A Good Pair of c.1840s English School Provincial Oil on Canvas Portraits of a Gentleman & His Wife

Origin: English
Period: Early Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1841-45
Canvas Heights: 30 inches
Canvas Widths: 25 inches (each)

The large unframed English school depictions of a gentleman and his wife, named verso as Mr and Mrs Backhouse of West Hendon House, shown half-length and painted in oils on canvas, survive from the middle of nineteenth century England.

Both pictures are in fair condition and prove very decorative. They suffer from minor losses with larger sections of flaking to the ladies face. There have been three repairs verso to the gentleman and some areas of re-touching. They both show even amounts of craquelure to their surfaces and remain un-cleaned. The paintings are apparently unsigned. They could of course both be extensively restored. We do have later 20th century giltwood frames for these pictures which can be provided with them at no extra charge.

To the reverse we see labels to each; “Margaret Backhouse (nee Richardson) born 1818, married Thomas James Backhoouse 18 Aug 1841. Died 27 March 1854” and “Thomas James Backhouse born Darlington 24 April 1810 lived at West Hendon House, Sunderland. Died at Seaton Carew 29th July 1857”.

Both portraits show Mr and Mrs Backhouse on dark grounds in dark attire with affable expressions, designed to portray a sense a humility. Thomas James Backhouse was born in Darlington in England on 24 Apr 1810 to Edward Backhouse and Mary Robson. He then married Margaret Richardson and had 7 children; Thomas William Backhouse, Mary Agnes Backhouse, James Edward Backhouse, Jonathan Backhouse, Edith Margaret Backhouse, Lilas Backhouse and Arthur Backhouse. They lived at West Hendon House in Sunderland.

Thomas James passed away on 29 Jul 1857 at Seaton Carew in England whilst Margaret Backhouse (nee Richardson) was born in 1818 and died on the 27th March 1854.

One of their sons Thomas William Backhouse (1842- 1919) remained at West Hendon House, Sunderland and built an observatory there. His recordings of the weather and movements of the stars gave him considerable standing as a meteorologist and astronomer. His work was recognised by the Royal Meteorological Society, who appointed him as Vice-President in 1918 and 1919.

It is always satisfying knowing the sitters of these portraits, as many similar examples remain anonymous, and as such they provide good historical punch as well as clear decorative bite.