Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Master Hippisley 1780

Thomas Beach (1737-1806)

Portrait of Master Hippisley, Thomas Beach
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 3/8 x 24 ½ inches 74.7 x 64.3 cm
John Hippisley, London; The Hippisley family, London; Newhouse Gallery, New York.
This beautiful portrait of a young member of the Hippisley family in Van Dyck dress demonstrates the qualities that enabled Beach to old his own as a portraitist in the company of contemporaries of the caliber of Thomas Gainsborough or George Romney.

The speaking likeness, in which the sitter with his half-open mouth appears in the instant of looking up from his small octavo, as if interrupted by the viewer, typifies the engaging, well-bred characterization that recommended Beach to the West Country squirearchy who made up the mass of his regular clientele. The age of the sitter suggests that the portrait was commissioned to celebrate some landmark in his education. A portrait intended to commemorate his matriculation at university would probably have shown the sitter in his gown, and the present portrait more probably records Master Hippisley leaving school.

Although a painter of national importance, Beach, who was born and died in Dorset, maintained a practice rooted in the south west of England. He trained at the St Martin’s Lane Academy and then under Sir Joshua Reynolds, exhibiting at the Society of Artists 1772 - 1783, from an address in Bath, and then at the Royal Academy from 1785 – 1790 and again in 1797 from addresses in London. From June to December he left the capital to visit Devon and Somerset patrons and painted them at Bath and at their houses. Beach continued working at least as late as 1802, the date of his Self portrait (National Portrait Gallery, London) which shows a contented and prosperous artist looking back on a career with perhaps some deserved satisfaction.

The Hippisleys of Ston Easton near Bath in Somerset are typical of the families who were Beach’s most reliable patrons. A sale at Ston Easton of the property of Commander Baynton Hippisley (Sotheby’s July 9th 1936) included two portraits by Beach, of a lady (lot 40) and Colonel Baynton Hippisley (lot 41) and a group portrait of the household staff (lot 700).
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.