2004.1: William Brereton
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© The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath
|Additional title||William Brereton with a Portrait of David Garrick|
|Object type||In category: Pictures » Painting|
By Walton, Henry (British painter, 1746-1813) - Painter(s)
Brereton, William (1751-1787) - Sitter(s)
Garrick, David (1717-1779) - Sitter(s)
|Place of origin||Europe » Northern Europe » British Isles » Great Britain » England|
108.0 cm height framed
91.5 cm height unframed
71.0 cm width unframed
2.3 cm depth unframed
89.0 cm width framed
7.0 cm depth framed
|Materials & techniques||
Pictures: Medium » Paint » Oil paint
Pictures: Support » Canvas
Small-scale full-length portrait of a gentleman in an interior. Standing in a room with green walls, leaning against a fireplace of white marble with stone surround, iron grate, pierced steel fender. A screen of green silk stands on the marble hearth. Books on the mantelpiece. Above the fireplace hangs an oval head-and-shoulders portrait of a gentleman facing half-profile to left, in dark coat with falling collar, dark eyes, dark hair (or wig) with slight fringe. The gentleman standing by the fire is facing half-profile to right, with long buff coat, orange waistcoat embroidered with dots, black breeches, white stocking, holding an unbound volume. Behind him is a chair upholstered in green, the woodwork painted white with detail in green or ?gold. Another paper lies on the seat of the chair.
In a new (2004) carved and gilded frame in English C18 style, plain hollow with carved husk to sight, ribbon and stick at knull and leaf and tongue at back ogee, water gilded and patinated.
|Marks and inscriptions||
This portrait, by Norfolk squire Henry Walton (1746-1813), depicts actor William Brereton (1751-1787) standing in an elegant parlour of around 1780.
Brereton was born in Bath, the son of Major William Brereton, Master of Ceremonies. Through the Major's friend and supporter David Garrick, a frequent visitor to Bath, William found work as an actor at Drury Lane. He played in Garrick's company for many years, though never to great applause. One contemporary wrote that "he is a pretty figure, but wants lemon in his voice", while another described him as "too contemptible for criticism".
In 1777 Brereton married the young Bath actress Priscilla Hopkins (later Priscilla Kemble), but by 1785 many were noting signs of severe mental illness in his behaviour both on and off stage. When he tried to kill Priscilla, he was committed to the Hoxton Asylum, where he died in 1787, leaving Priscilla free to marry the great actor John Philip Kemble.
The likeness hanging over the mantelpiece is undoubtedly of Brereton's mentor David Garrick, although it does not correspond to any of his known portraits. It is possible that Walton has set his portrait of Brereton in Garrick's own home at the Adelphi, as the furniture is very similar to the suite designed for the Garricks by Thomas Chippendale.
Brereton's father was involved in a fierce competition to appoint a Master of Ceremonies on the death of Samuel Derrick in 1769. The competitions between Brereton, Plomer and William Wade culminated in a riot at the Assembly Rooms. Wade was finally declared M.C, but Brereton was awarded generous compensation, no doubt through the influence of Garrick.
First attributed to Henry Walton by Jacob Simon at the National Portrait Gallery in 1986.
Art and Culture in Georgian Bath 1714-1830
Oil paintings in the Holburne Museum
Art and Culture in Georgian Bath 1714-1830 » Leisure » Assemblies, Dancing and Gambling
|Method of acquisition||Bequest|
|Provenance||By descent from the sitter|