The conference was run in collaboration with The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead. Initially, the conference was due to be held on site across the galleries and would have included time to explore the collections. In that spirit, we offer highlights from the collection across the website. Fuller details of holdings can be found via ArtUK and through the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) collections database.
Malcolm Baker recorded his keynote in fitting company, alongside Roubiliac’s bust of Pope at the Shipley Gallery, Gateshead. This bust occupies a quiet corner of the gallery, yet for scholars of the eighteenth century it is one of the collection’s stand-out works. Malcolm has done much research on this bust and the other versions of it produced by Roubiliac. It featured in an exhibition he curated for the Yale Centre for British Art (2014), ‘“Fame and Friendship”: Pope, Roubiliac and the Literary Portrait Bust in Eighteenth Century Britain’, which then toured to Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. A publication accompanied the exhibition: Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Paul Holberton, 2014).
Roubiliac’s bust of Pope at the Shipley was commissioned by David Garrick. It therefore brings together three of the leading figures of the Arts in the mid eighteenth-century: Roubiliac, the nation’s leading sculptor; Pope, its leading author; and Garrick, its leading actor. The bust was made in 1741, the year Garrick found acclaim on stage in his performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Pope was so impressed by the performance that he went to see Garrick in the role three times. Hogarth, who became Garrick’s friend around this time, painted him in the role in a portrait that would become one of his most important works: made at the peak of Hogarth’s career, ‘David Garrick as Richard III’ was completed c.1745 and is the first major Shakespearean painting ever produced.
On a recent visit to the collections of The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, I came across evidence of the ongoing perception of the importance of the Shipley bust well into the nineteenth century. Garrick’s art collection went under the hammer in 1822 following the death of his wife, Eva Marie. The sale was managed by James Christie the Younger, and the auction catalogue’s title page gives pride of place to Roubiliac’s bust of Pope. It therefore took centre stage over other prized art works, including the original paintings for Hogarth’s Election series. It sold for £37 and 15 shillings to William Seguier, the art dealer and later first Keeper of the National Gallery. Subsequent owners included the Earl of Durham, and G. L. Collins. It was presented to the Shipley in 1937.