John Linnell 1792-1882
T04139 Tatham's Garden, Alpha Road, at Evening
Watercolour on cream wove paper 102 x 125 (4 x 4 15/16)
Inscribed in ink 'Tatham's Garden' b.l., 'J Linnell 1812' bottom centre and 'Alpha Road' b.r.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Prov: By descent from the artist to his granddaughter Mrs T.H. Riches, by whose heirs or executors sold Sotheby's 18 Oct 1950 (130, one of five drawings on one mount) £11 bt Agnew, from whom this drawing (and others by Linnell from the Riches sale) bt 1951 by Ray Livingston Murphy, New York (d.1953); his executors, sold Christie's 19 Nov. 1985 (83, repr.) £1,188 bt Martyn Gregory for Tate Gallery
Lit: Judy Egerton, British Watercolours, Tate Gallery Colour Book Series, 1986, p.16, pl.26 (col.)
The scene is in the garden or grounds of Linnell's friend Charles Heathcote Tatham's house, 34 Alpha Cottages, Alpha Road, Marylebone, London. Alpha Road ran between Park Road and Lisson Grove, to the west of Regent's Park. Houses on either side of it, designated Alpha Cottages, began to be built c. 1808 (the first year in which they were rated), in what had formerly been open fields. Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842), at this period a flourishing architect with a practise in Queen Street, Mayfair, designed and built 34 Alpha Cottages for himself; but his house was no cottage in the ordinary sense. Marylebone Parish Rate Books (Marylebone Library, Archives Department) show that it had the highest rateable value in Alpha Road (£120 p.a.; most of the other houses were rated below £50); street plans show 34 Alpha Cottages as a sizable detached house, set at an oblique angle to the road in large grounds (see R. Horwood, Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, 3rd ed., 1813; Peter Potter, Map of the Parish of St. Marylebone, 2nd ed., c.1824. It should be noted that some renumbering of Alpha Cottages took place between 1812 and 1826, in the course of the development of the road, and possibly because one or more of its semi-detached houses came under single ownership; rate books at the beginning of that period number Tatham's house first as 36, then as 35 and finally as 34. The street was styled Alpha Cottages until 1826, when it became known as Alpha Road).
Linnell and Tatham were fellow-members of the Revd John Martin's Baptist Church in Keppel Street, Bloomsbury; Tatham was the architect of the church, and Linnell joined the Baptist community there in January 1812. Linnell's pen and ink portrait study of Tatham, also dated 1812 (private collection), was exhibited in John Linnell: Truth to Nature, Martyn Gregory Gallery, November 1982, and Davis and Langdale, New York, February 1983 (69, repr.). Tatham also knew William Blake, who was a subscriber to Tatham's Etchings, Representing the Best Examples of Ancient Ornamental Architecture, 1799 [-1800], and who presented Tatham with an inscribed copy of America
(G.E. Bentley Jr, Blake Records, Oxford 1969, p.61). Bentley gives full details of Tatham's son Frederick's friendship with and patronage of Blake. Tatham's daughter Julia married the artist George Richmond.
Painted at the age of twenty, T04139 is an example of the small and highly-charged 'transcripts' from nature which Linnell made between 1811 and 1819. Katherine Crouan notes that 'With rare exceptions, Linnell never parted with his studies in oil and watercolour, and he didn't exhibit them' (Introduction to John Linnell: Truth to Nature, exh. cat., p.ix ). Many such studies were in his grand-daughter Mrs T.H. Riches's sale at Sotheby's in 1950. Nine of these, including, as well as T04139, 'Sunset over a Line of Trees' and 'a small sky study' which had been on the same mount as T04139 in Mrs Riches's sale, entered Ray Livingston Murphy's collection and were included in the sale of works from his estate of Christie's in 985 (lots 81-8, six of them repr.; the two formerly mounted with T04139 were sold as lot 88, not repr.); they also included 'A Lane by Alpha Cottages', dated 1814 (82, repr.). A study inscribed 'Alpha Cottages', dated 1814, still in the collection of one of Linnell's descendants, was exhibited (wrongly described as 'Alpha Cottage, Kensington') with four studies of Kensington subjects in John Linnell and his Circle, Colnaghi 1973 (19a, repr. pl.VIIa) and in Landscape in Britain c.1750-1850, Tate Gallery 1973-4 (244a, repr. p.103).
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.74-5