Reeve until work became short in about 1937. He then obtained employment as a salesman before serving in the army during the Second World War. In 1946 he started up his own business, as H. Reeve & Son, in a second-floor studio of three rooms at 178 New Bond St, above Savory’s the tobacconists (information from Anthony Reeve). Full-length portraits had to go up and in through the window from Bond St. By 1967 H. Reeve & Son, with R.M. Reeve named as proprietor, was trading from 44 Nightingale Road, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, with the New Bond St address struck through (estimate provided to Clothworkers’ Company, information from Neil Price).

Country house collections and owners for which Reeve worked included Hatfield House, Ripley Castle, Skelton Castle, the Marquis of Douro (now Duke of Wellington) and the 7th Duke of Portland. Other clients included the Clothworkers’ Company, the Royal Academy, the Coldstream Guards, the Devonshire Club, the Fishmongers’ Company, the Garrick Club, Sotheby’s, Sir Alfred Munnings, John Murray the publishers and Messrs Fores Ltd the dealers.

The fourth generation: The focus in this online resource is on the period before 1950 but the following brief details are included. Reginald Reeve’s son, Anthony McClellan ‘Tony’ Reeve (1946-2016), started in 1963 as an apprentice restorer at the National Gallery in London and worked there as a conservator until he retired in 2006, carrying out cleaning, restoring, lining, panel work and gilding and, from 1977, having charge of the structural conservation of the collection. As Ackroyd identifies in his obituary (see Sources below), Reeve worked on Rubens’ large canvas, Peace and War and on his panel painting, The Watering Place, both complex constructions. He also recovered Delaroche’s large flood-damaged canvas, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey.

From 1969 he also worked evenings and weekends for his father, trading as H. Reeve & Son, until 1973 when his father retired. He has continued the business as A.M. Reeve/ H. Reeve & Son. He has worked for the National Trust, Blenheim Palace and Shugborough Hall, and in London for Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Guildhall Art Galley, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as undertaking work for other clients and restorers. He also worked for Lucian Freud, 2000-2.

Sources: Anthony Reeve kindly supplied detailed information, January 2009, concerning his family and its business as picture liners and restorers, including identifying John Reeve as having been born as Jonathan, information on various members of the family from birth and marriage certificates, information about Reginald McClellan Reeve, information about his own practice and other information as acknowledged. For an obituary, see Paul Ackroyd,
‘Tony Reeve (1946-2016)’, The Picture Restorer, no.50, 2017, p.70. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Added January 2017
Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775-1862). Artist and picture restorer.

The landscape, animal and portrait painter, Ramsay Richard Reinagle, son of the artist Philip Reinagle, exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1788. He painted John Constable’s portrait (National Portrait Gallery), probably in 1799, when both men were students at the Royal Academy. He was a leading member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and its president, 1808-12. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1814 and a full academician in 1823 but resigned following accusations that he exhibited the work of another artist under his own name in 1848. He was said to be a good copyist and would restore and ‘improve’ paintings for a picture dealer (Beckett 1966 p.214). He appears in the 1851 census, age 76, as a landscape, portrait and animal painter.

Reinagle’s work as a picture restorer is not well documented. Bishop John Fisher in a letter to Constable in 1823 quotes the auctioneer, Harry Phillips, as saying, ‘If you want a picture cleaned, I can recommend Mr Reinagle’ (Beckett 1968 p.135). Reinagle helped restore the National Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci cartoon, when it belonged to the Royal Academy (ODNB). He contacted Sir Thomas Lawrence in August 1829, saying that he would be happy to assist him and providing two different methods of washing and drying pictures (Royal Academy archives, LAW/5/363). His work as a restorer was publicly criticised in 1839 for repainting much of the background and sky in Hobbema’s Avenue at Middelharnis, probably by 1834, shortly before it entered the collection of Sir Robert Peel (now National Gallery), and for repainting works by Claude and Ruysdael (British and Foreign Review, vol.9, no.17, 1839, pp.11-12). He restored pictures for Richard Ford (Report from the Select Committee on the National Gallery, 1853, p.241).

Reinagle unsuccessfully offered his services as a restorer to the National Gallery in 1846, 1853 and 1858 (Avery-Quash 2015 p.851 n.61, see NG5/63/8, NG5/98/5, NG5/245/1). He apparently restored Giulio Romano’s Birth of Jupiter when it was in a private collection before it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1859; Sir Charles Eastlake, as director of the Gallery, did not want him to see his old restorations until they had been toned by the Gallery’s own restorer (NG5/301/3, see National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol.24, 2003, p.48).

Sources: Beckett 1966 pp.214-22.

Updated March 2020
Sir Joshua Reynolds, St Martin’s Lane (later no.104, opposite May’s Building), London 1753, Great Newport St (later no.5) 1753-1760, Leicester Fields, also known as Leicester Square 1760-1792. Artist and occasional picture restorer.

One of the leading portrait painters of his time and the founding President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) had a fascination with artists’ materials and experimental techniques. He boasted of his knowledge to the Duke of Rutland in 1786, referring to ‘all my experience in picture cleaning’, and provided advice, recommending the Duke to use Biondi (qv) to clean Poussin’s Seven Sacraments. He occasionally restored pictures himself. Reynolds’s approach to restoration has been explored by Kirby Talley, to whom this account is indebted. His activities can be divided in to work on his own paintings and on those by Old Masters.

It was widely known that some of the colours in Reynolds’s own portraits faded, as articulated by Horace Walpole as early as 1775. It also became known that his experimental methods meant that occasionally the paint deteriorated or even fell off the canvas. William Doughty, Reynolds’s pupil from 1775-8, restored a portrait of Lord Holderness, painted in 1755 which was badly faded and the forehead particularly cracked (Mannings 2000 p.158). Reynolds himself in 1785 offered to renovate with ‘lasting Colors’ his portrait of Sir William Hamilton, completed as recently as 1772 (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, see Talley 1986 p.68), and he also promised the Duke of Rutland to deal with the flaking to his Nativity. After Reynolds’s death, his pupil Joseph Marchi (qv) restored various of his pictures as did a former assistant, John Rising (qv). Later restorers with a particular knowledge of Reynolds’ technique include George Barker (qv, 1818-83) and Horace Buttery (qv, 1902-62). Barker owned two canvases of Reynolds’s experiments in colour, as described by Charles Eastlake (Materials for a History of Oil Painting, 1847, p.444).

As to restoration work on paintings by other artists, there are charges in Reynolds’ account books indicating that from time to time he or his assistants cleaned pictures for clients, including for Lord Errol at a cost of £5.5s in 1763 (Mannings 2000 p.249, Ingamells 2000 no.82) and Lord Pembroke (Talley 1986 p.68). James Northcote, well placed to observe Reynolds’s procedures, reported the extensive additions that Reynolds made to two paintings described as by Velasquez, retouching the face of Philip IV when a Boy and the sky of Moor Blowing on a Pipe.

Sources: M. Kirby Talley, ‘“All good pictures crack”: Sir Joshua Reynolds’s practice and studio’, in Nicholas Penny (ed.), Reynolds,, Royal Academy, 1986, pp.55-70. See also Rachel Morrison, ‘Mastic and megilp in Reynolds’s Lord Heathfield of Gibraltar: A challenge for conservation’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol.31, 2010, pp.112-28.

Reynolds’ Galleries, see John Lewis Rutley

Updated March 2020
Stephen Richards, 27 Great Pulteney St, London 1885-1887, 4 Berners St 1886-1896, 16 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy Square 1897-1900. Picture liner, restorer and cleaner.

Stephen Richards (1844-1900) is best known for his work as a restorer for James McNeill Whistler. He was born at Thrapston in Northamptonshire, and named Stephen, like his father. He was recorded in his father’s house in the 1871 census as a carver and gilder, like his father. In the 1881 census, Stephen Richards was lodging in Stroud Green Road, Hornsey, described as a widowed picture restorer, age 36, and in 1891 he was living at 141 Ruckledge Crescent, Willesden, as an artist in picture restoration, with his second wife Emma. He is probably the individual who died in 1900, age 56, at 12 Ampthill Square, Hampstead Road, leaving effects worth only £69. He was followed at his premises at 16 Fitzroy St by Evans & Mucklow, picture restorers.

There was a picture restorer, John Richards at 85 Drummond St, Euston Square from 1871 to 1896 or later, but their relationship, if any, remains to be established. He unsuccessfully applied for work as picture restorer at the National Gallery in 1884, naming Sir Coutts Lindsay as a referee and stating that he had restored James Ward’s Gorsdale Scar (Tate) for the National Gallery (National Gallery archive, NG68/7/1).

Richards and Whistler: Stephen Richards was Whistler's preferred restorer in the 1890s, so much so that in 1892 Whistler wrote to a dealer, ‘Take the pictures to Mr. Richards - you know where his place is - He is the only man fit to clean my paintings - and you can tell him so from me’, adding directions, ‘Mr. Richards place is in Berners Street - a few doors from Oxford St - on the right hand side - Next door the Electric lighting Company, or something - and upstairs on first floor’.

Richards’s name featured frequently in Whistler’s correspondence from 1891 to 1897. In preparation for his exhibitions in 1892, Whistler brought Richards considerable business by directing that various of his pictures in private collections should be cleaned by him. An exhibition reviewer singled out Richards’s contribution to the appearance of the pictures (The Times 19 March 1892). However, one collector wrote to Whistler for reassurance concerning Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Battersea Reach (Freer Gallery of Art, Washington): ‘Richards the picture-cleaner wants to remove the varnish from my Nocturne & repair the cracks in the paint. Before he does this, I thought it very desirable that you should see it - If in the operation (as seems to me not unlikely) some little repainting should be necessary, it should, I am sure you will agree, be done only under your instructions, if indeed it cannot have the advantage of your own touch’.

Whistler watched Richards closely, writing in 1895 concerning a painting, which he described as a ‘little head’, ‘Now you know that I have full confidence in you - only I should like to be by and keep your clever fingers from picking at the paint! Mind now I am only paying you a compliment - and can rely upon you to beautifully varnish this head of mine that I am very fond of’. In 1896, he wrote concerning Nocturne: Black and Gold - The Fire Wheel (Tate), ‘I have been with Richards - and the old varnish, in its perished state, was removed under my supervision - and today the new coat of varnish was put on’.

But by 1900, Whistler’s enthusiasms had moved on, as he makes clear in a letter to his fellow artist, John Lavery, about varnishing a picture, ‘I dont want Richards whom I have before now employed’. By 1903 he was using Izod (qv), probably George Izod.

Sources: Joyce Hill Stoner, 'Whistler's Views on the Restoration and Display of his Paintings', Studies in Conservation, vol.42, 1997, pp.109-10; The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, Centre for Whistler Studies, online edition, at

Updated March 2018
George Richmond (1809-96). Portrait painter and occasional picture restorer.

For George Richmond’s considerable activities as a portrait painter, see A.M.W. Stirling, The Richmond Papers, 1926, and Raymond Lister, George Richmond, 1981. He was a member of the National Gallery Site Commission in 1857, a commission which took a considerable interest in the cleaning of pictures. He was a proponent for protecting pictures by glazing.

George Richmond' s account book provides an insight into his occasional activities as a picture restorer. It has been suggested that he began restoring pictures at a time when his eyes were bad, so preventing him from taking portrait sitters (Lister 1981 p.93). He spent some months in 1866 restoring Roman panels from the tomb of the Nasonii which he then unsuccessfully offered to the British Museum.

Richmond’s part in cleaning the full-length portrait of Richard II at Westminster Abbey is well-known. It was the exhibition of this painting at the 1866 National Portrait Exhibition at the South Kensington Museum that led Richmond to approach the Dean of Westminster, offering his services to supervise and participate in its cleaning. At the end of the process Richmond paid tribute to the restorer, Henry Merritt (qv) and wrote, ‘The success has been complete but the loss of time to me too great’. He produced a record of the cleaning made jointly with Merritt for Westminster Abbey archives, showing that he took a leading role in the course of many days work. In fact the cleaning, in particular the removal of the portrait’s diaper background, met with criticism at the time from the architect Gilbert Scott; the damage wrought to the portrait has been the subject of recent detailed study (McClure 2001 pp.457-77).

The following year Richmond worked with Merritt to restore many pictures for Oxford University 'at a greater expenditure of time'. Immediately the first batch of pictures arrived at Merritt’s studio in January 1867, Richmond inspected them and, in an unusual step, began restoring some of the pictures himself, as he recorded in his diary (photocopy, National Portrait Gallery Library). ‘At Merritts, worked on a large Benozzo Gozzoli…, fine but wholly injured by cracking & dirt &c…’, he wrote on 12 January (this is Uccello’s Hunt in a Forest). By November, Merritt wrote of Richmond that ‘he appears to have had enough of restoration for the present & perhaps is satisfied with the honours he has acquired’ (National Gallery archive, NGA1/1/20/5). For further details, see the article on the Ashmolean Museum in this online resource.

In 1873, Richmond was asked by Gladstone's government to restore Daniel Maclise's great wall painting of Wellington in the House of Lords and made some experiments but the matter was dropped when the government fell. In 1878 he restored a full-length of Sir Edward Kerrison for £52.10s and in 1879 a picture by Piero della Francesca for Christ Church, Oxford.

Sources: Raymond Lister, George Richmond: A Critical Biography, 1981, pp. 93-5, 103-5; Richmond's account book, 1830-93, compiled by the artist from his diaries late in life (photocopy, 1961, National Portrait Gallery Library).

Added March 2018, updated September 2018, December 2020
Gigi Richter. Picture restorer and botanist.

Gigi Richter (1922-2020), christened Irmingard Emma Antonia, was the daughter of the American art historian, Dr George Martin Richter (1875-1942), and his wife, Amely, Baroness Zündt von Kentzingen from Munich. She was the godchild of Thomas Mann. Her father’s book on Andrea Del Castagno was published posthumously in 1943. Gigi Richter settled in England in or after 1945 and married David H. Crompton in 1949 in the City of Westminster. She became a leading botanist in Cambridgeshire.

Richter went to school in England from 1929. She studied in Berlin in 1936 and at Westminster Art School, London, 1938-9, according to her CV (‘Roberts Commission - Protection of Historical Monuments’, online at She took an apprenticeship as a picture restorer under Sheldon Keck at the Brooklyn Museum, 1940-2, later working there as a laboratory assistant in 1944 (letter from Mrs Sheldon Keck to Huntington Cairns, 19 June 1945, see ‘Roberts Commission - Protection of Historical Monuments’, online at

Richter worked as a restorer for the London Gallery in Brook St in 1947 (James King, Roland Penrose: The Life of a Surrealist, 2016, p.298). She cleaned Gwen John’s Girl with a Cat (5744) for the Tate Gallery in 1947/8, and other works, 1949-50 (Tate archive, TG 18/1/1/4; National Gallery archive, NG13/1/14). She worked part-time as a freelance conservator at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1958-62.

Richter sold Roland Penrose’s Le Grand Jour to the Tate in 1964 and gave the Fitzwilliam Museum Paul Klee’s gouache Gartenkunst in 2016, a present to her from Roland Penrose in 1945/6.

Sources: Harriet Owen Hughes kindly checked a draft of this history with Gigi Richter herself, 3 September 2018, so providing the information given here on her father’s nationality, mother’s city of origin and the date of Penrose’s gift of the Klee gouache. Obituary by Kirsty Findlay, The Guardian, 9 May 2020. For Richter’s father, see .

Updated January 2017, September 2018
John Rising
, 21 Princes St, Cavendish Square, London 1784, Park St, Grosvenor Square 1785, 16 Great Maddox St, Hanover Square 1786-1787, 5 Stafford St, Old Bond St 1788, 97 Jermyn St 1789, 9 Berners St 1790-1791, 35 Leicester Square 1791-1793, 85 Great Portland Place 1794-1814, Portland Place 1817. Portrait and subject painter, picture restorer.

John Rising (1753-1817) entered the Royal Academy Schools in December 1778, when his age was given as ‘25 last June’ (Hutchison 1962 p.144). He was a portrait painter in his own right but he also made copies after Joshua Reynolds's work and acted as a picture restorer. Described as a portrait painter of Leicester Fields, he took Harry Ashby (qv) as apprentice for five years from 21 May 1793 at a premium of £105. The restorer Thomas Boden Brown (qv) claimed to have worked for Rising for twelve months when he first came to London.

In 1801-2 Rising cleaned and repaired pictures at Stourhead, Wiltshire, for £101.9s.6d (Timothy Clifford, ‘Cigoli’s Adoration of the Magi at Stourhead’, National Trust Yearbook 1977-78, p.16, n.1). In 1808 he cleaned Joshua Reynolds’s Earl Camden, according to Ozias Humphry in a letter to James White (Royal Academy of Arts archive, HU/7/29i). He apparently undertook work on the copies of the Raphael cartoons belonging to the Bodleian Library, Oxford, perhaps in 1808 from his letter written the following year to Bodley's Librarian (see Appendix below). In 1812, the Royal Academy entrusted him with the cleaning and restoration of four works by Reynolds and one by Gainsborough in the council rooms at Somerset House for £153.12s (Whitley 1928(1) p.204). Rising repaired a picture of Coriolanus for Sir John Soane for £7.7s in 1815, conceivably Francis Bourgeois’s Kemble as Coriolanus (Sir John Soane’s Museum, Archive, Journal no.6, Soane’s account, 27 July 1815). He also worked at Belvoir Castle following a fire in 1816.

At Knole, he cleaned and restored the six painted copies of the Raphael cartoons in the Cartoon Gallery, lining four of them, at a total cost of £126.10s (information from Edward Town); he was described as ‘a modest, amiable unassuming man’ by John Bridgman (An Historical and Topographical Sketch of Knole, 1817, p.56, accessed through Google Book Search). Also at Knole he treated some of Joshua Reynolds’s pictures, including Wang-y-Tong, which is inscribed on the stretcher, ‘J Rising No 2(?)’ (information from Melanie Caldwell). The painter William Mulready testified as to Rising's skills as a restorer (Whitley 1928(1) p.265).

Rising died in 1817 at Portland Place. He was survived by his wife, Mary, who was sole beneficiary in his will, made 25 August 1806 and proved 5 March 1817. In an obituary notice, it was said that he had ‘for many years devoted his study to the restoration of valuable pictures, particularly those of our late eminent Sir Joshua Reynolds’ (Gentleman’s Magazine, vol.87, 1817, p.282). His collection of pictures, prints etc was auctioned by Christie's in 1818 and Phillip’s in 1826, including portraits by Reynolds and works by Gilbert Stuart, Benjamin West and various old masters.

Sources: Tina Fiske, 'John Rising', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

Appendix, kindly communicated by Dana Josephson, May 2016

Letter from Rising, London, 22 February 1809, to the Rev. John Price, Bodley's Librarian, concerning copies of Raphael cartoons, and making reference to James Wyatt of Oxford (qv) (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS.Add.A.64, fols.266r-67r):

‘I understand by Mr Wyatt the cartoons have acquired an apparent mildew. The circumstance is not surprising when we recollect the severe cold and damp winter we have had; it is an occurrence which frequently happens to pictures in small houses where fires are kept and more particularly in larger gallerys [sic] where none are ever made. I am of opinion the chill will prove of no material consequence. I think as soon as the gallery becomes warm and dry it will disappear. I could wish a soft silk handkerchief or new piece of flannel passed over the surface but that must be done with care or the friction will make them shine which will defeat the intention of keeping them without. I entirely agree with you in keeping the windows shut during the damp season. But now as the sun bears a considerable power and whenever the atmosphere is dry they should be opened for a few hours in the middle of the day. Mr Wyatt's idea of the defect being caused by the past is not quite correct. They were extremely well-lined and the very hot summer sufficiently prevented any damp arising from that operation. The apparent wet behind is no more than the necessary nourishment I gave to the pictures in order to preserve them. If you will have the goodness to attend to the directions herein given I make no doubt but a short time will do everything wished for -- I will thank you to favour me in sharing this to the vice-chancellor with my respectful comments. [I] am dear sir your most obedient h[um]ble servant J. Rising. P.S. Will you do me the honour to ask your man William to have the inclosed as directed?’

Charles Roberson 1819-1828, Roberson & Miller 1828-1839, Charles Roberson 1840, Charles Roberson & Co 1840-1907, C. Roberson & Co Ltd 1907-1987. London. Artists’ colourmen and picture restorers.

Roberson’s became known for picture restoration, being listed as picture liners from 1853, and later advertising testimonials from artists such as William Holman Hunt, 1897, George Clausen, 1899, and T.S. Cooper, as publicised in their catalogues (e.g. Artists Colours Materials, c.1931-2, p.iv). For fuller details, see British artists' suppliers on this website.

Added March 2020
Mark Roberts (1948-2017). Picture conservator.

Outside the scope of this online resource but see the obituary by Rica Jones in The Picture Restorer, no.52, Spring 2018, pp.68-9. Roberts studied under Robin Ashton, conservator of paintings at Manchester Art Gallery, including a spell in Florence working on early Italian panel paintings damaged in the Arno flood of 1966. He was conservation officer for Sheffield City Art Galleries, 1970-85, until setting up his own business in partnership with his wife Diana at the Harley Foundation, Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire.

Mr Roe, see Joseph Wright of Derby

*Robert Roe, Cambridge from 1818,opposite King’s College by 1827, Trumpington St 1827-1830, 10 King’s Parade by 1832-1842/3, 14 King’s Parade 1842/3-1883. Engraver, miniature painter, printseller and picture restorer.

Robert Roe (1793-1880) traded in Cambridge for more than 60 years as an engraver, printseller, picture dealer and picture restorer. The fullest accounts of his life and ancestry are given by his grandson, F. Gordon Roe, by Daphne Foskett and by Gill Rushworth (see Sources below). Roe was born in Suffolk in 1793, at Needham according to the 1861 census. He was the eldest son of Joseph and Jemima Roe of Ipswich, and is said to have studied miniature painting and subsequently to have taught miniature painting at a guinea a lesson.

Roe moved to Cambridge in about 1818, according to his advertisement thanking his patrons for their support during his residence of eight years (Cambridge Chronicle 19 January 1827, quoted by Gill Rushworth, to whom this account is indebted for quotations from this newspaper). In 1820, the itinerant poet James Chambers included an acrostic for Roe as printer in copperplate and engraver in Cambridge (The Poetical Works of James Chambers, Ipswich, 1820, accessed through Google Book Search; with thanks to Dr John Pickles). Roe became acquainted with Edward Fitzgerald and with W.M. Thackeray. He was a founder member of the Printsellers’ Association, attending the inaugural meeting in London in 1847. Roe married firstly in 1821, Mary Elizabeth Edleston (d.1856), and secondly in 1859 Maria Plees (d.1901).

Roe moved to 14 King’s Parade soon after the freehold of this substantial property was sold at auction in October 1842 (Cambridge Chronicle, 24 September 1842, for auction advertisement). His former premises were soon relet (Cambridge Chronicle 15 April 1843). In census records Roe can be found at King’s Parade, Cambridge, in 1841 as an engraver, age 49, with his wife Mary, age 38, and five children, the eldest also Robert, age 18. In 1851 as an engraver and printseller, age 58, visiting Bury St Edmunds, with his family in Cambridge including his wife Mary and his second son Owen, age 24, described as a printseller. In 1861 as an engraver, printseller and carver, gilder and plate glass factory, age 59, employing two men and a boy, with his second wife, Maria, age 33, and a nine-month old son, Robert Gordon. In 1871 as a printseller, age 69, employing two men, with his wife Maria and sons Gordon and Charles. In 1861 and 1871, Roe’s age was recorded as if born in about 1802. He died on 31 July 1880, reportedly age 88. His will was proved at Peterborough on 27 September 1880 by his widow, with his personal estate worth under £1000. A probate copy of the will is held at Suffolk Record Office (Ipswich Branch, HB 54/F/285, unexamined).

In the 1881 census, Roe’s widow, Maria was given as head of household, a printseller and gilder, with two sons, Robert and Charles, ages 20 and 19, recorded as artists, and a third, Alfred, age 16, an art student. The business continued to trade for a few years. It was followed at 14 King’s Parade by William Farren. For Roe’s children, see Foskett and Rushworth.

In some ways, Roe is Cambridge’s equivalent to James Wyatt in Oxford (see British picture framemakers on this website), providing a wide range of services to town and gown. His nearest rival in Cambridge was the slightly younger Henry Mutton, active as a printseller, artists' colourman and picture framemaker in All Saints Passage from about 1839 (see British artists' suppliers on this website).

Activities as an engraver, printseller and dealer: An idea of the range of services offered by Roe early in his career can be gained from his advertisement in 1829 as an engraver, copper plate printer and printseller from Trumpington St. He was offering enamelled and gold-bordered tablets, plain, coloured and embossed drawing boards, gold and silver shells, sables, colours, Brookman’s pencils and ‘every requisite for drawing’, as well as a selection of proofs and impressions of prints by modern and ancient masters and ‘town made frames of every description’ (Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette 18 July 1829).

As an engraver and printseller, Roe advertised his services in 1827 (Cambridge Chronicle 19 January 1827). He worked for Corpus Christi College, engraving an inscription in 1823 (as Robert Henry Roe), supplying invitation cards in 1842 and two picture frames for £17.3s in 1843 (Corpus Christi College, CCCC08/19B 5/4, CCCC02/B/87/109, CCCC02/B/87/133, 133a). He probably worked for other colleges. By the 1850s he was advertising as printseller to Queen Victoria.

As a print publisher, Roe published a print in 1827 of a picture in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Gerard Dou’s The Schoolmaster (lettered, ‘Engraver & Printseller, opposite Kings College, Cambridge’), E. Challis’s engraving of King’s College Chapel nave, 1832 (lettered, ‘Engraver & Printseller, 10 King’s Parade’) and a series of six lithographs in 1837, A Graduate's Thoughts on what he has seen & read at Cambridge (British Museum collection search). Roe’s shop window, with its views of King’s Chapel, attracted the attention of the King of Saxony on his visit to Cambridge in 1844 (Marion Colthorpe, Royal Cambridge:Royal Visits to Cambridge from Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II, 1977, p.54). Roe also published various portrait prints (see British Museum and National Portrait Gallery collection websites).

Roe worked for Joseph Romilly, Cambridge University registrary, in preparing presentation documents, including the patent for the election of Marquis Camden as Chancellor in 1834, the addresses to Queen Victoria on her coming to the throne and to the Dowager Queen Adelaide in 1837, and the letter to Prince Albert on his election as Chancellor in 1847 (see Sources below).

As a picture dealer, Roe stocked or exhibited works at his shop. There, Joseph Romilly saw a mother and child by Gainsborough in 1843, Edwin Landseer’s Shoeing, owned by ‘Bell the chemist’, in February 1847 (now Tate, Jacob Bell bequest) and David Wilkie’s Bonaparte making the Pope sign a concordat in December 1847 (National Gallery of Ireland). Roe seems also to have collected pictures, from his correspondence with William Etty in 1838 when he writes about giving up one of Etty’s works to Robert Vernon; Roe continues, ‘I do hope to possess a picture of yours some day besides my little pet picture.’ (York City Library, Etty letters, nos 161, 164, 165, information from William Dixon Smith). Roe lent ten or eleven paintings, which were then hung with evergreens, to ornament the annual conversazione of the Young Men’s Christian Association at the Town Hall in Cambridge in December 1857 (Enid Porter, Victorian Cambridge: Josiah Chater's diaries, 1844-1884, 1975, p.97).

Activities as a restorer: As a picture restorer and in other capacities, Roe worked for the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1849-1874/5 (his work can be identified from the Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate minutes, annual report and accounts, cited here as ‘Minutes’, ‘Report’ and ‘Accounts’). As ‘Roe, Printseller’, he was paid 10s for unspecified work in 1849. In 1852 he was selected to line and repair two pictures by Dirk Maas, in 1855 to repair pictures in the Hare Bequest, in 1857 to supply a picture frame, in 1861 to revarnish a Seapiece by De Vlieger, the work to be carried out in the museum, in 1862/3 to provide labels for pictures and in 1863 to survey the museum’s collection and make recommendations (Minutes, 1 July 1852, 25 July 1855, 21 February 1857, 20 April 1861, 14 March 1863; Accounts 1862/3). As a result of this survey, he was employed to undertake lining and repair work within the museum of three pictures: the Giorgione Adoration of the Shepherds, now attributed to Sebastiano del Piombo (which Roe declined to reline as he deemed it too risky to remove the old canvas, and which required further treatment, by Giovanni Sciarretta (qv), only 15 years later), Thomas Creswick’s Crossing the Stream and Danby’s The Painter’s Holiday (Minutes, 29 April 1863, Report, 7 March 1864).

In 1866 the Fitzwilliam agreed to employ him to repair and revarnish George Morland’s Calf and Sheep and Schalcken’s Moonlight, both from the Mesman collection, the Martyrdom of St George from the Fitzwilliam collection, T.S. Cooper’s Cattle from the Ellison collection and a portrait, Thomas Gray, attributed to Arthur Pond. Then in 1867 to varnish, frame, glaze and hang Elijah Walton’s The Tombs of the Sultans near Cairo, 1865, and in 1869 to repair and line Snyders’ Stag-hunt (now attributed to Paul de Vos) and a pair of views of the old palaces at Richmond and Theobalds (actually Nonsuch) (Minutes, 1 May 1866, 29 March 1867, Report, 17 March 1869). Of these, the Creswick and the portrait of Gray bear Roe’s label, as R. Roe, 14 King's Parade, Cambridge. His label, with variations (as ‘Printseller to Her Majesty’ or as ‘Carver, Gilder etc’) has been recorded on several other works in, or once in, the Fitzwilliam, including Murillo’s St John Baptist with the Scribes and Pharisees, which he cleaned in 1872, and the Nonsuch view (Accounts 1871/2; Report, 29 March 1873). Roe was also employed to examine the prints and drawings in the Kerrich bequest in 1872, together with the curator John Massey (Minutes, 30 November 1872).

Roe cleaned a portrait of F. Hobson for Cambridge Corporation for £2.16s in 1867 (see Gill Rushworth in Sources below) and restored a panel portrait, Lady Margaret Beaufort for St John’s College, Cambridge (Alexander Freeman, ‘Catalogue of the Pictures belonging to St John’s College’, The Eagle, vol.12, no.65, c.1881, p.4).

Sources: F. Gordon Roe, ‘Roe of Darmsden, Ipswich and Cambridge’, Notes and Queries, 12th series, vol.12, 21 April 1923, pp.306-8; Daphne Foskett, Miniatures: Dictionary and Guide, 1987, p.632; Gill Rushworth, Robert Roe, Engraver & Copper-Plate Printer, 2012 (Cambridge Chronicle quotations above are indebted to this study). Information kindly supplied by Dr John Pickles on James Chambers’ Poetical Works, Challis’s print of King’s College Chapel, the King of Saxony’s Cambridge visit and on the diary of Joseph Romilly (J. & T. Bury, Romilly’s Cambridge Diary 1832-42, 1967, pp.63, 124; M.E. Bury and J.D. Pickles, Romilly’s Cambridge Diary 1842-1867, 1994, pp.55, 193, 200, 234). Information on labelled pictures in the Fitzwilliam Museum recorded by Philip Pouncey, 1931-3 (Fitzwilliam Museum, notebook no.2).

Last updated March 2019
George Roller, Tadley, Basingstoke by 1890-1941, also 2 Onslow Place, SW by 1911-1914 or later, Park Cottage, Pelham St, London SW7 1920-1936 or later. Portrait painter, picture restorer, advertisement designer and magazine illustrator.

George Roller worked for many years for John Singer Sargent, his exact contemporary. He has been described as ‘Sargent’s friend, model and restorer’ (Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Portraits of the 1890s, 2002, no.311; see also Figures and Landscapes, 1914-1925, 2016, no.1785).

Major George Conrad Roller (1856-1941), to give him his full name, was born in Clapham, the eldest son of Frederick Roller, a German-born general merchant, naturalised British, and his Welsh wife, Eva Eyton. George Roller led a very varied career. As a horserider, he hunted in the 1880s and 1890s. As an artist and illustrator, he occasionally exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1890-1904, and also designed sporting advertisements for Burberry’s for many years as well as illustrations for magazines. As a soldier he served in both the Boer War and World War I. He also served as a London magistrate and a hospital governor.

In 1887 Roller married Mary Margaret Halliday, and they had a son, George Trevor, and a daughter, Miriam. His wife died in 1908 and he married Emily Kirk Craig in 1910. In the 1911 census, he was described as a painter artist working on his own account at home, 2 Onslow Place. He died age 84 at Tadley, Basingstoke, in 1941, leaving effects worth £1776. His obituary marked his achievements both as a soldier and as a picture restorer (The Times 9 January 1941).

George Roller’s younger brother, John Harold Roller (1859-1934), known as Harold Roller, photographed some of his work. He married Nettie Huxley (1863-1940), daughter of Henrietta Anne and Thomas Henry Huxley, in 1889. They were recorded in Weybridge in the 1901 census but she apparently spent most of her time travelling in Europe with her daughter, supporting herself as a singer.

George Roller’s son, George Trevor Roller (c.1886-1947), followed him as a picture restorer (see G. Trevor Roller, ‘A Few Reminiscences of a Picture Restorer’, Chambers Journal, February 1935, pp.107-9). He regenerated by vapour the mastic varnish on Edward Burne-Jones’s The Wheel of Fortune in 1932 (Hammersmith Public Libraries, see Burne-Jones, exh. cat., Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1971, no.105).

Roller, Sargent and the Royal Academy: George Roller posed for John Singer Sargent in 1891, and apparently knew him still earlier in Paris, where they both studied art. Sargent described him as ‘a restorer in whom I have the greatest confidence’, when recommending him as the appropriate person to varnish his Earl Curzon in 1914 (Royal Geographical Society, letter to Douglas Freshfields, 18 July 1914). Roller repaired Sargent’s Henry James (National Portrait Gallery), slashed by a suffragette at the Royal Academy in 1914 (G. Trevor Roller, 'A Few Reminiscences of a Picture Restorer', Chambers Journal, February 1935, pp.107-9, describing this repair as one of his father's greatest successes). He was asked by Sargent in 1925 to reline his George Macmillan (Society of Dilettanti).

Following Sargent’s death in 1925, Roller prepared the artist’s work for the Royal Academy memorial exhibition in 1926; his studio was ‘full up with his paintings’, he told the director of the National Portrait Gallery in 1925 (National Portrait Gallery records, RP 1767). At this time he framed and restored Sargent’s Portrait of a Child for Violet Garrard. He is also said to have prepared Sargent’s work for a posthumous sale at auction.

In June 1925 Roller made a presentation to the Royal Academy’s Committee on Preservation of Pictures on how he cleaned pictures and the principles on which he based his work (Brooks 1999 pp.174, n.15, 224, n.104, quoting the Royal Academy archive, 506A; copy in National Portrait Gallery records, RP 1767). For the Royal Academy Roller cleaned and refixed flaking pigment in the large copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper in 1926. He treated the copy of Raphael’s School of Athens, Thomas Creswick’s Landscape with Artist Resting beside a Road and G.F. Watts’s Lord Leighton in 1931 and a further four British paintings in 1932 (Royal Academy annual published reports). By then well into his seventies, he appears to have retired from business thereafter. The Academy turned to Herbert Walker (qv) for further restoration work.

Sir Brinsley Ford many years later wrote how he apprenticed himself to Roller as a young man with a view to becoming a picture restorer, adding, ‘I learnt one useful thing with him, namely that I would never be any good as a picture restorer.’ (John Singer Sargent catalogue raisonné archive no.610, letter from Ford to Elaine Kilmurray, 13 July 1987).

Other restoration work: In 1919 George Roller cleaned Daniel Mytens’ 3rd Marquis of Hamilton (now Tate), before acquisition by the National Gallery (National Gallery archive, NG10/13, NG3474).

Sources: ‘Major George Conrad Roller’, Who’s Who in Art, 2nd ed., 1929; Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: The Later Portraits, 2003, nos 569, 610, 612 (for his work on Sargent paintings, described above); 'Major George Roller – a Tadley hero', Tadley and District History Society project news, no.8, June 2005, pp.1-3, kindly communicated by Michael Roller.

Spiridione Roma, 15 Titchfield St, London 1774, 20 Goodge St 1775, 38 Goodge St 1777, 11 Queen Anne St East 1778, Hatton St/Garden 1781-1783, Golden Square before 1786, 58 Charlotte St, Portland Place to 1786. Decorative and portrait painter, picture restorer.

Spiridione or Spiridone Roma (d.1786) spent his later years in England, working as a decorative and portrait painter, and also as a picture restorer. He was born in Corfu and came to England soon after 1770, according to anecdotes in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1789, the most significant early account of his life. He was a member of the Greek Church. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1774-8. His wife Margaret died at their house in Queen Anne St East in 1778 (Gazeteer and New Daily Advertiser 19 January 1778), leaving him with two daughters, Ann and Mary, and a son, Joseph.

Roma died of apoplexy on 15 June 1786, rather than in 1787 as sometimes stated, as is evident from a probate inventory of the estate of ‘Spiridion Roma’, widower of St Marylebone, deceased, submitted to the court in August 1786 (National Archives, PROB 31/755/698). A notice concerning demands on his estate appeared in the press in March 1787, when he was described as late of Charlotte St, Marylebone (The World and Fashionable Advertiser 13 March 1787). At his death he is said to have had the appearance of a man of 50 years, which might suggest that he was born in the mid-1730s.

As a painter of interiors, Roma undertook work at The Vyne, Hampshire, in the 1770s, ornamenting the upper walls of the chapel with a perspective of fan vaulting and Gothic tracery painted on canvas at a cost of £363.13s. He also painted a ceiling, The East Offering its Riches to Britannia, for the East India Company's Office in Leadenhall St in 1778 at a cost with its framework of £110.10s (Foreign Office, see Croft-Murray 1970 p.270 and Mildred Archer, The India Office Collection of Paintings and Sculpture, 1986, no.98). He put forward a scheme to repair the paintings in the dome of St Paul's.

Restoration work: As a picture restorer, Roma worked extensively for city companies including the Drapers’, the Goldsmiths’ and the Fishmongers’.

For the Drapers’ Company, perhaps in 1776, he cleaned various paintings including portraits of ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, whole lengths of William III, George I, George II when Prince of Wales, Sir John Sheldon and Kneller’s Sir Robert Clayton and a half length of Henry FitzAlwin. He also painted portraits of John Smith, the Company’s clerk, for which he was paid £31.10s in 1777, and Thomas Bagshaw, the upper beadle (B.W., ‘Pictures at Draper’s Hall’, Gentleman’s Magazine, vol.48, 1778, p.585). It is said that he added a window and a castle to the so-called Mary Queen of Scots. Roma advertised that, following his work at the Drapers’, he proposed to publish a print of the portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, which would be engraved by Bartolozzi, also stating that he had ‘discovered a Method of cleaning and restoring to their original Perfection any Painting no otherways damaged than by Time’, claiming that he had been ‘successfully employed on Paintings belonging to several public Societies’ (Public Advertiser 1 January 1777).

Following his work for the Drapers’, Roma was employed by the Goldsmiths’. This led on to a major task in 1779-80, the repair of eight portraits of kings and queens and 19 full-lengths of the Fire Judges in the Guildhall, at an estimated cost of £109.6s (Vivien Knight, The Works of Art of the Corporation of London, Cambridge, 1986, p.5, n.14). For the royal portraits, he estimated £5 each, but claimed additionally for restoring that of George I which was in ruinous condition having been reduced to ‘many scores of pieces’ subsequent to his having provided an estimate. For the Fire Judges he estimated £3.3s each for ‘cleaning, repairing and perfectly restoring’ the portraits, ‘and finishing them as new’, but he also claimed for lining them. As a result, he was involved in a long dispute with the Corporation respecting payment, publishing a pamphlet in 1780, The Case of Mr. S. Roma Respecting the Business Done by Him for the Corporation of London in Cleaning and Restoring Their Pictures &c. and the Money Due to Him for the Same (example in Guildhall Library).

Roma worked for the Fishmongers’, cleaning eight paintings of fish in 1781 (B.W., Letter, Gentleman’s Magazine, vol.58, 1788, pp.43-4).

According to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1789, Roma was also employed late in life by Lord Egremont and members of the nobility, collectors and amateurs of painting. His probate inventory (see above) lists debts totalling £132 due to him from 20 customers, listed as follows: Sir Elijah Impey at £23.5s, Mrs Musters 2s.6d, Sir Thomas Dundas £14.14s, Mr Hickey of St Albans St £18.18s, Mr Hickey junr, Jermyn St £8.8s, Lady Burgoigne 15s.6d, Mr Kenrick £1.1s, Mr Jenning £16.16s, Mr Sheppard £29.8s, Mrs Harcourt £4.19s.6d, Mr Price, Kings Mews £4.4s, Mr Ellicott, Bedford Row £1.1s, Colonel Goldsworthy £3.3s, Dr Lockman 5s, Mr Brody £1.11s.6d, Lord Malton 5s and Lord Frederick Campbell £3.3s. Roma restored paintings for the Carew Pole family of Antony House, Cornwall, receiving payments, 1786-8 (Antony House muniments, NRA 5960, two account books, CA/H2/105-6, information from Richard Stephens, February 2010).

Roma advertised in 1786, ‘S. Roma presents his most respectful compliments to the Nobility, Gentry & others who honoured him in Golden Square & as many eminent artists expressed a great desire to see the very capital & large picture by Claude de Lorraine, when cleaned, he thinks it proper to inform them that it is to be delivered to its owner on the first day of March next, & that in the meantime it may be seen in its present revived state every day from this time, Sundays excepted, from the hours of 12 to 3 on each day, at No 58 Charlotte Street, Portland Place, where he hopes also to exhibit other proofs of his ability as a Cleaner & Preserver of pictures & print.’ (‘Press Cuttings from English Newspapers’, vol.1, p.286, dated 9 February 1786, V&A National Art Library, PP.17.G).

Sources: 'Anecdotes of Spiridione Roma', Gentleman's Magazine, vol.59, August 1789, pp.701-3; Croft-Murray 1970 p.270; Cathal Moore and Christine Sitwell, ‘Spiridione Roma at The Vyne’, Apollo, vol.147, April 1998, pp.25-9. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

John Rorke by 1839-1886, John Rorke & Sons 1885-1914, John Rorke & Co 1915-1927 John Rorke & Co Ltd 1928-1951 or later. In Lambeth, London 1839-1889, Westminster 1867-1904, Fulham Road SW3 from 1891. Wood letter makers by 1839, carvers and gilders from 1862, picture dealers from 1876, gilders and decorators from 1886, picture restorers 1889-90.

This business was carried on over several generations but it was only in the 1890s that it undertook picture restoration. Its stencil as picture restorers reads, ‘ESTABLISHED 60 YEARS/ JOHN RORKE & SONS/ PICTURE RESTORERS/ 17A GT GEORGE STREET/ WESTMINSTER/ OPPOSITE WESTMINSTER ABBEY’ (example found on stretcher of Thomas Hudson, Sir Edmund Isham, 6th Bart, Magdalen College, Oxford, exh. Thomas Hudson 1701-1779, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1979, no.9). The business was at 17a Great George St, Westminster from 1887 until 1895. For fuller details, see British picture framemakers on this website.

George Augustus Rose, picture framemaker, picture liner, restorer and cleaner,1908-1938, Robert Rose, picture cleaner and restorer, picture framemaker, 1939-1953. At 12 Bute St, South Kensington, London SW7 1908-1910, 10 Station Buildings, Pelham St, South Kensington 1911, 33 Pelham St 1912, 23 Pelham St 1913-1940, 19 Old Brompton Road 1946-1953.

Robert Rose (b. c.1894) was the son of George Augustus Rose (c.1869/72-1938), picture framemaker, picture liner, restorer and cleaner. The father is difficult to pinpoint since he seems to have changed his name and his early years remain to be clarified. In the 1901 census he is apparently Gustave Rose, artists’ colourman (worker), age 30, born Peckham, with his wife Rueine(?) and son Gustave, age 6, born Croydon. In the 1911 census he can be found in South Kensington as George Augustus Rose, age 39, born Peckham, a picture restorer trading on his own account, together with his wife Lilian? Agnes, to whom he had been married 19 years, and his son Gustave Robert Rose, age 17, born Thornton Heath, described as a ‘learner under father, assisting in business’.

The father, George Augustus Rose, died in March 1938, age 69, leaving effects worth £1488, with administration granted to his son, Robert Rose, picture restorer, who carried on the business with a break during the war years.

Robert Rose used his trade label to advertise, ‘ROBERT ROSE/ Picture Cleaner & Restorer/ Every Description of/ Framing, Carving & Gilding/ 19 OLD BROMPTON ROAD/ South Kensington Station, S.W.7/ KEN. 6466’ (example on red paper on stretcher of Sir William Beechey’s John Carr, National Portrait Gallery).

*E. Clive Rouse (1901-97). Wall paintings restorer and archaeologist.

Edward Clive Rouse lies outside the scope of this online resource, but see obituary by Jane Rutherford, Independent, 6 August 1997 (available at Obituary: E. Clive Rouse - The Independent) and profile by Ann Ballantyne, ‘Dr E. Clive Rouse and his Contribution to English Wall Painting Conservation’, in Oddy 2001 pp.1-4.

Updated March 2020
Helmut Ruhemann, Berlin to 1933, 2-3 Golden Square, London W1 1934-1939, The Dower House, Avening Court, Gloucestershire 1940, Glasgow 1941-1943, The Bothy, Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire 1943-1945, 37 Queen’s Grove, London NW8 1946-1964, 63 Blenheim Terrace NW8 1967-1969. Picture restorer.

Helmut Moritz Ruhemann (1891-1973) was one of the leading picture restorers of his generation. Born in Berlin, he studied painting at Karlsruhe, Munich and Paris, and during World War One at the Prado, Madrid. He practised as a freelance picture restorer from 1921, including for the Berlin art dealer, Paul Cassirer, before becoming chief restorer in 1929 at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin. There he promoted the use of x-rays as an analytical tool and favoured the complete removal of old varnish in cleaning pictures, in contrast to the more conservative approach of some of his contemporaries. He left his post in Berlin following political changes in 1933 and later that year came to England where he already had clients among leading London art dealers, Duveen, Agnew’s, Colnaghi’s and Sabin’s. He lived initially at 33 Regents Park Road, while working in Golden Square. He and his son Rainer Hans Ruhemann were naturalized in 1940 (London Gazette 14 June 1940). Towards the end of his career, Ruhemann published his most substantial work, The Cleaning of Paintings, 1968. He was made a CBE in 1968 (London Gazette 20 December 1968). Since the first appearance of this online history, Morwenna Blewett has published an excellent survey of Ruhemann’s complete career (‘The Art of Conservation VI: Helmut Ruhemann, paintings restorer in Berlin and London’, Burlington Magazine, 2016, vol.158, pp.638-46).

Ruhemann restored paintings for the National Gallery from 1934. He worked on paintings evacuated to Wales from the National Gallery and Tate Gallery in 1939. He was appointed as a restorer for Glasgow Art Gallery, 1941-3, at a salary of £7 a week for four days work (Tate archive, TGA 8812/1/1/8, 9). He lectured at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1934 and was lecturer in charge of the Technology Department at the Courtauld, 1946-51. He acted as consultant restorer at the National Gallery, 1946-53, and continued to undertake extensive work for the Gallery on a freelance basis until 1972.

Ruhemann established a considerable reputation. He was one of two immigrant restorers identified by the Earl of Crawford, a trustee of various museums, in a letter of 1944 to James Mann, Keeper of the Wallace Collection, concerning the insistence of the newly founded Association of British Picture Restorers that members be British-born subjects, ‘I object on principle to this dead set against foreigners, particularly when the foreigners include such men as Yssep and Ruheman, who in their way are I suppose streets ahead of any English restorer’ (National Archives, AR1/244), although subsequently Crawford’s enthusiasm for Ruhemann’s work cooled. The National Gallery’s director, Philip Hendy, described Ruhemann as 'a new kind of restorer, for he had no secrets and he had instead a longing to share his knowledge' (Ruhemann 1968 p.22).

Helmut Ruhemann’s cleaning methods, which favoured complete varnish removal, were criticised by another immigrant picture restorer, Johannes Hell (qv), and led to public controversy in 1946 about pictures in the National Gallery collection during which the artist Sir Gerald Kelly, a trustee of Dulwich Picture Gallery, attacked the National Gallery’s approach to cleaning pictures. Philip Hendy expressed his opinion to his Board of Trustees in November 1946 that the controversy was ‘largely the result of Hell’s antagonism to Mr Ruhemann’ (Runeberg 2005 p.355). For further background information and for the opinions of subsequent restorers on the two men, see Joyce Hill Stoner, ‘Hell vs Ruhemann: The impact of two German conservators on U.S. conservation theory’, AIC Paintings Speciality Group Postprints, 2000, and Joyce Hill Stoner, ‘Hell vs Ruhemann, The Metaphysical and the Physical: Controversies about the Cleaning of Paintings’, in Oddy 2001 pp.109-14).

Helmut Ruhemann’s archive has been acquired by the Hamilton Kerr Institute. There are also private papers in the National Gallery archive (NG29/1-55). Both archives are worthy of further study.

Restoration work: At the National Gallery, among many other works, Ruhemann treated Titian's The Tribute Money in 1937 (Penny 2008 p.260), three works by Annibale Carracci in 1955/6, the Master of the Female Half Lengths panel, Female Head, 1957-8 (Campbell 2014 p.520), Tintoretto’s St George and the Dragon in 1963 (National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol.3, 1979, p.3), Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus and Piero della Francesca’s St Michael in 1965/6 (The National Gallery 1965-1966, report, 1967, pp.71-3) and Jacopo Bassano's The Good Samaritan in 1968 (Penny 2008 p.16). Ruhemann was described by Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery, 1934-45, as 'the pioneer of scientific restoration in England' (Kenneth Clark, The Other Half: A Self-Portrait, 1977, pp. 2-3, 77). Clark persuaded 'the brilliant Ruhemann' to work in his own room, on the pretext that it had a better light, to keep his work under observation. Clark thought that he complied because he did not want to work, in alternate shifts, in the same studio as William Holder (qv): 'The two were even unwilling to pass each other in the passage; the jealousy which eminent restorers feel for one another goes far beyond that of actors and actresses, which strongly suggests that they have something to hide.'

During the war Ruhemann worked initially for the National Gallery. By 1941 the flow of pictures had diminished and Clark recommended him to Rothenstein to work on Tate Gallery pictures. Lord Crawford as chairman asked Rothenstein how much Ruhemann knew about English pictures, adding, ‘He certainly is a very brilliant restorer, generally speaking, and I think knows more than anyone else in this country about the job.’ (Tate archive, TG18/1/1/9/1). There was an understanding that he would receive work from the Tate up to the value of £500, a considerable sum, to be completed within a certain period of time but it would appear that the difficulties Ruhemann faced working in Glasgow and then at Sudeley Castle, combined with problems around transporting pictures and obtaining picture restoration materials, meant that progress was slow. Works treated included lining Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (now National Gallery) (Ruhemann 1968 p.46).

At the Wallace Collection, Ruhemann cleaned the fresco fragment, Luini’s Head of a Girl in 1936 (National Archives, AR 1/226, see also Ingamells 1985 p.305). For the Fitzwilliam Museum, he cleaned Titian’s Tarquin and Lucretia, 1939. For Samuel Courtauld, he cleaned Renoir’s La Loge (Courtauld Institute) in 1939, referring to the help he had received from National Gallery staff and Kenneth Clark and the need to record darkened retouchings by UV photography before removing them and retouching in non-darkening paint (British Library, Add.MS 52434 f.17).

For the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, from about 1935 Ruhemann worked on some early paintings, probably on the recommendation of Kenneth Clark (Edward Morris and Timothy Stevens, History of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1873-2000, 2013, pp.224-45). He removed discoloured varnish and some old retouching from Simone Martini’s Christ Discovered in the Temple in 1940 and cleaned Ercole de’ Roberti’s Pietà, a predella panel, in 1943 (Cleaned Pictures: An exhibition of pictures from the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Liverpool, 1955, nos 1, 7).

For Glasgow Art Gallery, he cleaned various pictures, 1942-4, and Titian’s Christ and the Adulteress for £500 in 1952-3; he also cleaned the Chardins in the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow (H. Ruhemann, ‘The cleaning and restoration of the Glasgow Giorgione’, Burlington Magazine, vol.97, 1955, pp.278-82; Tom John Honeyman, Art and Audacity, 1971, pp.100, 104, drawn to my attention by Michael Daley). He also worked for Wakefield City Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland, both in 1953.

Ruhemann worked on country house and institutional collections in Scotland, Ireland and England. Before the war and in the years to 1943, his clients included the Athenaeum Club, the British Institution, Lady Cholmondeley, Sir Kenneth Clark, Lord Crawford (both father and son), Major Dent-Brocklehurst, Lady Greville, Calouste Gulbenkian, Lord Herbert, Lord Kinnaird, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Lee of Fareham, Lord Lonsdale, the Duchess of Montrose, Lord Moyne and Lord Zetland (Ruhemann archive, ‘Official Bodies for which Mr. H Ruhemann has worked’, c.1943, see Sources below).

After the war he worked for the Earl of Southesk at Kinnaird Castle in 1949-50 including the ‘complete restoration’ of Cranach’s Judith for 85 guineas, Viscount Kemsley in 1951 cleaning and restoring Joshua Reynolds’s Countess of Dartmouth and Earl of Dartmouth for 280gs and 200 gs respectively, Sudeley Castle in 1951 and 1953 including restoring Lucas de Heere’s The Family of Henry VIII (National Museum Wales) for 45gs, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava at Clandeboye in 1952 including restoring 24 paintings for 481gs, Burton Constable in 1956, Castle Howard in 1956, Holkham Hall and Lowther Castle (Ruhemann 1968 p.46; Ruhemann archive, Challenge Duplicate Book). He also cleaned paintings at Wallington in Northumberland in the 1940s (Nicola Grimaldi and Jeremy Capadose, ‘The examination of a portrait of Susanna Trevelyan’, British Art Journal, vol.12, no.3, winter 2011-12, p.12).

Sources: Helmut Ruhemann, The Cleaning of Paintings, 1968, especially his 'Autobiographical and Historical Notes’, pp.31-58; obituary by Martin Davies, The Times 10 May 1973; obituary by Norman Brommelle, Studies in Conservation, vol.18, no.2, May 1973, news supplement, pp.7-8; Harold J. Plenderleith, 'A History of Conservation', Studies in Conservation, vol.43, 1998, p.135 n.48; Runeberg 2005 pp.342-5, 353-6, 363-4; Hamilton Kerr Institute, Helmut Ruhemann archive, ‘Official Bodies for which Mr. H Ruhemann has worked’, typescript headed ‘Corporation of Glasgow’, c.1943, and Challenge Duplicate Book, with copy invoices, 1949-56. For Ruhemann's philosophy of inpainting, including his belief in the role of the conservator as connoisseur, see Bettina Jessell, ‘Helmut Ruhemann's Inpainting Techniques’, JAIC, vol.17, no.1, 1977, pp.1-8. See also Ann Massing, ‘The history of egg tempera as a retouching medium’, in Rebecca Ellison et al (eds), Mixing and Matching: Approaches to Retouching Paintings, 2010, pp.7-8, 11. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Updated September 2018
John Lewis Rutley
1811-1843 (with Thomas Rutley 1828), picture dealer, Mrs Mary Rutley 1843-1847, picture dealer, carver and gilder, Thomas Robert Rutley 1848-1876, picture dealer, John Lewis Rutley 1877-1914, picture dealer and picture restorer, by 1879 also owner of picture gallery, known as the Reynolds’ Galleries 1882-1908. At Covent Garden Market, London 1811, 65 St Martin’s Lane 1814-1822, Great Newport St 1817, 5 Great Newport St 1818-1914.

The business was started by the first John Lewis Rutley (c.1776-1839), possibly born in 1776, the son of Samuel Rutley, and possibly related to Lewis Rotely, who married in 1782. John Lewis Rutley is documented as a salesman and fruiterer in Covent Garden market in 1811 (Holden’s directory), moving into picture dealing the same year when recorded buying actively at picture sales (Getty provenance index). As John Rutley, picture dealer, he took out insurance from 65 St Martin’s Lane in 1816 (London Metropolitan Archives, Sun Fire Office policy registers, 471/919674). It was not until 1817/8 that he moved into the premises at 5 Great Newport St, where Sir Joshua Reynolds (qv) once lived. In 1828 the business was listed as Thomas and J.L. Rutley, but it is not clear whether this Thomas was his brother or some other relative. In Robson’s directory, the business was given in 1831 as ‘Gallery & private rooms for the sale of pictures & works of art on commission’. In the Post Office directory, the business was listed as John & Louis Rutley from 1839 to 1841, probably in error for John Lewis Rutley.

John Lewis Rutley had seven children between 1803 and 1814, the first four and the last christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields, the other two, born in 1808 and 1812, christened at St Paul Covent Garden. He died in 1839, age 65, and was buried at Kensal Green. In his will, as Picture Dealer of Great Newport St and of Greenwich, made 18 October 1836 and proved 16 April 1839, he named as beneficiaries his wife Mary, daughters Elizabeth Rutley and Ann Rutley Dixon, wife of James Dixon, and sons Thomas Robert, Robert and James. After his death, there was a fire on the adjoining premises in January 1840 (The Examiner 12 January 1840, Morning Chronicle 15 January 1840). It was Mary Rutley (c.1772-1858) who carried on the business, described in 1839 as a carver and gilder and proprietor of Gallery for the sale of pictures, until her son, Thomas Robert, took over in 1848. Rutley was a purchaser of pictures at the Stowe sale held by Christie's in 1848 (Forster 1848 pp.155, 167, 185).

Thomas Robert Rutley (1806-85) was born in 1806 and was christened the following year at St Martin-in-the-Fields. He was apprenticed to the picture dealer, Philip Hill of 6 Greek St, Soho, in 1821, but did not receive his freedom until 1840 (Records of London's Livery Companies Online). He married Sophia Gale in 1835 at St Nicholas, Brighton. For their son, John Lewis Rutley junr, see below. Thomas Robert Rutley, picture dealer, and his family were recorded at 5 Great Newport St in the 1851 and 1871 censuses (he has not been traced in other censuses). He was made bankrupt in 1861, when it was reported that his debts would be paid in full (Morning Chronicle 26 April 1861). He held an account from 5 Great Newport St with the artists’ suppliers, Roberson, in 1866 (Woodcock 1997). He was a partner in a business manufacturing mineral teeth and dentists’ materials (London Gazette 6 March 1857, 27 February 1874). He retired by 1876 when his business as a picture dealer was carried on by his son, John Lewis Rutley. He died at the age of 78 in 1885 in the Westminster district, leaving a considerable personal estate of £19,111.

John Lewis Rutley junr (1836-1921) was born in 1836 and christened at St Paul Covent Garden. He was apprenticed to his father in 1850 and received his freedom in 1857. He married in the Wandsworth district in 1868. He was recorded in the 1871 census, living with his father, as a picture restorer, age 34, and in subsequent censuses with his wife, Sophia: in 1881 and 1891 at Edinburgh Mansions, Westminster, as Captain and Secretary of the National Artillery Association in 1881 and Lt-Col. and Secretary in 1891; in 1901 untraced; and in 1911 as a picture restorer, by now age 74, at 5 Great Newport St, with nine employees. He ran the business from 1877 until his retirement in 1914. He then sold his collection of pictures at Christie’s, and left 5 Great Newport St, as reported in The Times, which described him as ‘one of the most respected, as he is certainly one of the oldest, picture dealers in London’ (The Times 17 April 1914). By 1915 he was living at 80 Belsize Park Gardens. He died at the age of 86 on 17 October 1921 (The Times 12 December 1921), leaving a personal estate of £11,212.

Framing work: Little is known of John Lewis Rutley senr’s work as a picture framer. ‘Mr Rutley’ used the carver and gilder, John Smith, to undertake work on picture frames, including regilding, 1812-5 (V&A National Art Library, John Smith ledgers, 86.CC.1). In 1832, a Leicestershire collector and patron, Henry Payne, told William Etty of his taste for ‘fine old frames’ and how a few years previously he had acquired some of his carved frames from Messrs Woodburn and from ‘Mr Rutley Gt Newport Street’ (William Etty letters, York City Library, no.36). For Woodburn, see British picture framemakers on this website.

Restoration work: It was John Lewis Rutley junr who was the member of the family who regularly undertook picture restoration. He worked on the Bute collection, according to the collector, John Henderson, in 1865 (National Portrait Gallery records, Trustees’ meeting correspondence, meeting of 26 April 1865). It seems to have been through Henderson’s recommendation that ‘Messrs Rutley, Picture Dealers & Restorers’, worked for the National Portrait Gallery. Between 1865 and 1872, Rutley’s work included cleaning and treating the problematic panel by an unknown artist, transferred to canvas, Pietro Vermigli, which he had sold the Gallery, cleaning, lining and varnishing Allan Ramsay’s George III for £6 in 1866, and lining and restoring William Beechey’s Sir Francis Bourgeois in 1867 (National Portrait Gallery records, Trustees’ meeting correspondence, meeting of 4 July, 1865; Duplicates of Accounts, vol.1, pp.52, 74; Walker 1985 p.60). When estimating for work on Henry Raeburn’s John Home in 1871, Rutley quoted £3 for relining, ‘slightly in excess of our usual charge for a ¾ portrait as the paint at the back of the canvas must be removed before relining (see also Ingamells 2004 p.260). As the Reynolds’ Galleries, Rutley sold a portrait, Anne Boleyn, to the National Portrait Gallery in 1882.

On visiting Rutley’s studio in October 1867, George Scharf, Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery, saw and sketched various portraits from the Inner Temple, including Godfrey Kneller’s full-length Queen Anne (National Portrait Gallery records, NPG7/3/4/2/91).

Rutley undertook cleaning work for Sir John Soane’s Museum in 1875, including three works by Canaletto, Riva degli Schiavoni looking West, A View in Venice with the Rialto and A View in Venice: The Piazza di San Marco, Hogarth’s Election series, John Jackson’s Sir John Soane in Masonic costume and his unfinished Mrs Soane, George Jones’s The Royal Procession at the Opening of London Bridge, Thomas Lawrence’s Sir John Soane, William Owen’s Sir John Soane and his John and George Soane at the ages of 19 and 16, as well as relining Luigi Mayer’s View of an Ancient Temple of Agrigentum in 1876 (all Sir John Soane’s Museum, information from Hilary Floe and Helen Dorey, 2008).

Rutley’s manuscript label, as the Reynolds' Galleries, can be found on the stretchers of some of the pictures he treated. There are labelled examples dating to 1892 on overdoor paintings at Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire, recording work carried out for L.P. Dawnay (personal observation), and from the same year on Richard Westall's Hebe at Treasurer’s House, York (information from Alastair Laing, October 2009). Labels dating to 1905 on paintings treated for the Earl of Suffolk can be found on Tintoretto’s Adoration of the Shepherds (Fitzwilliam Museum), Abraham Bloemaert's The Prodigal Son, and on several portraits, Cornelius Johnson’s Earl of Elgin, the Lely studio James II as Duke of York, the attrib. to Jonathan Richardson Henry Bowes Howard, 11th Earl of Suffolk and Thomas Hudson’s Viscount Andover (English Heritage, see The Suffolk Collection. Catalogue of Paintings, 1974, nos 28, 38, 47, and Laura Houliston, The Suffolk Collection: a Catalogue of Paintings, 2012, pp.89, 126, 132, 203).

Another member of the family, Harold L. Rutley was active as a picture restorer at 128 Haverstock Hill in 1918, claiming that the business had been established over 150 years.

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Found a mistake? Have some extra information? Please contact Jacob Simon at [email protected].

[RI] [RO] [RU] [RA]


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