WILLIAM HOARE RA (1707-1792)
Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Pastel on paper (66.7 x 48.6 cm)
William Hoare is the kind of artist that deserves to be better known. Unfortunately, for him, he was the contemporary of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Allan Ramsay. In spite of that, he enjoyed a very successful career as a portraitist that enabled him to leave his widow the considerable fortune of 37.000 pounds (about 6.415.000 pounds in today’s value).
Although not as gifted as his illustrious contemporaries mentioned above, he was a very good artist, capable of producing some stunning likenesses. Like the majority of prolific portraitists, his works present an uneven quality as a result of the pressure imposed by the numerous commissions and the inevitable lack of rapport that exists between an artist and some of his sitters. That is why we find some exceptionally fine likenesses next to some mediocre or indifferent ones.
William Hoare was the son of John Hoare a farmer and a land agent from Suffolk who, apparently, did not object to his son’s desire to become a painter. In the 1720s William went to London where he joined the atelier of Giuseppe Grisoni (1699-1769) a mediocre Italian painter who returned to his homeland in 1728 in the company of the young William. In 1730 Hoare met Sir Charles Hanbury Williams in Genoa; the Welsh diplomat and writer kindly provided William with a letter of introduction to Francis Colman, the British resident in Florence.
We do not know when Hoare arrived in Rome, but he studied there under Francesco Fernandi (1679-1740), better known as Imperiali. His stay in Rome gave William the opportunity to befriend several future patrons like Henry Bathurst, the future 2nd Earl of Bathurst, Henry Hoare, George Lyttelton, later 1st Baron Lyttelton and Joseph Spence. By 1738 Hoare was in Bath, a decision that proved to be a clever one as the town had become the most fashionable spa in England. Pastel portraits were very popular, and Hoare quickly established a successful practice. According to George Vertue by 1749 Hoare “has had better success than any other painter there (Bath) before him”
Hoare was a very well educated man and had impeccable good manners, these qualities, together with his artistic talent, explain his popularity and success. The Reverend Richard Graves rector of Claverton described him as “not only the most virtuous, friendly and inoffensive of men but one of the best classical scholars in Greek or Latin with whom I was ever acquainted” (quoted by Neil Jeffares in Dictionary of pastellists before 1800)
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) was an English statesman, diplomat, man of letters and an acclaimed wit of his time. In spite of having been an accomplished essayist in his time Lord Chesterfield’s literary reputation today derives almost entirely from Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman (1774) and Letters to His Godson (1890), books of private correspondence and paternal advice, which he never intended for publication.
In 1768 Chesterfield’s beloved yet illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope, died in France, leaving behind his widow, Eugenia Stanhope (born Eugenia Peters) and their two illegitimate children, Charles and Philip. The grieving Chesterfield was disappointed to learn that Philip’s long and mostly secret relationship (they married the year before his death) had been to Eugenia, a woman of humble social class since this was a topic he had covered at length in the letters to his son; however, Lord Chesterfield bequeathed an annuity of £100 to each of his grandsons, Charles Stanhope (1761–1845) and Philip Stanhope (1763–1801), and a further £10,000 for them both, yet he left no pension for his widowed daughter-in-law Eugenia, behaving himself in the most ungentlemanly manner. It was the lack of funds that led Eugenia to sell Lord Chesterfield’s letters to a publisher.
Dating this portrait is very difficult because of William Hoare’s bad habit of not signing or dating his pictures. However, there is a beautiful portrait of Lord Chesterfield in oil by Hoare in the National Portrait Gallery of London dated “circa 1742”. As the sitter looks very much like in the pastel and even wears the same clothes, it is very tempting to date this work around the same time, that means that the Earl must have been nearly 48 years old when the portrait was done.
According to Neil Jeffares, the greatest authority on XVIIIth century pastellists, the portrait of Lord Chesterfield must be considered as one of Hoare’s finest works. The artist succeeded in capturing the genteel personality of his sitter. A very refined man, representative of the cultured and sophisticated European aristocracy of the XVIII century, who summarized his views about character and education in an early letter to his son: “As learning, honour and virtue are absolutely necessary to gain you the esteem and admiration of mankind, politeness and good breeding are equally necessary to make you welcome and agreeable in conversation and common life”