National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts

Bulletin 6 (III:2), 1965

Annual Index
Author & Subject

A parcel of paintings Sent from 
Glasgow to Montreal in 1782

by Hamish Miles, Lecturer in the History of Art
University of Glasgow

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Before attempting an interpretation of John Brown's Invoice it is as well to begin with a summary recollection of the background against which it must be considered, namely the Academy of Arts at Glasgow. (3) It was at this Academy that Stevenson, McLauchlan and Cochran, the painters named by Brown
in his letter to Dunlop, were trained.

At Glasgow in the year 1754, Robert Foulis, then and still celebrated as a printer, opened his Academy under the protection of the University (Fig. 1). It was his intention that it should be set 'upon the same plan with the foreign Academies', and it is clear that he had the French Academy especially in mind. The early staff seems to have chiefly consisted of 'a celebrated engraver whose name is Mr. Avline' (possibly François Aveline) who was hired by Foulis at Paris in 1752; (4) one 'Payien', apparently a painter also brought from France; (5) and, in 1755, 'Medici the Italian painter'. (6) To further his scheme, by 'placing before generous youth the most excellent models, inflaming their minds with a noble ambition of equalling them', Foulis amassed from abroad a collection of pictures by 'the most celebrated Masters of the Italian, French, & Flemish Schools'. In the pattern of the then academic tradition it was part of the students' exercise to copy the most admired of these. More than three hundred and fifty pictures, bought by Foulis in the Low Countries and in Paris were sent to Glasgow in 1753, (7) and in 1772 another 15 boxes of pictures and a box of busts arrived from Veere in Holland. (8) When chronic lack of sufficient local support brought debt and the final dissolution of the Academy, the collection was sold in London in 1776, the year of Foulis's death. The Catalogue of the collection, compiled and printed by Foulis in 1776, gives the measure of his dream. It runs to some five hundred and fifty items, of which he truthfully believed 32 to be by Raphael, six by Leonardo, four by Michelangelo, six by Correggio, 20 by Titian, 26 by Rubens, nine by Poussin, and so on. In fairness, however, there is evidence to suggest that at least some of the pictures so ambitiously mislabelled were not just copies and imitations - as many all too clearly were - and that a number of the pictures more temperately ascribed were in fact what they set out to be. (9) In the event, the sale brought in a mere £398-5-0, a fraction of the price paid for the collection, to set off against a claim of some (6,500 upon Foulis's estate.

One last aspect of the operation of Foulis's plan must be mentioned, and that which must, incidentally, have been the most costly to the whole curious affair. It is described by his son, Andrew Foulis the Younger: ' the choice of young men for the Academy [there were ten in 17551], (10) their genius alone was consulted, without any regard to their pecuniary circumstances; so that not only their whole expences, while abroad, fell to be defrayed by the company; but there was also a salary paid them from the commencement of their entrance into the Academy for their board and other necessary expences'. (11) Here by 'abroad' was meant Rome, and with this we may return to the pictures made at the Academy and listed in Brown's Invoice. (The figures on the left refer back to those added to the margin of the Invoice above.)

1 Triumph of the Church. This was presumably a copy of the composition described in the Foulis Catalogue of 1776. (12) The description broadly corresponds to a design by Rubens in the Louvre for one of a series of tapestries allegorising the Triumph
of the Eucharist. (13)

2 Transfiguration. 'When I was abroad [i.e. presumably in 1751-52], I had the good fortune to meet with some capital Pictures formerly the property of Cardinal Richlieu which were purchas'd at his sale by his Secretary, whose son I found still alive, a very old man, and from him I had them. Among these is Raphael's Transfiguration, different in the folds of the drapery, and many other lesser particulars, but in the main the same with the great picture at Rome. A copy of this picture done about 18 months ago I have kept by me in hopes of having the honour of presenting it to the King. The young man who did it is now at Rome, at our expence, & returns here, after three years stay, to paint history and improve his companions'. (14) The 'young man' mentioned in this letter by Foulis was perhaps the Cochran already referred to in Brown's letter to Dunlop.

William Cochran became an apprentice at the Academy in 1754, (15) and was among the first of the Academy's students to have been sent abroad. It would seem that he was at Naples by January 1763, and that four months later he was in Rome. (16) In Rome he is said to have been in contact with Gavin Hamilton, the only painter from the West of Scotland to achieve European fame, whose style as a history painter he is quite likely to have followed. In January 1768 Cochran was working as a portraitist in Ayrshire. (17) He died at Glasgow in 1785 at the age of 47, and is now only locally remembered as a minor portrait painter.

Cochran's copy of the Transfiguration, apparently done before his departure for Italy, was after one of the most highly prized of the pictures in the Foulis collection. Purporting to be an earlier variant by Raphael of the Transfiguration in the Vatican, it is minutely described by Foulis in his Catalogue of 1776: (18) it also figures to the right of the engraving, commonly ascribed to David Allan, of the open-air exhibition of the Foulis collection, the first of which was held in the Quadrangle of the University in 1761. (19) (Allan was the only painter of even modest distinction known to have emerged from the Academy.) It was on this picture that Foulis dwelt most hopefully in letters written in the last year of his life. Its authenticity, and that of other works in the collection, had, however, been called in question by persons less bound by interest and local patriotism, (20) and at the sale it went for but £18-7-0.
The Cochran copy, remarkably cheap if it is indeed the same as that referred to in the letter by Foulis quoted above, was presumably acquired by Brown at the dispersai of the Academy's effects when the Foulis estate was wound up in 1781.

3 Mariage Cana. 'The Marriage of Cana, an original', 55 x 40 inches, and priced at (5-5-0, appears in the Catalogue of pictures...done at the Academy, (21) a list put out by Foulis in one of his apparently hopeless attempts to find purchasers for the Academy's productions. The picture in the Invoice may have been this, rather than a copy of a picture of the same subject, 'probably by the Old Frank', given in Foulis's Catalogue of 1776. (22)

4 Venus and Cupid. This is perhaps to be identified with the picture of the subject which appears in a list of 'Paintings Belonging to myself mostly purchased of the Collection at the Collage of Glasgow', entered in Brown's letter-book earlier in March 1782. (23) The relevant entry in this reads: 'Venus & Cupid £2-2-0. From Cochran at Rome by Stevinson £5-5-0'. (The prices are, first, that given for the Picture, and, second, that expected on sale.) Few original history compositions by Cochran are recorded, and all are now lost. Brown possessed copies by Stevenson of the three mentioned in Foulis's Catalogue of 1776 as 'Venus and Cupid; Diana and Endymion; Daedalus and Icarus'. (24) It is possible that the Diana etc listed further down in Brown's Invoice may have been Stevenson's copy of the second of these.

Of Stevenson, or rather, the Stevensons, the only early published source of information discovered is in a footnote by the Edinburgh organist and writer, Alexander Campbell: 'The two Stevensons (brothers) went to America previous to the last war [i.e. presumably the Revolutionary War, and therefore before 1775]; since which period little is known of their history'. (25) These were the brothers Hamilton and John Stevenson who opened an academy of drawing and painting at Charleston, S. C., in 1774. (26) Hamilton died in 1788, (27) John sometime within the three preceding years, both apparently at Kingston, Jamaica, where they seem to have been since 1780.

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