Nine works by William, George and John Smith, known collectively as the Smith Brothers of Chichester, are now on display at Pallant House Gallery following a bequest made by Mrs Pat Roth. The sons of a Chichester tradesman, all three brothers were highly regarded painters of portraits, still-lives and landscapes in the 18th century. Through their representation of the English landscape they contributed greatly to the development of the Picturesque aesthetic in England in the mid-18th century.
The works bequeathed to Pallant House Gallery include exquisitely realized landscapes by George (c.1714-1776) and John (c. 1717-1764) Smith that typify the growing taste for, and interest in 17th century Dutch landscape artists during the 18th century. Richly coloured still lifes by William Smith (c.1707-1764) are also reminiscent of the Dutch still life aesthetic of 'natures morte' particularly popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century.
William, George and John were the sons of William Smith, a Chichester tradesman who began life as a cooper and later became a baker, and Elizabeth Spencer, daughter of a Horsham butcher.
William Smith, the eldest of the three, initially worked as a portrait painter, studying in London in the 1720s and establishing himself in a studio in Piccadilly. Around 1730 William and George moved to Gloucester. William worked primarily as a portrait painter before returning to London and in later years, Shopwhyke near Chichester. George Smith also worked primarily as a portrait painter and shared a London studio with his brother John in the early 1740s. Both returned to Chichester from about 1750 where they lived and painted in North Street.
George Smith, regarded as the most important of the three brothers, was praised for his landscape paintings, although he also worked as a portrait painter. He was
Their reputation grew and their work was popularized by the 18th century rise in demand for reproductive engravings of popular paintings. Recognised as being amongst the foremost painters of the period, particularly in their representation of the English Landscape, they contributed to the development of picturesque aesthetics by combining the classical pastoral compositions of Claude Lorrain with the detailed realism of Dutch landscape painting.awarded the first premium from the Royal Society of Arts for his landscape paintings in 1760, 1761 and 1763, with his younger brother John winning in 1762. The brothers’ reputation was firmly established by 1761 when a contemporary writer noted: ‘The superiority of the Smiths as Landscape-painters is so incontestably visible to those who have the least judgement in Painting, or in Nature, that to declare my Opinion in this matter is quite unnecessary.’
This collection of Smith Brothers works was originally started by Chichester architect Stanley Roth after purchasing a work by George Smith from Agnew’s Minor Master’s Exhibition in 1956. In 1962 Stanley and his wife Pat loaned a number of the paintings to the inaugural exhibition of paintings at Chichester District Museum in the renovated 16th century Corn Mill in Little London which Stanley had purchased and overseen the conversion of, recognising its potential as a museum venue. The works were also later loaned to Pallant House Gallery by Mrs Roth in 1995 and the Gallery is delighted to have received them as her bequest. This new exhibition offers an opportunity to not only display these superb works but also to mark the generosity and support of Pat Roth in particular.
About Pallant House Gallery: Located in the heart of historic Chichester on the south coast, Pallant House Gallery is a unique combination of a Grade One Listed Queen-Anne townhouse and an award- winning contemporary extension, housing one of the most significant collections of Modern British art in the country. Widely acclaimed for its innovative temporary exhibitions and exemplary Learning and Community programme which has inclusion at its heart, the Gallery has won numerous awards since re-opening in 2006. www.pallant.org.uk.