Turner’s Young Friends & Pupils
Here are brief accounts of three of them. More will follow.
Lady Julia Gordon and the North American Beauties
Lady Julia was born Julia Isabella Levena (Lavinia) Bennett in 1775. She was the daughter of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet of Northcourt Manor, Shorwell, Isle of Wight. She was a very close contemporary of Turner. Julia became a pupil of famous water colourists David Cox then Thomas Girtin before becoming one of Turner’s few known pupils. Turner clearly enjoyed her efforts as in 1826 he exhibited "View from the Terrace of a Villa at Niton, Isle of Wight, from the Sketches of a Lady". According to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass. “This charming summer scene is based on watercolor sketches done by Lady Julia Gordon, who had been Turner's pupil years before. A view from the steps of her villa, it records the new fashion for "Italian" gardens with terraces and urns. Turner exhibited the painting under the title given here at the Royal Academy in 1826.”
Niton is on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. The bright light looking south could have triggered a memory of Turner’s first trip to Italy in 1819-20.
Julia had married an up and coming soldier Colonel James Willoughby Gordon in 1805. By the time this painting was exhibited he had been promoted to Lieutenant General, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society, (FRS), and had been made the 1st Baronet Gordon of Northcourt in the Isle of Wight (where Julia’s father had lived).
The Gordons became patrons of Turner as well of David Wilkie. In 1834, Wilkie wrote to Sir Willoughby Gordon asking leave to propose marriage to his daughter, Julia Emily, but his request was refused. The Tate Gallery, where this reference was taken, has digitised and made available several of Julia Emily’s water colours on line.
Here is the other North American Beauty:
The painting belongs to the Musee de Quebec in Canada and was originally titled “View of Derbyshire”. It now seems to be better known as the “View of Derbyshire: Heights of Abraham, Matlock Bath”. The Heights were named as a tribute to General Wolfe’s famous victory over the French at the Heights of Abraham in Quebec in 1759 that led to a brief period of British supremacy in North America. The painting may have been executed in 1827 but Turner treated them as a pair. Thus it is appropriate that both are in North America.
Much younger than Julia Gordon, she was born in 1822, the daughter of Revd John Phillips Potter (from Manchester stock, as were Beatrix Potter and Beatrice Potter/Webb!) and Ann Freeman Skey. Mary was baptised at St Clement Hastings on 29.11.1820.
In 1846 Mary married Frederick Robinson, a barrister of the Inner Temple, and they had a house near Shepherd's Market in Hertford St. There they entertained various intellectuals including Turner, though she had evidently known him earlier, meeting him at the houses of Samuel Rogers, Miss Rogers etc. Frederick died by 1851 and in 1864 Mary married a cousin, Captain George Arthur Lloyd.
Mary's brother John Phillips Potter II 1818-47 was a promising young doctor but died from an infected wound. She also had several sisters.
Mary Lloyd wrote a charming memoir which was printed in 1880 in "Sunny Memories". Please follow this link.
Coincidentally another friend of Turner’s, James Holworthy, married Joseph Wright of Derby's niece Anne Wright at the same church the year after Mary in 1821, receiving a present of two watercolours from Turner, identified by Stanley Warburton. According to the Wikipedia entry James Holworthy (1781–1841) was a British watercolour artist. Some of Holworthy's art can be seen in the Tate Gallery. Here is a Holworthy “Landscape Study” which they generously digitised and made available on line:
Holworthy exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 and 1804. In the latter year he was one of the foundation members of the Society of Painters in Water-colours, now known as the Royal Watercolour Society, and he contributed constantly to their exhibitions till 1813. His subjects were drawn from Wales, the Lake District and Yorkshire. He practised in London till 1822. Eventually he retired to the Brookfield estate, near Hathersage in Derbyshire. He died in London and the estate passed to his sister-in-law Hannah Wright. Curiously the estate included another house which gave the name "Eyre" to Charlotte Bronte’s novel. Additionally, the Cammell family of Sheffield bought the whole estate from Hannah, after which there was a 5 day local sale of all the works of art, books etc. Later the Cammell family united with Laird of Birkenhead to form Cammell Laird which became a leading shipbuilder there.
More to follow . .