Sir Thomas Hodgson (c.1640-1693)
Sir Thomas Hodgson (c.1640-1693)
Oil on canvas; 49 ½ by 39 ¾ ins; 126 x 101 cm; held in a gilded English Baroque style frame
Provenance: Private Collection, Denmark c.1965; Private Collection, England; Sotheby's British Paintings, 13th July 1994, lot 33; Private Collection, England
Sir Thomas Hodgson was a wealthy English landowner who purchased extensive lands and manors in Lincolnshire, south Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, principally residing at Rowston Manor and Bramwith Hall. He appears to have drawn substantial incomes from his landed interests in farms, mills and property and lived well. He married Anne Thorold, granddaughter of Sir William Thorold and by her had two children Edward (d.1695) and Frances who married Sir Thomas Travell of Somerset. Lady Anne Hodgson appears to have settled in Rowston Manor on the death of her husband, leaving in her will of 1719 annual sums for the poor of the parishes of Rowston and Ruskington. With no male heir surviving the Hodgson estates and incomes were inherited by Frances and the Travell family.
The painter R. Schroder is an elusive figure with virtually nothing known about his background and portrait practice. It is possible that he was an elder brother to Georg Engelhardt Schroder (1684-1750) a portrait painter who studied in Kneller’s academy before 1702 and Vanderbank’s Academy in the early 1720s. One of eleven children from a German family of goldsmiths who settled in Stockholm, Sweden, it was not unusual with many siblings for more than one to undertake painting as a trade, the Tischbein family in Germany during the late 18th century being a fair example of this. The famous Swedish portrait painter Michael Dahl, also from Stockholm, travelled to England and met Kneller in 1682, finally settling in London in 1689. On the premise that Schroder did hail from this family in Sweden it might have been Dahl’s residency that encouraged him to venture to England.
One fully attributed portrait by Schroder exists. A head and shoulders portrait of a gentleman signed and dated 1695 which was sold at auction in 1961 and has not been seen since. (Christies, 10th November 1961, lot 133). Highly thought of by the National Portrait Gallery this portrait was deemed very competently painted and an image of an English sitter painted in England.
The present portrait of Sir Thomas Hodgson painted c.1690, compares very favourably with this other portrait. Clearly indebted to the styles of both Riley and Kneller, the painter Schroder seems to have concentrated on very realistic portrayals, unusual for the period when many artists were aping the idealized facial characteristics favoured by Kneller. The elegant pose of Hodgson is taken from Gerald Soest’s portrait of Samuel Butler (National Portrait Gallery, London) which was painted in the 1670s and published in mezzotint in 1680. All this suggests a painter familiar with the London art scene and perhaps at some stage a studio assistant to another portraitist, possibly Riley.
The highly detailed head of Hodgson is outstandingly painted. The creases in the skin particularly around the distinct eyes; the shadows highlighting the contours of the face; the curling softness of form to the wig framing the face; all these similarities can be noted in this and the other known portrait by Schroder. Controlled finer brushstrokes are apparent in the face rendering roughness to the skin and emphasizing the jowls. A fairly meticulous lace cravat close in style to Riley, gives way to a broad approach on the curls of the wig and broader brush strokes still on the folds in the vast gown; a very distinct style and manner of painting. It is on this basis that an attribution to Schroder is made; a lack of comparative extant works obviously makes full attribution impossible.
Not surprisingly attributions in the past for this portrait have been varied including, Michael Dahl, Thomas Hawker and Godfrey Kneller. Because of the obvious quality there has been a desire and subsequent difficulty in trying to place it within the oeuvre of a well known painter. Given the quality and skill of his work Schroder clearly must have produced other paintings which, no doubt, have been mis-attributed. A paucity of work could perhaps be explained if, after a short time in London, he succumbed to some illness and died. It is hoped that a greater body of work might yet emerge.