Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Edward Foster, silhouettist - Part 2

Image © and courtesy of Virginia Silvester

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the circumstances surrounding Derby centenarian Edward Foster's visit to John Burton & Sons' portrait studio in Victoria Street, Derby on 8 November 1864. The sitting was beneficial to both parties, the relatively new Burton branch studio achieving a kind of celebrity endorsement, and Mr Foster a handy set of cartes de visite to hand out to friends, business acquaintances and prospective purchasers of his products. Whether money actually changed hands or not - Foster was a canny businessman, even in his advanced years - is probably a moot point. The fact that two copies of the portrait have already surfaced probably means that many more were produced.

I wrote previously that I would continue in the second of the series with a discussion of Edward Foster's early life in the military and his career as a silhouettist. I'm going to amend that slightly, leaving the early part of Foster's life to deal with in due course, and talk here about the latter part of his career which has left a lasting and verifiable record. As alluded to earlier, Foster himself had spent a good portion of his life producing likenesses of people, in the pre-photographic era, and it was probably the advent of popular photographic portraiture that forced him to seek an alternative means of making a living, much as happened to William Seville some years later.


Miniature portrait, reputedly of Edward Foster as a young man
Source unknown [2]

It is not clear exactly when Edward Foster, in the words of Mr. Henry Adams, editor of the Derby Reporter, giving a speech at a party held in honour of Foster's 100th birthday on Saturday 8th November 1862, "turned his attention to the fine arts." In a potted biography, presumably supplied by Foster himself, Adams stated that after retiring from the army in October 1805, "being of an active turn of mind, and having also a taste for the fine arts, he in the first instance invented and patented a machine; and in the second instance," became an artist [3]. McKechnie (1978) surmises that he had already tried his hand at painting profiles during his service in the army, and notes the existence of "profiles of soldiers (with the sitter's face in black, and his uniform in colour) which have the appearance of Foster's work." [4]

In an account supplied to a reporter from The Leicester Chronicle soon after his birthday celebration, he stated that:
... he soon after [leaving the army] obtained the office of portrait painter to the Royal Family, and had apartments allotted to him in the round tower at Windsor Castle ... Afterwards, he exercised his profession in various towns in the kingdom, and took the portraits of Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and many other distinguished characters of the day.
In the same article, the writer reports being shown the entries in Foster's ledgers for visits made to Leicester in 1808 and 1818 [5].


Advertisment in The Leeds Mercury, 17 June 1809

The first indisputable contemporary evidence found during this study, however, of Foster's commercial artistic activity is an advertisement that he placed in The Leeds Mercury of 17 June 1809 [6]. The words "By His Majesty's Royal Letters Patent" suggest that a Royal patent had been granted for the newly invented machine for sketching profiles in a short space of time, accurately and in great detail, although Foster in this particular case neither implicitly states that he was the inventor of the machine nor the grantee of the patent. Later descriptions of the machine render it likely to have been a pantograph, or at the least an adaptation of one, which had been invented at least some two centuries earlier [7], but was perhaps not in common everyday use.

Edward Foster, stating that he was "from London," was clearly producing black profiles at Harrogate in Leeds (Yorkshire) for a price of five shillings each at this time, but there is no mention here of any appointment as painter to the Royal family. His trade labels, affixed to the reverse of the framed silhouettes, also stated "from London" and McKechnie presumes this to mean that it was in London where he started his artistic career [4].


Advertisment in The Hull Packet, 26 December 1809

Six months later he was in Hull, also in Yorkshire, and had added the Royal coat of arms to his advertisement [8], as well as offering "profiles in black, at 5s. and upwards," suggesting an expansion of his repertoire. His marketing skills were also improving, with specimens of his work left displayed prominently at several shops dotted around town in order to drum up more commissions.

A similar advertisement in The Derby Mercury on 20 December 1810 stated that he had taken apartments for a short time, at Mr. Abbot's, trimmer, Friar Gate" in Derby [9] and he was still at the same premises at the beginning of January, with samples on display at Mr. Drewry's and Mr. Pritchards's, booksellers [10]. There was competition, however; a William Everitt advertised in the Mercury on 10 January that he had "taken 253 likenesses within the last 7 weeks." [11]

Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green
Reverse of framed silhouette showing Foster's trade label
Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green

Foster may not have remained in Derby for long, existing trade labels suggesting that he was as far afield as Macclesfield [12] and Dover during the next three years [4], and further newspaper advertisements suggest a brief visit to Exeter in March-April 1812 [13].

Image © and courtesy of Peggy McClard Antiques
Black profile of unidentified boy, c.1811-1814
Image © and courtesy of Peggy McClard Antiques

McKechnie describes the "black profile" of a young teenage boy with "his hair in the à la Brutus style" and a narrow shirt frill turned down at the neck as being typical of Foster's black profiles, and dates it as from c.1811-1814 [14]. Peggy McClard who, at the time of writing, owns this silhouette and kindly gave me permission to use the image, states:
This painted silhouette well represents Foster's "black profiles" in which he applied the black paint thinly then added detail with pigment added to gum arabic, and, sometimes, Chinese white. The frills of shirts were left without pigment (as in this silhouette). This 5 3/8" x 6 3/8" papier mâché frame is topped with one of Foster's trademark brass hangers bearing his name about the Royal crown.
Unlike many other silhouettists such as William Seville who cut them out of paper, Foster always painted his profiles.

Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green
Portrait of an unidentified lady, c.1814
Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green

Cynthia McKinley describes another early black profile of a young woman by Foster [15] (shown above) as follows:
This is a silhouette portrait of an unknown lady wearing a day dress with a columnar neck culminating in a single ruff under her chin. She also has a fashionable turban which conceals all but a few curls of her hair. This is one of Foster's early 'black profiles' where the costume details have been carefully outlined using gum arabic. It dates to around 1814 and is set in a papier-mâché frame with a decorative surround and a bunch of grapes hanger.
Several newspaper adverts from 1815 and 1816 indicate that Foster was still touring the counties: he was in Oxford in January 1815, Bury in August, and Ipswich in January the following year [16,17,18]. McKechnie describes a trade label dating from c.1817 which indicate that Foster had been working "for the last Three Years, in the Counties of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Lancashire," and was currently "removed from the Promenade, to Mr. Batchelor's, adjoining Hargrove's Library, High Harrogate," presumably in Leeds.

Foster recorded in his ledger a visit to Leicester in 1818, and the Chronicle reporter wrote:
... While here ... he married Miss Elizabeth Ward, niece of Mr. John Ireland, who for many years carried on the business of a bookseller on the premises where the Chronicle is now published." [5]
This is supported by an entry in the Leicester St Margaret parish registers, showing that they were married on 10 October 1818 [19]. Their son Edward Ward Foster is supposed to have been born at London on 3 August 1819 [19].

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Profile of Thomas Marseille of Canterbury, by Edward Foster, 1822
Image © and collection of Brett Payne [20]

This profile of Canterbury gentleman Thomas Marseille, dated 1822, is in the "red" style that Foster painted later in his career [20]. Desmond Coke, in his book The Art of Silhouette, praises Foster's originality, experimentation and innovation, refers to him rather extravagantly as "the very Post-Impressionist of Silhouette," and suggests that his choice in frames showed that he considered himself an artist rather than mere showman [21].

Image © and courtesy of Islesford Historical Society Museum
Profile of Captain Samuel Hadlock, by Edward Foster, dated 1824
Image © and courtesy of Islesford Historical Society Museum [22]

McKechnie shows Foster to have been working at 125, The Strand in that year, at Needham Market, Suffolk in 1820 and in Preston and Liverpool in 1823 [4], so it is obvious that he was still travelling widely. The silhouette portrait of American entrepreneur showman Captain Samuel Hadlock, Jr. was almost certainly done in London in 1824 [22].

Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers
Profile of Mr Paley, Iron Works, Bradford, by Edward Foster, 1825
Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers [24]

The red profile of Mr Paley could that of John Green Paley (1774-1860), partner in the Bowling Iron Works near Bradford for about 40 years from c. 1798, or his son, another John Green Paley (1807-1852), although the latter would have been only 17 or 18 years old at the time [25].

Image © and courtesy of Peggy McClard AntiquesImage © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green
Profiles of Miss and Mr Musgrave, by Edward Foster, undated
Images © and courtesy of Peggy McClard Antiques & Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green

The portraits of the bald-headed Mr. Musgrave [26], in his double-breasted coat and frilled chemise, and his fashionably attired daughter Miss Musgrave [27] are also typical of Foster's red profiles. Peggy McClard describes the latter as follows:
Foster painted her in Venetian red with gilt embellishment for her lovely hair pulled into a low knot with braids to either temple. Gold embellishment also details her gold hoop earrings and beaded necklace. The gauzy fabric of her low cut dress is depicted by Foster's "three-dot technique" of using three small, closely spaced dots to indicate transparency. Her dress is belted just below her bosom.
The portraits are sadly undated, but I think it a possibility that they were from the mid-to late 1820s rather than c.1811, as suggested by McKechnie [4].

Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the GreenImage © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green
Profiles of two unidentified children, by Edward Foster,
dated 1823 (left) and 1827 (right)
Images © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green [28]

These two charming profiles of children, and that of a magnificently bonneted woman (below) - kindly sent to me by Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green - on the other hand, are all signed and dated by Foster.

Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green
Profile of unidentified woman, by Edward Foster, 1827
Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green [29]

Foster was in Huddersfield in 1825, and there is possibility that he settled there for a while, although McKechnie shows him at Windsor in 1832 [4]. In December 1863, after the celebration of his 101st birthday, The Derby Mercury reported that Foster had "been invited to a public dinner at Huddersfield, where he resided for many years, and held an official position in the Court Leet. [23]


Profile of Marguerite Gardiner (1789-1849), Countess of Blessington
by Edward Foster, dated 1829
from The History of Silhouettes by E.N. Jackson [33]

Whether or not this was true, it appears that by late 1832, Foster was experiencing some financial difficulties. A notice for proceedings of bankruptcy against "Edward Foster, Huddersfield, carver" appeared in The Derby Mercury of 14 November 1832, followed by a notice of the sale of original paintings belonging to Foster at his "premises ... in New Street, Huddersfield ... on Thursday, the 27th June 1833." [30,31]

Image © 19th Century British Library Newspapers & courtesy of Gale CENGAGE Learning
Advertisement from The Derby Mercury, 25 Dec 1833
Image © 19th Century British Library Newspapers & courtesy of Gale CENGAGE Learning

To recover from this setback, he appears to have moved to Derby very soon afterward, setting up in premises - probably shared - at 43 Corn Market, and announcing his presence to potential customers on Christmas Day with some panache [32]:
A CARD.
---
FOSTER, Carver, Gilder, Looking Glass, and Picture Frame Manufacturer, Printseller, Miniature Painter, Profilist and General Artist,
No. 43, CORN MARKET, DERBY
Paintings Cleaned, Lined, Repaired and Varnished

Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers
Profile of unidentified man, by Edward Foster, 1833
Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers [34]

That Foster was still actively painting profiles is demonstrated by this portrait of an unidentified man, signed and dated, 1833 [34]. Both editions of Pigot & Co.'s trade directories published in 1835 and 1842 show Edward Foster as a carver and gilder in the Market place, Derby, suggesting a period of relative stability for the family [35,36], but Foster himself apparently continued to travel widely. McKechnie provides details of two advertisements appearing in the Windsor & Eton Express in July 1838 announcing his intention to be available in Windsor, presumably to take profiles [4].

Just when he ceased painting profiles is not yet clear, but the mid-1830s saw a shift in focus for his career which I will discuss in the next article of this series.

I would like to thank, in particular, Cynthia McKinley and Peggy McClard, who have been of great help in researching this period of Edward Foster's life, and have been most generous with sharing images of Foster profiles. If any reader has profiles by Foster, particularly if dated and where the subject may be identified, I would be very keen to hear from you, as it may well add usefully to what we know of his movements.

References

[1] Carte de visite portrait of Edward Foster, dated 8 November 1864, by John Burton & Sons of Leicester, Derby, Birmingham, Nottingham & Burton-upon-Trent, Collection of Virginia Silvester, Reproduced by permission.

[2] Image of Miniature portrait, reputedly of Edward Foster, unknown origin.

[3] Congratulatory Dinner to a Centenarian, The Derby Mercury, 12 November 1862. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[4] McKechnie, Sue (1978) British Silhouette Artists and their Work, 1760-1860, London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 799p. Extracts by kind courtesy of Peggy McClard (Peggy McClard Antiques)

[5] Mr. Edward Foster, the Centenarian, The Leicester Chronicle, 22 November 1862. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[6] Advertisment, The Leeds Mercury, 17 June 1809. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[7] Pantograph, from Wikipedia.

[8] Advertisment, The Hull Packet, 26 December 1809. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[9] Advertisment, The Derby Mercury, 20 December 1810. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[10] Advertisment, The Derby Mercury, 3 January 1811. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[11] Advertisment, The Derby Mercury, 10 January 1811. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[12] Image of Foster's trade label, undated. Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green.

[13] Articles & Advertisments, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, 19 March & 16 April 1811. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[14] Antique Silhouette of Young Boy by Edward Foster, Image © and courtesy of Peggy McClard Antiques.

[15] Portrait of an unidentified lady, Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley & Wigs on the Green

[16] Advertisement, Jackson's Oxford Journal, 28 Jan 1815. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[17] Advertisement, The Bury & Norwich Post, 2 & 9 Aug 1815. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[18] Article, The Ipswich Journal, 27 Jan 1816. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[19] International Genealogical Index (IGI), from the LDS Church's FamilySearch web site.

[20] Profile of Thomas Marseille (1759-1831) of Canterbury, by Edward Foster, 1822, Image © and collection of Brett Payne.

[21] Coke, Desmond (1913) The Art of Silhouette, M. Secker, 230p. Google Books.

[22] Feest, Christian F. (1999) Indians and Europe: an interdisciplinary collection of essays. University of Nebraska Press, 643pp. (p. 219) ISBN 0803268971. Courtesy of Google Books.

[23] Article, The Derby Mercury, 9 December 1863. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[24] Profile of Mr Paley, Iron Works, Bradford, by Edward Foster, 1825, Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers.

[25] Paley Family Tree, by John Attfield

[26] Profile of Miss Musgrave, by Edward Foster, Image © and courtesy of Peggy McClard Antiques

[27] Profile of Mr Musgrave, by Edward Foster, Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green

[28] Profiles of two unidentified children, by Edward Foster, dated 1823 & 1827, Images © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green

[29] Profile of unidentified woman, by Edward Foster, dated 1827, Image © and courtesy of Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green

[30] Bankruptcy notice for Edward Foster, Huddersfield, carver, 23 Nov, 31 Dec., The Derby Mercury, 14 Nov 1832. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[31] Sale of original paintings under Foster's Bankruptcy, The Leeds Mercury, 22 Jun 1833. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[32] Bankruptcy notice for Edward Foster, Huddersfield, carver, 23 Nov, 31 Dec., The Derby Mercury, 25 Dec 1833. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

[33] Jackson, Emily Nevill (1911) The History of Silhouettes, The Connoisseur, London, 121p. Archive.org

[34] Profile of unidentified man, by Edward Foster, 1833, Image © and courtesy of Richard Mole, Antique Dealers & Restorers.

[35] Anon (1835) Pigot & Co.'s National Commercial Directory, London: J. Pigot & Co. University of Leicester's Historical Directories.

[36] Anon (1842) Pigot & Co.'s Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography, London: J. Pigot & Co., July 1842. University of Leicester's Historical Directories.

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