One of my fondest memories are of my Nana. She was my mentor and the one who helped mould me into the artist I am today.
Back in 1918, before she had married my Grandfather Lorne, she drew a pencil drawing of what she titled “The Five Cherubs” and had kept it with her belongings before it made it’s way down to my possession. It has faded over the years and I was hoping to frame it properly one day, but until now it has been one of my remembrances of home and family so I keep it with me. I did this piece and completed it on October 17, 2018. That is 12 days earlier from 100 years ago when it was first created.
I learned later on that it was a painting done of actually one girl in five poses by Sir Joshua Reynolds. It is written about the original artwork entitled ‘A Child’s Portrait in Different Views’ was described as follows from tate.org.uk that houses the original:
“The five year old Lady Frances Gordon sat to Reynolds for this unusual portrait in July and August 1786, and again in March 1787. Reynolds generally had very few portrait appointments during the summer months, reserving this time for work on character studies (known as ‘fancy pictures’) and subject pictures. It is not perhaps surprising, therefore, that the present composition, which is composed of a series of studies of Frances Gordon’s head from five different angles, is far more reminiscent of Reynolds’s fancy pictures than his portraits of named sitters.
Frances Isabella Keir Gordon (1782-1831) was the only daughter of Lord William Gordon (1744-1823) and his wife Frances Ingram (1761-1841), second daughter of Charles, 9th Viscount Irvine (1727-78), who were married on 6 March 1781. Her uncle was Lord George Gordon (1751-93), whose political activities had sparked the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Reynolds’s principal compositional source for the picture was a red chalk drawing of four cherubs’ heads by the Italian seventeenth-century artist, Carlo Maratta (1625-1713), which Reynolds had acquired in 1779 at the studio sale of his master Thomas Hudson (1701-79), and which is now in the British Museum. The first critical notice of the picture appeared in The Times in October 1786, before it was exhibited in public at the Royal Academy. Here The Times observed that the ‘grouping of four likenesses of the little cherubic Gordon into one picture, is among the prettiest portrait ideas that have ever been conceived’. Several months later, The World, a newspaper which also kept a close watch on developments in Reynolds’s studio, noted that the ‘four heads, in one frame, of Lord William Gordon’s child, are gone home’. However, a subsequent sitting with Miss Gordon in March 1787 indicates that the painting had in the meantime been returned to Reynolds, not least because in the completed picture there are five heads, rather than four, the additional one presumably being added during the final sitting.
Frances Gordon’s mother outlived her daughter by ten years and, on her death in 1841, she presented this picture to the National Gallery. There it was extensively copied, registers of copies kept by the National Gallery from 1846 to 1895 revealing no fewer than 314 full-size copies in oil. The popular appeal of the picture to Victorian taste is also indicated by its reproduction on decorative items, including the cover of an ivory-bound prayer book. Numerous photographic reproductions also exist, with titles such as ‘The Cherub Choir’. More recently, an image of the picture was used on a First Day Cover to promote the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s ‘Year of the Child’. Perhaps most unusual is the use of the image in badges awarded to student midwives at St. Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.”
The girl in my painting is just a compilation and not to look anything like my Nana’s or Sir Joshua Reynold’s. It is my own style and my own interpretation. It was an honour to reproduce it and show my dedication to the craft. I hope to keep improving and being someone who can have their art shown in such a prestigious way. Perhaps one day.