This beautiful pastel was made by William Hoare of Bath for the great Irish actor James Quin in around 1750. The pastel is a version of Summer from a series of the Four Seasons Hoare designed in emulation of Rosalba Carriera. The allegorical works, which depicted four women in various attitudes and costumes emblematic of each season, were hugely popular and Hoare made sets for some of his most illustrious patrons, including Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke and Countess of Ailesbury, Susanna Brudenell-Bruce (née Hoare). Preserved in beautiful condition, the present pastel demonstrates why Hoare was so celebrated as a pastellist.
Many material and practical factors contributed to the popularity of pastels during the eighteenth century: the distinctive light and brilliant surface, the strength of colours, the simplicity of tools required to make them, the relative speed with which they could be completed as well as their essentially domestic scale and informal character. These inherent strengths, were amplified by a burgeoning market for portraiture at all levels in Britain during the century and the advancement of certain technologies, which made pastel a highly popular medium in which to work. As George Vertue noted, pastels were ‘much easier in the execution than Oil colours’, because they were quicker to execute and required no drying time. These qualities allowed pastel painters greater flexibility than practitioners in oil, enabling pastellists to be itinerant and set up in fashionable spa towns, such as Bath, where Hoare established himself in 1738.
Artists and patrons appreciated the distinctive optical properties of painting in pastel: the exquisite luminosity, bright unchanging colours and unmistakable bloom, or fleur, that enlivens the complexion of the sitter. For artists, pastels also offered an efficient use of time. William Hoare was one of the popularisers of the medium in Britain. Hoare had been trained in London with Giuseppe Grisoni, who in 1728 took him to Italy. In Rome and perhaps in Venice, he would have been able to study drawings in coloured crayons and he may have met important practitioners such as Bernardo Luti and Rosalba Carriera. Vertue specifically noted the success of pastellists ‘that had been to Italy to study’, registering the decorative quality of their works: ‘looking pleasant… coverd with a glass large Gold Frames was much commended. for novelty.’ Francis Cotes, who wrote a treatise on his art which was published posthumously in the European Magazine, observed: ‘Crayon pictures, when finely painted, are superlatively beautiful, and decorative in a very high degree in apartments that are not too large; for having their surface dry, they partake in appearance of the effect of Fresco, and by candle light are luminous and beautiful beyond all other pictures.’
In the late 1730s William Hoare established himself in the newly fashionable resort town of Bath, where he could be sure of a stream of wealthy clients. A visitor to his Bath studio in 1770 particularly noted:
‘Mr Hoare excells in Venus’s the Beauty of the latter is enchanting… I believe he is the best Crayon Painter in the Kingdom, & I can form no higher Idea of that Art, either as to the Delicacy Colouring or expression than what I saw in his Pictures.’
The ‘Venus’s’ were almost certainly a set of Four Seasons, which show draped female figures loosely posed after celebrated antique depictions of Venus. In the case of Summer Hoare relies on the Callipygian Venus from the Farnese Collection. In Hoare’s conception, the antique marble is animated, creating a gently eroticised image of a woman drying herself.
An inscription on the verso of the original canvas support in Hoare’s hand identifies this pastel as being ‘for Mr Quin in Bedford Street, Covent Garden’, this was James Quin the celebrated Irish actor. He is recorded as a rate payer in Bedford Street, Covent Garden, from 1748 until his retirement in 1751. Quin maintained a close friendship with many leading painters throughout his life, but seems to have been particularly drawn to painters in Bath, he retired to the city in 1751. He was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in a celebrated full-length now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin and left Gainsborough £50 in his will.
- Evelyn Newby suggested that Hoare’s use of pastel responded to both Luti and Rosalba see Evelyn Newby, William Hoare of Bath, Exh. cat., Bath (Victoria Art Gallery), 1990, p10.
- G. Vertue, eds. L. Cust and A. Hind, ‘The Notebooks of George Vertue’, The Walpole Society, London, 1929-47, III, p.109.
- Francis Cotes, The European Magazine, and London Review, February 1797, p.84.