William Hogarth

The Strode Family


Not on display

William Hogarth 1697–1764
Oil paint on canvas
Frame: 1126 × 1175 × 98 mm
support: 870 × 915 mm
Bequeathed by Rev. William Finch 1880

Display caption

Hogarth's early success as a painter was based on his exceptionally lively small-scale 'conversation pieces', or informal group portraits, which became fashionable in the 1730s. They reflected the move away from the solemn formality of the previous generation and attempted to show the sitters in easy, natural poses, in a domestic setting, engaged in everyday activities like conversation or drinking tea. The main subject here is the wealthy city magnate William Strode, seated at table with his new wife Lady Anne Cecil, his relative Col. Strode, and his tutor Dr Arthur Smyth, later Archbishop of Dublin. The paintings on the wall are reminders of their recent tour of Italy. On the floor is the tea caddy.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

N01153 The Strode Family c. 1738

Oil on canvas 870×915 (34 1/4×36)
Bequeathed to the National Gallery by the Revd William Finch 1884; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1951
PROVENANCE Presumably painted for the sitter, and first recorded in the possession of his son William 1782; on his death 21 July 1809 (d.s.p.) inherited by his widow Mary (née Brouckner, widow of Admiral William Clement Finch), and on her death 6 October 1813 by the eldest son of her first marriage, the Revd William Finch; bequeathed by him to the National Gallery 1880, with life interest to his sister Charlotte (d.1883); entered the National Gallery 1884
EXHIBITED RA Winter 1884 (38); AC tour 1946 (1); Tate Gallery 1951 (40); Manchester 1954 (18); BC tour 1957 (32, repr.p.79); BC tour 1960 (5); Tate Gallery 1971 (104)
LITERATURE Nichols 1782, p.362; Nichols & Steevens, I, 1808, pp.424–5: Nichols 1833, pp.375–6; H. Cotton, Fasti Ecclesiae Hibernicae, Dublin 1848, II, pp.25–6 (for biography of Arthur Smyth); Dobson 1907, p.207; S. Sitwell, Conversation Pieces, 1936, p.12, pl.20; Davies 1946, pp.68–9; Beckett 1949, p.46, no.93, repr.; Baldini & Mandel 1967, p.100, no.88, pl.XXVII (col.); Antal 1962, pp.40, 51, 204, pl.62a; T. Pignatti, Pietro Longhi, 1969, p.44, fig.15; Paulson 1971, I, pp.205, 455, 458, fig.175, II, p.3; Webster 1979, pp.81–2, 97, 127, repr. in col. p.90

The painting is first described by John Nichols in 1782 as ‘A Breakfast-piece, preserved in Hill-Street, Berkeley-Square, in the possession of William Strode, Esq. of Northaw, Herts. It contains portraits of his father the late William Strode, Esq., his mother Lady Anne (who was sister to the late Earl of Salisbury), Colonel Strode, and Dr Arthur Smyth (afterwards Archbishop of Dublin). Two dogs are introduced, one belonging to Mr. Strode, the other (a pug) to the Colonel's’. Nichols & Steevens call the Colonel ‘Mr. Samuel Strode’ and add the name of Jonathan Powell, the butler. As the information clearly came from the sitter's son, it can be regarded as reliable.

William Strode (c. 1712–55) of Ponsbourne Hall, Herts., came from a wealthy and well-connected family of South Sea brokers. He married Lady Anne Cecil (1711–52), eldest sister of the 6th Earl of Salisbury, 4 February 1736 (Gentleman's Magazine, VI, 1736, p.109, pagination defective in some volumes; the groom is wrongly named Thomas Stroude). Their son William was born 23 July 1738, and both the absence of children and the style of painting suggest a date of c.1738.

Seated on the far left is Dr Arthur Smyth (1706–71), eighth son of Thomas, Bishop of Limerick, who was to rise through many preferments to become Archbishop of Dublin in 1766 (further details of his career can be found in the manuscript catalogue entry by Lindsay Stainton and Julius Bryant for a later pastel portrait of Smyth by Thomas Frye, in the collection of the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood). He gained an MA at Oxford in 1729, and was with Strode in Venice in 1733, at the same time as the Marquess of Salisbury, Strode's future brother-in-law. This transpires from a letter dated 19 May 1737 (Salisbury archives, Hatfield, Gen.29/28) in which Strode refers to Smyth as ‘my most Intimate Friend’, and asks the Marquess to bestow on him one of the many livings in his gift.

In 1740 Smyth was in Italy again, this time as tutor to the young William Cavendish, Lord Hartington, later 4th Duke of Devonshire (Walpole's Correspondence, XVII, pp.10, 15–16, 23) and it may be that it was through his agency that Lord Hartington had himself painted by Hogarth on his return to England (743×622, 29 1/4×24 1/2, signed and dated 1741, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Bindman 1981, pl.93 in col.).

The pictures on the wall - a large Salvator Rosa-type landscape, a small view of Venice, perhaps by Guardi, and another small landscape in the style of Gaspard - are suitable reminders of the Grand Tour.

When the painting was cleaned and X-rayed in 1984, it became apparent that the composition had undergone considerable changes (fig.32). The book-case at the back of the room had originally been conceived as a formal pedimented doorway with two oval paintings hung high on the wall on either side; the one on the left seems to have been a portrait, that on the right (now clearly visible through the underpaint) a flower piece. The lofty barrel vault had been painted to some degree of finish before being partly covered with the curtain on the left, and the table was first painted without a table-cloth. The greatest changes, however, were to the figures themselves; William Strode orginally leant slightly forward over the table towards the right, apparently looking towards his brother, who raised his arm high above Lady Anne's chair. This was not originally covered by her skirt, as the outline of its curved leg can be seen under the rim of the table. The butler stood well to the right of where he stands now, his head touching the centre of the lower edge of the large painting on the wall, and if he was pouring water into the teapot, he was doing so with his right hand, and not with his left as he is now. The dense painting of the three central figures suggests that they were painted particularly thickly to cover the earlier composition, which may have been altered to include William Strode's new wife.

The Gallery archives have a photograph of a three-quarter length portrait owned in 1967 by the Wesley Home for the Elderly, Baltimore, Maryland (gift of Miss Purnell), said to be of Lady Anne Strode and attributed to Hogarth. Stylistically it looks more like a work by Thomas Frye of c.1745–55, but the likeness to Lady Anne is reasonably close. She is shown holding a fan and wearing a black shawl over her head.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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