A Research Goldmine at the National Portrait Gallery

A couple of years back, I was having a good old moan about The National Portrait Gallery website, and its pathetically small images.

The good news is that The NPG site has had a complete makeover recently, and you can find large versions of just about all their stock of images. That’s only a part of the changes, however. There are several new sections in the sidebar, and one of the most intriguing developments is the Research section that contains three real gems for keen picture researchers: – Artists Suppliers (1650 – 1950), Frame Makers, and Restorers.

I dived into the Artist Suppliers section to see if I could find any more information about William Orpen‘s brother in law, Jack Knewstub, one of the co-founders of the Chenil Gallery in Chelsea. The gallery also had an artists materials shop that made canvases for painters. The stretchers were marked with a sort of trade mark insignia, in the shape of an artist’s palette.

At the end of the entry for the Chenil Gallery, there’s a link to a website devoted to William Roberts.

thumbnail of The Giddy Social Whirl of Vorticism

It’s a memorial put together by the William Roberts Society, and it covers just about everything you’d want to know about the vorticist painter. Roberts had once had a one man show at the Chenil. Here’s a link to William Roberts’ entry in Artcyclopedia.

thumbnail of Chenil Gallery Foundation Stone
This photo shows the laying of the foundation stone of the gallery. The bearded bloke holding what looks like a shield is the painter Augustus John, posing with an enormous palette. I would hazard a guess that Jack Knewstub would be in that crowd. He might even be the bare headed chap with his hat under his arm, just to the right of the central pole. I’m wondering if the dapper cove just to his right might possibly be Orpen himself. It wouldn’t be totally illogical. (Click the image to enlarge it, please)
The maquette is a scale model of the completed gallery.

The next digression was provided by a mention of the topographic painter and etcher, Henry Rushbury, on one of the William Roberts pages. Using the ever trusty Artcyclopedia, I was directed to The Arts Museums of San Francisco, and instead of finding works created by Rushbury, I found two etchings of him.
Peering through the horrible Zoomify interface, I was struck by the work of yet another amazing painter (OK:amazing printer) that I had never heard of.

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst 1890 – 1978

Click on this one to get the big picture…
thumbnail of Portrait of Henry Rushbury
Henry Rushbury Etching by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst

I suspect that there will soon be an in-depth look at the life and work of Gerald Leslie Brockhurst here on A&T. Until then, I shall be meditating on all the subtle relationships between artists that do not fit the normal patterns of association. Sorry if that sounds poncey, but I’m probing around trying to identify the non structured, day to day random ties that bond artists together, regardless of their other relationships that are defined by place, school, or style.

The National Portrait Gallery’s new informational sections certainly make it easier to discover these surprising artistic relationships, even though they seem on the surface at least, to deal with the tradesmen, craftsmen, and suppliers.

A treasure chest indeed.


4 thoughts on “A Research Goldmine at the National Portrait Gallery”

  1. Jack Knewstub is the brother-in-law of my great great aunt. I have a bit of family history but your interests may have moved on by now.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Simon. Any family history would be warmly welcomed, so do pass it on. Thanks!

  3. Michael, I too, am a relative, in this case the grandson of Henry Rushbury. He and Brockhurst, whom he knew as ‘Brocky’, went to the metropolis, and to the right place for artists of their mien, Chelsea, together, eventually to share lodgings.

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