Wilberforce: The Russell Portrait in Oils

I have been privileged to be able to use for my book, both on the cover and in the text (pp. 108 – 109), the companion portraits in pastel (each 61 x 44.5 cm) of William and Barbara (née Spooner) Wilberforce by John Russell (1745-1806). William’s portrait is dated 1801. Russell was one of the great pastellists of the age, and he completed few commissions in oils. Interestingly, however, there is a Russell version in oils of the Wilberforce portrait, larger in size and with a somewhat grander background. This is an oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5 cm, and it is in the collection of the Leeds Museums and Galleries. The portrait may be viewed online as part of the BBC’s ‘Your Paintings’ Project [for further details, see: Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, Part II: Named Sitters L-Z]. Jeffares also records, sadly as ‘lost’, a pastel of Mrs Wilberforce of Wimbledon [née Hannah Thornton], the beloved aunt of the young William Wilberforce.

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Pictures: The Younger Marianne

Unfortunately, pictures of the younger Marianne Thornton (1797-1887) – such an important family chronicler and commentator on Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect – are not easy to find. Two at least, however, are known. The first of these is a pencil and watercolour bust portrait (29 x 23 cm) dating from around 1830 by George Richmond (1809-1896). This was presented in 1947 by E. M. Forster (Marianne was his  paternal great aunt) through The Art Fund to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The second is a drawing mounted on card of Marianne as an old woman, dated 18 July, 1876, also seemingly by Richmond, which was printed in E. M. Forster’s Marianne Thornton: A Domestic Biography (London: Edward Arnold, 1956) [see: The Papers of Edward Morgan Forster].

First Review Published

With commendable speed, Susan Elkin has published the first review, even before publication, of Wilberforce: Family and Friends in the Independent on Sunday of 4 March:

Biography: Wilberforce: Family and Friends, By Anne Stott
The greatest of his generation

Here is a quote from the review: ‘The network around Wilberforce was complex, and Stott, who is strong on the dynamics of the Evangelical, closely bonded Clapham Sect (most of whom didn’t live in Clapham, but the shorthand title has stuck) helpfully maps the relationships in three family trees at the outset. She tells her compelling story with great sympathy, and has a gift for insightful comparisons…’

Anne Stott, ‘Wilberforce: Family and Friends’

My book, Wilberforce: Family and Friends (Oxford University Press), was published on 15 March, 2012. The purpose of this blog is to provide updates, along with additional resources, corrections, and links to critical reviews. I will also be posting on other subjects relevant to the period. The book is now available at Amazon.comAmazonUK and at Oxford University Press. I can be contacted on Twitter at @annemstott.