Gallery

Gallery: 
Attributed to John Warwick Smith, 1749 - 1831
Port of Rio Marina, island of Elba , Italy
Port of Rio Marina, island of Elba , Italy
pencil and watercolour
14 x 22 cm. (5./1/2 x 8.3/4 in.)
Price: 
£800

Literature

It seems likely, however, that in common with many other English artists, Smith visited France in 1814, and it is not improbable that, in spite of his increasing age, Switzerland and Italy saw him again more than once in the subsequent years. Among his drawings were views of Elba and Corsica, but like all of those engraved in Sir Richard Colt Hoare's Tour through the Island of Elba^ 1814, except a view of Porto Ferrajo, they may have been based on drawings by Hoare.  

 

 

 

Notes

Elba is a Mediterranean island in TuscanyItaly, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, and the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of the French island of Corsica.

The island is part of the province of Livorno and is divided into eight municipalities, with a total population of about 30,000 inhabitants, which increases considerably during the summer. The municipalities are Portoferraio, which is also the island's principal town, along with Campo nell'ElbaCapoliveriMarcianaMarciana MarinaPorto AzzurroRio Marina, and Rio nell'Elba

Following the Treaty of FontainebleauFrench Emperor Napoleon I was exiled to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814 and arrived at Portoferraio on May 30, 1814. He was allowed to keep a personal guard of six hundred men. Although he was nominally sovereign of Elba, the island was patrolled by the British Royal Navy.

During the months Napoleon stayed on the island, he carried out a series of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life, partly to pass the time and partly out of a genuine concern for the well-being of the islanders. Napoleon stayed on Elba for 300 days. He returned to France on February 26, 1815 for the Hundred Days. After his defeat at Waterloo he was subsequently exiled again, this time to the barren and isolated South Atlantic island of Saint Helena.

In the Congress of Vienna the island was given to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860 it became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy.

It seems likely, however, that in common with many other English artists, Smith visited France in 1814, and it is not improbable that, in spite of his increasing age, Switzerland and Italy saw him again more than once in the subsequent years. Among his drawings were views of Elba and Corsica, but like all of those engraved in Sir Richard Colt Hoare's Tour through the Island of Elba^ 1814, except a view of Porto Ferrajo, they may have been based on drawings by Hoare. 

 

Artist biography

Smith, John (1749–1831), watercolour painter, was born at Irthington in Cumberland on 26 July 1749. His father was gardener to Susannah Maria Appleby, the sister of Captain John Bernard Gilpin of Scaleby Castle in Cumberland who was an amateur artist. Gilpin gave the young Smith lessons in drawing at his studio in the deanery at Carlisle Cathedral and sent him to St Bees School; subsequently Smith was recommended as a drawing-master to a school near Whitehaven (possibly St Bees). Gilpin's sons, the artists William and Sawrey Gilpin, also instructed Smith and he was one of a group of artists who accompanied William Gilpin on sketching tours from about 1770 to 1776, providing illustrations for the books that Gilpin later published.

While staying in Derbyshire c.1775 Smith was introduced to George Greville, second earl of Warwick, an avid collector of art for Warwick Castle. Admiring some views of Matlock drawn by Smith, Warwick agreed to send him to Italy, where he met the artists William Pars, Thomas Jones, and Francis Towne. Although Smith had the highest contemporary reputation it is probable that all four encouraged and influenced one another's work; together they brought a new vividness to some of the finest drawings of the late eighteenth century with pictures such as Smith's Outside Porta Pia, Rome (c.1777–80, Tate collection) and Interior of the Coliseum (British Museum). His Italian pictures, which he continued to produce for many years after his return to England, are considered Smith's best. Between 1792 and 1799 he published Select Views in Italy, with Topographical and Historical Descriptions in English and French.

After five years Smith returned to England and made his home in Warwick where, on 6 February 1783, he married Elizabeth Gerrard (d. in or after 1831) in St Mary's Church. His sobriquet Warwick derives either from his residence in the town or from the earl. Subsequently he travelled widely and six of his drawings were engraved as illustrations for Middiman's Select Views in Great Britain in 1784 and 1785. In 1786 he was paid £247 16s. by the fourth duke of Atholl for fifty-six watercolours of Perthshire for Blair Atholl Castle. These were followed by twenty-six drawings of the Isle of Man for the duke, who was governor-in-chief; now in the Manx Museum, they are the most important contemporary pictorial record of Man. Another patron was John Christian Curwen of Workington Hall in Cumberland and Belle Isle on Windermere for whom Smith made 100 drawings between 1789 and 1792, a number of which were published. Between 1784 and 1806 Smith made frequent trips to Wales (Basil Long gives details of his itineraries). William Sotheby's A tour through parts of Wales, sonnets, odes and other poems, with engravings from drawings taken on the spot was published with thirteen plates after Smith in 1794 ‘solely for the emolument of the artist’ (Williams, 13). In 1792 he was accompanied by Robert Fulke Greville and Julius Caesar Ibbetson, and fifteen of Smith's drawings from this year were subsequently published in A Tour to Hafod in Cardiganshire in 1810 with text by Sir James Edward Smith, the president of the Linnean Society.

For much of his career Smith enjoyed a very high reputation particularly as a colourist. According to Ackermann's Repository of Art of 1812 ‘it may with truth be said, that with this artist the first epoch of painting in water colours originated’ (Hardie, 1.116). Twentieth-century opinion is more guarded but, as Martin Hardie pointed out, Smith helped introduce direct colour and his work reflected the departure from classic formalism. Smith was reluctant to join the Society of Painters in Water Colours on its formation in 1804; although elected in 1805 he did not exhibit until 1807, when he entered nineteen drawings and, according to Sir George Beaumont, his view of the Coliseum was the best in the room. However, the watercolour artist Francis Nicholson recorded tartly that Smith's work now seemed very conservative in comparison with that of other artists: ‘He could not alter his method of practice and probably thought it beneath him to do so … Stood still and was soon left behind’ (Royal Watercolour Society, J69/2). Smith continued his membership of the society after it began to accept oils, serving as president in 1814, 1817, and 1818, as secretary in 1816, and as treasurer in 1819, 1821, and 1822 before he resigned in December 1823 when he was seventy-four. In all he exhibited 154 drawings, of British and continental views, which sold for up to 10 guineas. The 1809 catalogue lists six drawings of ‘Bradby Park’ (Bretby Park) in Derbyshire, a house Sir Jeffry Wyatville was altering for the fifth earl of Chesterfield.

Smith had been in London for some years; in 1815 he moved from 7 St George's Row, Oxford Turnpike, to 25 Bryanston Street, Portman Square. It is known that he gave lessons to the artist John Glover and presumably he had other pupils. John Warwick Smith died aged eighty-one at Middlesex Place, Marylebone Road, on 22 March 1831 and was buried in the vault at St George's Chapel, Uxbridge Road, by ‘the little row of houses which contained his old studio and those of Paul Sandby and Tom Girtin, between whose schools of painting he had in a former age fashioned a connecting link in the historic chain of water-colour art’ (Roget, 1.433). Smith's will mentions two sons and a daughter, and bequests included his portrait by Hopner, his painting equipment, and a grand pianoforte by Kirkman. A sale of several hundred pencil sketches and other pictures was held by Christie and Manson on 10 March 1832. An exhibition of 200 pictures by Smith was held at the galleries of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in June 1928. One of Smith's albums was acquired from Warwick Castle by the British Museum in 1936; his work is held also by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has twelve drawings.

Simon Fenwick  DNB