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Tuesday 19 May 2020

Collection Focus – James Gibbs

Our volunteer Megan takes a look at a portrait of prolific architect and designer of the Octagon Room – James Gibbs.

Depicted here is a half-length portrait of the famous British architect James Gibbs, completed by his contemporary Bartholomew Dandridge, a man of equal popularity during the early to mid eighteenth century.

James Gibbs (1682-1754) is one of Britains most influential architects and was a pioneer of the Palladian style, examples of which can be seen at Chiswick House, London and Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. Gibbs’ most famous designs are St-Martin’s-in-the-field church in London and the Senate House at Cambridge University, which were massively important in promoting this new architectural style in England. Around the same time he designed St Martins, Gibbs was also commissioned to design an entertainment space for James Johnston, the owner of Orleans House, a space that remains as magnificent as the day it was completed.

Bartholomew Dandridge (1691-1754) was an English portrait painter who was fashionable during the first half of the eighteenth century. Dandridge studied at Sir Godfrey Kneller’s Academy for painting and drawing, which was on Great Queen’s Street in Covent Garden. He was most notable for his involvement in the development of the ‘conversation piece’ genre of art, which are large group paintings usually depicting families, friends or societies engaged in a genteel, outdoors pursuit. Joshua Reynolds, Johann Zoffany and William Hogarth all dabbled in this style.

The combination of these two men capture life and society in London during the 1720s; two of the most fashionable men, the subject who would go on to shape and inspire much of the fabric of London society. Dandridge paints Gibbs with a delicacy and skill that I am sure the latter would greatly appreciate; including the piece of paper, as a reference to the extensive plans and works that Gibbs was involved in, a practise that has been common place amongst portrait painters for several hundred years previous to this.

Megan Hunt

As a recent graduate with a Masters in history, I am really enthusiastic about contributing to and experiencing the local history, as well as seeing how linked Richmond and Twickenham have been to national and international movements in fashion, architecture and art. It is for these connections and the access to my local history that I love volunteering at Orleans House Gallery, as well as the wonderful staff and volunteers. I am personally a big fan of prints; James Gillray and William Hogarth as well as other artists like Joseph Wright and J. M. W. Turner because of their layered and complex artworks.

Would you like to write your own Collection Focus? View over 4000 artworks in the online collection, then complete our application form and join our volunteer team.