LINNELL, John (1792-1882)
Fred. Tatham and Brother Arthur
c. 1810. Pencil on paper. Title in pencil "Fred. Tatham & brother Arthur". Signed in ink l.r. "J. Linnell f" Sheet size: 7 5/8 x 4 1/2 inches. Painted gold frame with French mat.
A delightful and very intriguing early pencil portrait of Frederick and Arthur Tatham by acclaimed Victorian portraitist, John Linnell
Frederick Tatham was born in 1805, his brother, Arthur, in 1808. The boys would appear to be about five and two in the drawing, which would put the date of the drawing at circa 1810. John Linnell (1792-1882) began drawing at quite an early age, his father was a framemaker and art dealer. In 1805 he was admitted to the Royal Academy School, having studied with Benjamin West and John Varley. At some point clearly he made the acquaintance of Charles Heathcote Tatham, architect, and father of the two boys depicted. Children are notoriously hard to draw, and Linnell succeeded in capturing both the characters and youthful energy of the two boys, especially the elder, Frederick.
Curiously enough, the two boys and the artist were involved in a long term dispute concerning William Blake later in life. In the 1820's the Tatham boys, now young adults, and their sister Julia, became members of a circle of devotees of William Blake and his wife. John Linnell too had for a long time been part of Blake's circle. Frederick Tatham meanwhile had established himself as a portrait artist, working in a neo-Renaissance style that Blake thought superior to the contemporary Romanticism. All three men, Frederick and Arthur Tatham and John Linnell were "Ancients", those who after Blake's death sought to continue his spiritual and artistic work.
When Blake died in 1827, Tatham took in his widow Catherine, nominally as a housekeeper for his young family. When she died in 1831, Tatham claimed that she'd left all of Blake's works to him. John Linnell maintained that the works ought to go to Blake's sister. Tatham held on to the works, and this brought about a very unfortunate consequence. Frederick Tatham at a certain point after this dispute joined a millenial sect, the Irvingites, who held strong moralistic views. These convictions led him to destroy some of Blake's works as having been inspired by the Devil.
Frederick Tatham later wrote a Life of Blake that was published in 1906 in A. G. B. Russell's "Letters of William Blake".
The baby in the picture, Arthur (1808-1878), later became a rector of several parishes and prebendary of Exeter Cathedral.