Davies Davenport (1757-1837)
Davies Davenport (1757-1837)
Pastel, gouache and mixed media on paper over canvas; held in the original 18th century carved and gilded frame; entire 25 by 22 ins; 64 x 56 cm
Provenance: Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire, until 2006; Private Collection, England; Miles Barton - Period Paintings, 2010; Private Collection, England
The portrait presented here is an excellent example of Gardner’s work displaying well the spontaneous nature of his approach to creating an image. The pale face is delicately rendered with pastel whilst the body and background are created with a thickly applied composite, heavily impasto and hugely effective. Of note also is that this picture is still within the original decorative frame which the artist had specifically made for many of his portraits. With the Davenport family since the 18th century it used to hang in the State Dressing Room at Capesthorne Hall until 2006 and is illustrated and listed in inventories and published guides to the Hall.
The early deaths of both his parents meant that Davies Davenport was brought up by his maternal grandfather Richard Davenport at Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire. Richard was an ardent admirer of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and provided the eccentric Frenchman with a temporary home in 1760s. This resulted in the young Davies being brought up on Rousseau’s educational principles an experience which left Davies with a loathing even at the mention of the philosopher’s name for the rest of his life!
He went up to Brasenose College, Oxford in 1775 and two years later at the age of nineteen he married society beauty Charlotte Sneyd, whose portrait was painted by Gardner’s old teacher Romney. He was appointed Sheriff for the county of Cheshire in 1783 and went to the Inner Temple in 1786. He became a Major in the Cheshire Militia in 1797 and a Lt-Col. Commandant of the Macclesfield Foresters in 1803. His inheritance of Cheshire estates was a handsome one and he was returned as the Tory Member of Parliament for the county unopposed in 1806. A strong-minded character, he was often inclined to vote on issues that did not follow party line and for this reason, in many ways, he was an early form of independent candidate.
Sometime before 1762, Daniel Gardner was taught by George Romney. This relationship was renewed in 1767 when Gardner moved to London, where he studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1770 and was awarded a silver medal in 1771. Around 1773 he entered Joshua Reynolds’s studio and during his brief time there developed an approach to portraiture that he was to use for the rest of his career. A hugely popular portrait painter of the period his work is innovative in style by using a bravura mixture of oil, gouache, pastel and further secret ingredients rumoured to include brandy!
Examples of his work can be found in a number of English country house collections and at the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain in England and the Yale Center for British Art in U.S.A.