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56 See his portrait of Miss Ford of 1760 (Cincinnati Art Gallery), discussed chapter 2, p.116. M.
Rosenthal, 'Thomas Gainsborough's Ann Ford', Art Bulletin 80,4 (December 1998), pp.649-65; M.
The Art of Thomas Gainsborough: 'A Little Business for the Eye' (New Haven and Rosenthal, London, 1999), pp.162, 167-81 Wrightson, English Society. for example pp.72-87 some degree, is trans-historical. Merely because the behaviour that we associate with the affective family is not depicted before the mid eighteenth century is not to say that it did not exist before the mid eighteenth century.
The question therefore is why the desire arose to express affection, intimacy and privacy openly in eighteenth-century portraits of the family, elevating such qualities to become the main subjects of the picture. The answer lies in wider cultural developments outside the institution of the family, which were critical for transitions in its representation and idealisation. It is to be found in the large body of prescriptive and fictional texts - novels, advice literature, sennons, poems, plays and conduct books - texts that reveal a largely homogeneous body of ideals parallel to that apparent in domestic portraiture. 58 The majority of scholars who have dealt specifically with such texts have echoed historians such as Stone and Trumbach in proposing a shift in power relations and affect in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The much discussed and debated 'rise of the novel' has been held to have played a key part in the dissemination of new familial values, authors such as Samuel Richardson creating idealised paragons of feminine domestic rectitude. 59 Similarly, Nancy Annstrong focussed on the 1690s as witnessing the origins of a distinctive advice literature that contributed to the elevation of domestic virtues and the creation of a newly sentimental ideal of womanhood. She argued that the twin paradigms of the efficient housewife and the humble and honest unmarried woman were united by
Addison, Richard Steele, the Marquess of Halifax, the Reverend Fordyce, John Gregory and Hannah More.
I. Watt, The Rise o/the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (London, 1987).
See also M. McKeon, The Origins o/the English Novel 1600-1740 (Baltimore, 1987) and 1. Raven,
1740. 60 Finally, Kathryn Shevelow has argued for a parallel development in the dictates and recommendations of periodicals, steadily enclosing women within an increasingly eulogised domestic sphere. However, she is careful to note that there were other fictional models available to women, particularly in the form of the novel.
From Lord Rochester's view of women as frail and yet vicious to the contemptible social butterflies that feature in the poems of Pope, alternatives to mainstream ideology could be found. 61 As Alan Macfarlane has challenged Stone's model of actual change, so that of theoretical change has similarly been contested. Kathleen M. Davies, for example, has traced a literary tradition expounding the virtues of mutuality in the marital relationship back to the fourteenth century and has claimed that the period after the Reformation did not witness an unprecedented Puritan promotion of domestic virtues. 62 However, whilst it does appear that prescriptive edicts on love, intimacy and the domestic unit were not inventions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, new emphases and different formulations of the old ideals certainly became apparent at this time. As Fenella Ann Childs has definitively argued and Amanda Vickery has confirmed, a fresh wave of sentimentality towards women and the family appeared in Judging New Wealth: Popular Publishing and Responses to Commerce in England 1750-1800 (Oxford. 1992) N. Armstrong. 'The Rise of the Domestic Woman'. in N. Armstrong and L. Tennenhouse.
eds.. The Ideology of Conduct: Essays in Literature and the History of Sexuality (New York and London. 1987). pp.96-141; N. Armstrong. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York and Oxford. 1987). chapter 2 Shevelow. Women and Print Culture, especially chapter 1 and p.16. See also Vickery. The Gentleman's Daughter, pp.6-7 K.M. Davies. 'Continuity and Change in Literary Advice on Marriage'. in Outhwaite. ed.• Marriage and Society, pp.58-80. Macfarlane. Marriage and Love in England, p.182 also claimed that the early 1700s. 63 A newly secular construction of the domestic female idealised her as the moral guardian of the home, the prime educator of her children and as a soothing companion to her husband. The period also witnessed an increased attention to the private virtues of men, emphasising their behaviour in the domestic sphere as the prototype and justification for that in the public domain. Such ideas were encouraged by societies for the reformation of manners, popular with urban middleclass males in the early decades of the eighteenth century. These emphasised values such as civility, humanity and politeness and rejected homosocial environments such as the tavern in favour of the civilised world of the home. 64 However, the most important cultural development in terms of this broadly conceived transition in prescriptive and fictional literature was the cult of sensibility.
Dominant in fictional texts published between the 1740s and 1770s, this stressed values such as sympathy and empathy, placing a new accent upon feeling and emotion over and above reason and intellect. Men, as a result, were supposed to evince kindness, protection and a loving attitude towards wives, children and helpless and needy members of society in general. Women were praised for specifically feminine new attitudes to marriage did not arise at the Reformation and that conduct books written prior to 1660 contain the same messages.
F.A. Childs, 'Prescriptions for Manners in English Courtesy Literature, 1690-1760, and their Social Implications' (unpub. Ph.D. thesis, Oxford, 1984), chapter 5, especially pp.283-7; Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter, pp.6, 93, 286. However, both note that this glorification was not unprecedented. Rather, conceptions of femininity had oscillated between the idealised and the vilified for centuries. See M. LeGates, 'The Cult of Womanhood in Eighteenth-Century Thought', EighteenthCentury Studies 10, 1 (Fall 1976), pp.21-39 Hunt, The Middling Sort. chapter 4; Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility, chapter 2.
K. Rogers in 'The Feminism of Daniel Defoe', in P. Fritz and R. Morton, eds., Women in the Eighteenth Century and Other Essays (Toronto and Sarasota, 1976), p.21 similarly emphasised the early eighteenth-century reformation of manners as formative in the development of more sentimental attitudes to women, love and marriage.
virtues such as gentleness, tenderness and emotionality. Fragility permeated their physical beings and nervous systems, expressed through frequent faintings, tears and blushes. Whilst such qualities were seen to suit women ideally to the duties of wifehood and motherhood, it was feared that this lack of rationality could stimulate an unbalanced disposition. This, it was advised, could be counteracted by the tempering influence of manly gravitas, provided by husbands within the confines of the ideal companionate marriage. 6S Painting proffered a peculiarly suitable vehicle for expressing such new-found sensibility. Portraits could demonstrate a family's affectionate unity and domestic virtue, simultaneously denying the problematics of public display through the sitters' apparent unawareness of the presence of the spectator. That spectator, in tum, could appreciate his or her reaction to the emotive image, feeling secure in the resultant evidence of a suitably sentient character.
Such developments were thus critical in promoting the newly companionate portraiture of the later eighteenth century. Sitters wished to be depicted in line with new ideals in order to receive approbation from their audience. As Marcia Pointon (amongst others) has shown, portraiture was intrinsically public despite its often seemingly private nature. 66 Portraits were frequently on display in exhibitions such as those held annually at the Royal Academy, accessible to the London elite and all those whose ability to find the necessary shilling for entrance granted them potential critical For sensibility, see Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility, passim.; J. Todd, 6S
Sensibility: An Introduction (London and New York, 1986); R.F. Brissenden, Virtue in Distress:
Studies in the Novel of Sentiment from Richardson to Sade (London and Basingstoke, 1974); P.
Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783 (Oxford, 1989), chapter 10; J.
Mullan, Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1988) Pointon, Hanging the Head, p.I64; R. Brilliant, Portraiture (London, 1991), pp.lO-ll;
West, 'The Public Nature of Private Life', pp.152-171 authority. Even if a portrait immediately vanished into the home after completion, it was far from being entirely private. Quite apart from the stream of family, friends and acquaintances who would have seen it in the normal course of familial and sociable life, country house viewing became a highly popular pastime during the century.67 Equally, many portraits were translated into prints, sometimes to be circulated amongst a select group and sometimes to be disseminated more widely through print shops.68 Such domestic images were also intrinsically public on a more conceptual level. They established relationships and evidence of continuous lineage for commemorative purposes, providing durable material evidence of the family's virtue as well as its admirable genealogy.69 The public nature of portraiture meant that patrons did not want to reveal the vagaries and peculiarities of their own family situations. They sought rather to display relationships that would stimulate the admiration of the viewer, conditioned by prescriptive and fictional literature into a notion of what was laudable. And artists, working in an increasingly competitive market place, had to oblige. 7o Portraiture was thus inevitably flattering, "clouded by the desire to impress, to embody the superior intellectual and personal qualities of the subject, and to project a sense of confidence L. Stone and J.C. Fawtier Stone, An Open Elite? England 1540-1880 (Oxford, 1984), pp.ll, 69 and Part III; S. West, 'Patronage and Power: The Role of the Portrait in Eighteenth-Century Culture. Politics and Society in Britain 1660-1800 England', in J. Black and J. Gregory, eds., (Manchester and New York, 1991), p.135; J.H. Plumb, E.J. Nygren and N.L. Pressly, The Pursuit of Happiness: A View of Life in Georgian England (New Haven, 1977), p.lO 68 T. Clayton, The English Print 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, 1997) 69 West, 'The Public Nature of Private Life', passim.
L. Lippincott, Selling Art in Georgian London: The Rise of Arthur Pond (New Haven and London, 1983), p.73. Shearer West in 'Patronage and Power', p.131 notes that Horace Walpole claimed that, in 1759, there were no less than 2,000 portraitists practising in London. See also M. Painton, 'Portrait Painting as a Business Enterprise in London in the 1780s', Art History 7 (1984), pp.187-205 about the longevity of the subject's family."71 The need to appeal to a sitter's ego prompted a variety of responses from contemporaries. Gerard de Lairesse happily recommended that the portraitist obscure his sitter's defects, claiming flattery to be "not only allowable, but commendable," whilst, at the other end of the scale, Horace Walpole recorded Hogarth's inherent dislike for such vanity and self-Iove.72 Jonathan
Richardson was a little more cautious, warning that improvements should be discreet:
"I will allow a poem but not a romance."73 The process behind such posturing has
been ably summarised by Richard Brilliant:
Portraits exist at the interface between art and social life and the pressure to conform to social norms enters into their composition because both the artist and the subject are enmeshed in the value system of their society. This may explain, in part, the prevalent formality of private portraits as a code of right behaviour, reflecting the constraints imposed by the conventions that govern one's appearance in public and before strangers. Adding to their force is the conscious or unconscious wish to 'put one's best foot forward'...14 To 'put one's best foot forward' was to display lauded modes of marriage and parenthood. It was to appeal to a recognised and approved lexicon of domestic virtue 71 West, 'Patronage and Power', p.132 Gerard de Lairesse, The Art of Painting, in all its Branches (1738) (London, 2nd edition, 1778), p.268 (the first Dutch edition of this text was published in 1709); H. Walpole Anecdotes of Painting in England; with some Account of the Principal Artists 4 Vols (Strawberry Hill, 1762-71), 4, p.75 73 J. Richardson, 'An Essay on the Theory of Painting' (1715), in The Works of Mr. Jonathan Richardson (London, 1773), p.44 Brilliant, Portraiture, p.11 in order to earn respect within the public gaze. And it was to evince values distilled from cultural movements such as the cult of sensibility, locating oneself within exemplary prototypes.