Oil painting on canvas, Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland of Foxley (1705-1774) by William Hogarth (London 1697 - London 1764), 1761-62. A head and shoulders portrait, of a man, turned slightly to the right, gazing to the right, in a powdered wig, wearing a brown coat, edged with gilt braid and gold buttons with a matching waistcoat, with a white shirt beneath.
In early May 1761 the connoisseur and art historian Horace Walpole visited the studio of William Hogarth. ‘I went t’other morning to see a portrait he is painting of Mr Fox’, he wrote to George Montagu. ‘Hogarth told me he had promised, if Mr Fox would sit as he liked, to make as good a picture as Vandyke or Rubens could.’ The Mr Fox in question was Henry Fox, first Baron Holland of Foxley (1705–1774). A prominent Whig politician, in his early career Fox was a supporter of Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister from 1721 to 1742, and father of the connoisseur who visited Hogarth’s studio that day. Fox remained loyal to Walpole’s Whig successors, but by the late 1750s he had become more cynical in his approach to politics, and his strategies of the early 1760s alienated him from influential Whig allies and former friends. Though he was granted a barony in 1763, Fox was never awarded the earldom that he was seeking when Horace Walpole saw his portrait in Hogarth’s studio.The finished portrait of Fox by Hogarth was probably given by the sitter to his protégé, the politician John Calcraft (c.1726–1772), who was thought by some to be Fox’s son. Calcraft was, in any case, patronised by Fox until 1763, when a breach in their friendship developed over the elder statesman’s political manoeuvrings. The portrait descended through the family, and is now on loan to the National Trust from Henry Ryder. Following conservation work in 2006, it is to be displayed in the Breakfast Room at Osterley Park, Robert Adam’s neo-classical masterpiece in west London.
Osterley Park was given to the National Trust in 1949 by George Francis Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey. Though he had originally intended to leave the contents of Osterley to the Trust as well as the house, he decided to remove the family’s large collection of paintings, along with all the contents, except for those which formed part of the fabric of the house. Among this collection was Rubens’s ceiling painting ‘The Apotheosis of the Duke of Buckingham’ and his equestrian portrait of the duke, as well as a portrait of Charles I on horseback from the studio of Van Dyck-these last two paintings once faced each other at either end of Osterley’s Long Gallery. These and many other paintings from the collection were tragically destroyed in a warehouse fire on Jersey in 1949 before the earl could display them in a gallery attached to his house there.
So, while Osterley is by no means unique in having come to the Trust without its original fittings and furnishings, there are few surviving paintings belonging to the donor family which might otherwise be offered on loan to the house, or identified for potential future acquisition. Osterley is therefore dependent for the display of paintings on loans from public and private collections, and from other properties owned by the National Trust. The question of what should be displayed at Osterley is one which has preoccupied curators at the National Trust (and at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which managed the property until responsibility was transferred in 1991) since the start.
An early solution to the hang in the Long Gallery was the display of a rare set of Beauvais tapestries from Arlington Court; but these were found to be unsuitable for the space, given the light levels there. The tapestries were followed by a display of 18th- and early 19th-century British portraits, on loan from the Cooper collection from Hursley Park; but these were recalled and sent for auction in the early 1980s, and were replaced by paintings from the V&A store. Most recently, under the National Trust, the Long Gallery has been re-hung with old masters, mainly 17th- and 18th-century Venetian paintings acquired by bequest or in lieu of tax, along with two retained on loan from the V&A, and others from the Royal Collection, West Wycombe, and private collections. In the Breakfast Room, where the Hogarth is to be shown, the 1782 inventory recorded 41 pictures, mostly 17th-century Italian and Dutch paintings, mixed with British portraits. The current display recreates something of the original effect, largely through loans from Dulwich Picture Gallery, the V&A, and a private collection.
The loan of Hogarth’s portrait of Fox to Osterley highlights not only the challenges of finding suitable works of art for properties without indigenous chattels, but also the opportunities such properties offer for the display of works which might otherwise not be shown to such good effect. Hogarth’s portrait was originally intended by the National Trust to be hung at Ickworth, where the sitter’s friendship with John, Lord Hervey (1696–1743) is commemorated in another work by Hogarth, the famous ‘Hervey Conversation Piece’. However, it proved impossible to find an appropriate place there for the portrait, so the National Trust’s Curator for Pictures & Sculpture suggested its transferral to Osterley. Hogarth’s portrait should make a significant mark when it comes to be displayed among the other paintings at Osterley; the only pity is that it cannot be compared to the works by Rubens and Van Dyck which once hung there, so as to test the boast Hogarth made to Walpole when he visited his studio!
(Alison Fuller, arts|buildings|collections (abc) bulletin, July 2007, p,3 - www.nationaltrust.org.uk/abcbulletin)
On loan from a private collection
Makers and roles
William Hogarth (London 1697 - London 1764), artist
Fuller 2007 Alison Fuller, arts|buildings|collections (abc) bulletin, July 2007, p,3 - www.nationaltrust.org.uk/abcbulletin
Paulson, 1972: Ronald Paulson, Hogarth the Painter: The Exhibition at the Tate, The Burlington Magazine, vol.114, no.827, February 1972, pp.69-77 & 79, fig.16