A very happy Fourth of July to our friends across the pond! Today’s Great Provenances exhibition spotlight has strong ties with America. This portrait by John Hoppner R.A. depicts Sir John Osborn (1772-1848) wearing a blue coat with a red lined collar and white neck cloth.
John Hoppner was a highly regarded portrait artist working in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. Of German descent, he had the opportunity to grow up in the Royal court under the watchful eye of George III. It was even rumoured that Hoppner was the son of George III, a rumour that Hoppner was more than happy to encourage throughout his lifetime.
Having received an education from John Chamberlaine, keeper of the Royal drawings, he later entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1775, subsequently receiving medals from the Academy in 1778 and 1782. In 1784, he worked for Queen Charlotte, and by 1789 he had become Portrait Painter for the Prince of Wales and achieved the status of Principal Painter in 1793.
Sir John Osborn
The sitter of this portrait, Sir John Osborn (1772-1848), was the son of General Sir George Osborn, Bt. (1742-1818), who fought in the American Revolutionary War and served as the Groom of the Bedchamber to George III. Osborn’s grandfather was Sir Danvers Osborn, 3rd Bt., who served as Governor of New York in 1753.
Sir John attended Oxford University and received a Doctorate of Civil Law. He married August Frederica Louis Valentia, daughter of Sir Charles Davers, Bt. in 1809 and his father as fifth baronet in 1818. He served as Colonel of the Bedfordshire Militia as well as a member of parliament for various districts between 1807 and 1824.
Provenance & Exhibition History
The painting has an interesting provenance. It remained in the family until the early 20th century, when it passed through Howard Young Galleries. At this time, Apollo published an illustration of the portrait in their March 1930 issue (p. 218).
The painting then entered the collection of Richard Beatty Mellon in Pennsylvania. The Mellon family home in Pittsburgh was an incredible 65-room mansion that included a bowling alley and a separate carriage house.
The Mellon family gave the portrait to the Westmorland County Museum of Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1966. The painting has been exhibited several times, including in San Francisco, California at a 1933 exhibition of English painting of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in Providence, Rhode Island at an exhibition entitled Old and New England, and at the Westmoreland Museum’s exhibitions.