Catalogue entry

T01886 THE LETHBRIDGE CHILDREN 1785

Inscribed ‘CGill 1785’ b.l.
Oil on canvas, 28×35 1/2 (71×90.2)
Bequeathed by Alan Evans to the National Gallery and transferred to the Tate Gallery 1974
Coll: The Hon. Frederick Wallop by 1930; by descent to Alan Evans
Exh: English Conversation Pictures, 25 Park Lane, 1930 (93)
Lit: J. Collinson, History of Somerset, 1791, II, p.494 (for history of Sandhill Park)

On acquisition, the painting had a typewritten label on the stretcher which could have been copied from the inscription on a later copy, possibly the one mentioned below:

“The names and ages of the Figures represented in this picture and drawn by Mrs. Gill of Bath in February 1794: Thomas Buckler Lethbridge-just six years old. Dorothea Lethbridge-between four and five years old. Jascinthia Ann Lethbridge-between three and four years old”.

Present descendants of the family have in their possession a small pastel, said to be of the above children (letter from Sir Hector Lethbridge Bt., dated 27 November 1975, in gallery files). Assuming that the wording has been correctly copied, the given ages of the children tally with those of the three children of Sir John Lethbridge (1746–1815) and his wife Dorothea Buckler (c.f.Burke's Peerage, 1970, p. 1951), the only discrepancy being that the Peerage gives the name of the youngest child as Frances Maria and not Jascinthia Ann.

The children's father was an eminent citizen of Bath, a J.P., Sheriff of the County and a governor of the British Mineral Water Hospital in the 1770s and 80s. He inherited Sandhill Park (also known as Hill) near Ash Priors, Somerset, in 1755, and was knighted in 1804. His son Thomas Buckler Lethbridge, 2nd Bt. (1778–1849), the boy in this picture, enlarged the house considerably in 1815. Dorothea, his elder sister, (born c. 1780) married Henry Powell Collins of Hatch Court, Somerset, and his younger sister married Sir Charles Henry Rich, 2nd Bt., in 1806. She died in 1852.

It is not known if Gill had a wife who made copies of his paintings; it is therefore possible that ‘Mrs Gill’ in the label is a misreading of ‘Chs. Gill’.

Gill's naive and linear style shows little influence of his master Reynolds, but the sensitive and forthright rendering of the heads and the sympathetic handling of the group as a whole, not excluding the unglamorous but blissfully happy family dog, makes it a provincial work of great charm.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978