A public appeal has raised the £25k needed to ensure that Portrait of Horace Walpole, later 4th Earl of Orford (1717 1797), a highly significant and rare early (1727-28) work by William Hogarth (1697-1784) will remain on public view in the UK at Walpoles, Strawberry Hill House
This means Strawberry Hill Trust should now be able to acquire the painting from a private collection. It has been offered to the nation in lieu of death duties but the painting is valued at £230,000 more than the amount of tax due, so the museum needed raise the funds to bridge the gap.
Unusually for a museum appeal, the Trust already had most of the money: the importance of the painting had been recognised by the National Heritage Memorial Fund which generously awarded the Trust £115k and the Art Fund which kindly gave £90k.
That left Strawberry Hill Trust needing to raise the remaining £25k by 14 April 2022 however thanks to a crowdfunding campaign through Art Happens with Art Fund the public wholeheartedly got behind the appeal and the amount was raised by 7 April 2022.
This portrait is of exceptional interest for two reasons - it is the earliest surviving oil portrait of Walpole, and a rare and significant example of Hogarths early mature pictorial work. It also is the earliest-known commissioned picture of an identifiable sitter by Hogarth and his first-known portrait of a child.
The painting was commissioned by Horaces father, Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), the first British Prime Minister, when his youngest son was aged 10. It depicts the young Horace in a landscape pointing at a sundial with a Cupid statue pointing to the Roman numeral X (ten) on the dial. The playful spaniel in the foreground is one of a long line owned by Horace throughout his life.
Horace Walpole grew up to be an influential historian, collector, and social commentator. His villa, Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, is one of the original and best-known examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the world, while his literary reputation rests on The Castle of Otranto (1764) - which created the gothic genre - and his letters, which are of significant cultural, and political interest. Walpole is also one of the earliest people to write about the history of English art in Anecdotes of Painting in England (1765-71).
William Hogarth was an English painter and engraver who played a crucial part in establishing an English school of painting, both through the quality of his painting and campaigns to improve the status of artists in England.
This portrait was commissioned from Hogarth when he was at the very outset of his career and Horace was a pupil at Eton.
Both Walpole and Hogarth are among the most defining figures in Georgian society. Their works and many achievements have contributed to shape a certain idea of Britishness, in both the literary and artistic fields worldwide. Walpole was an enthusiastic collector of Hogarth, whom he described as a great and original genius.
Given the artist, subject, context, and provenance of this painting, it is very much a work of national and international importance. After his death in 1797 many of the historically important documents, paintings and works of art relating to Horace Walpole were subsequently acquired by American collections. Similarly, whilst many of Hogarths works of his later years remain in the UK, early works by him are rare and many from this period are now in American institutions or private collections.
Given the international interest in both Walpole and Hogarth, it is highly likely that unless purchased by Strawberry Hill Trust, this painting could be sold overseas rather than be publicly displayed as part of our national heritage.
Strawberry Hill House & Garden Director Derek Purnell says: On behalf of us all at Strawberry Hill House, thank you to everyone who has helped us meet our target especially the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund. Watching the percentage grow day by day has been a real thrill and we've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support we have received. Clearly acquiring this remarkable painting is a rare opportunity and we look forward to this portrait joining other works in our collection.
He added With several days left of the campaign we are stretching our target so that we will be able to rehang some of our paintings in the Great Parlour at Strawberry Hill House in preparation for displaying Horaces portrait alongside other family portraits. The additional funds will also allow new lighting and interpretation to be put in place to make the most of this exceptional work for our visitors.
Edward Harley, OBE, Chairman, Acceptance in Lieu Panel, said: I am delighted that this portrait of Horace Walpole in his infancy has been acquired for Strawberry Hill, the Gothic villa which he designed, and which housed his vast collection of treasures. This picture is the earliest surviving portrait by Hogarth, and it is of great importance for the study of his early patronage through which he obtained commissions from the highest echelons of society. I hope that this example will encourage others to use the Acceptance in Lieu scheme to continue to enrich public collections here in the UK.
Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: "This exceptional portrait of Horace Walpole deserves to be on prominent and permanent display. I'm delighted to say that, thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme and the generosity of everyone who donated, the artwork has found a fitting home at Strawberry Hill House where it can be shown for everyone to enjoy."