(click image to enlarge)
Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827) was a collector, connoisseur and amateur painter and draughtsman. He befriended and patronised numerous artists and writers, including John Constable, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Scott, as well as John Jackson. Influenced in his own art by the Classicism of Claude Lorrain and Richard Wilson, he was perplexed at some of Constable’s innovations and critical of the work of Turner. He played an essential role in the foundation of the National Gallery and the development of its collection.
In December 1818, Sir George Beaumont invited John Jackson to stay at Coleorton Hall, Leicestershire, in order to paint the portrait of its architect, George Dance (New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester). While there, Jackson also copied Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portraits of Margaret and George Beaumont (the originals of which, painted in 1780 and 1787, are now in the collection of the Frick, Pittsburgh, PA). Felicity Owen suggests that he painted at least two pairs of copies, with ‘one pair’ certainly ‘going to Constable’ (2004, Page 497). Given the friendships between Beaumont, Constable and Jackson, it seems fitting that this should have happened. However, it cannot yet be proven that the present half-size copy is that which was in Constable’s possession. The pair of copies owned by Constable was included in the sale of his effects at Christie, Manson & Woods, in London, on 15 May 1838, and were bought by his friend and
biographer, the artist, C R Leslie.
It is interesting to note that an oval mezzotint of the portrait of Beaumont, produced by Henry Meyer (c1782-1847), is much closer to Jackson’s copy than it is to Reynolds’ original. This suggests that Jackson’s version served as its model.