Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This article considers the twenty-first work of twenty-five bought at Anderson & Garland Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 March 2017, lot 46 as Various Artists (British 19th Century) Sundry drawings and watercolours, mainly topographical and floral studies, including a grisaille “South Gate Lynn, Norfolk”, bearing the signature J.S. Cotman, various sizes, all unframed in a folio.
Here we consider a watercolour by one of the last of the Twopenys, Edward Maxwell, made on a journey to Gibraltar in the later years of the nineteenth century.
This is a solidly painted watercolour study of a mountainous landscape, with a peak rising out of mist top left, above a near vertical rock face to the left, and a densely vegetated slope rising from the right.
The subject is as inscribed the view of the summit of the rock of Gibraltar looking due south across the Straits, to the hills of North Africa above Cueta. It seems likely that mists on the rock are a regular occurrence, and perhaps characteristic of Spring, given that this study was made on the 14th of April, if that is the correct interpretation of the inscription. The viewpoint is near the top of the defensive wall built in 1540 on the orders of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The wall still provides a pedestrian route of ascent to the crest from the harbour, and presumably that was Edward Maxwell’s method of reaching his viewpoint. Today he might well have disembarked a cruise ship onto a tourist bus, or taken the cable-car.
Even without the current coronavirus confinements, jetting off to Gibraltar to take a comparative photograph would have seemed an environmentally destructive indulgence, however enticing a prospect. I could, in any case have hardly taken a better comparison than that by Hansvandervliet supplied by Wikimedia.
An inscription also gives us the initials of the artist, ‘E.M.T’. In the context of this portfolio, where most of the drawings are by members of the Twopeny family of Rochester and their descendants, the author of this drawing can be certainly identified as Edward Maxwell Twopeny (1860-1898).
Edward Maxwell Twopeny was born at Ightham, Kent in 1860. His father was the Reverend Edward Twopeny (b.1827), the only son of Edward Twopeny of Woodstock Park, near Sittingbourne. Woodstock was the family seat of the Twopeny family, and we have seen a good deal of it in previous instalments (see parts #8-12).
He appears to have been brought up separately from his parents, for in the census of 1861 he is listed aged one as residing at Woodstock in the household of his grandfather. In 1871 he is there again aged eleven. It may be that his father’s health played some part in this. In 1872 the Revd Edward was forced by consumption to seek warmer climes for the winter, but he died on 23 December at Cannes in the south of France, and his body buried there.
At age eighteen Edward Maxwell Twopeny matriculated at Brasenose, Oxford. In the 1881 census he is recorded aged twenty-one as still resident at Woodstock along with his grandfather Edward (by now in his mid-eighties) and two years later he took his B.A. from Merton College. He must have married in the year of his graduation for his wife Dora produced a son, Sydney Edward in 1884 .
Old Edward died in 1887 aged ninety-two. He had been head of the family since the age of fourteen in 1809. Woodstock passed to Edward Maxwell and in the same year his mother remarried to Captain John Henry Baldwin and took up residence at Stede Hill, Kent, about five miles south of Woodstock at Harrietsham. Edward Maxwell, together with his wife and three-year old son were now the sole proprietors of Woodstock.
I have not yet managed to pinpoint the year of Edward’s visit to Gibraltar. One obvious possibility is the year of his marriage. I have not managed to establish that either, but it must have been after his graduation in 1883 and before the arrival of his son in 1884. Without more precise dates for any of this, if the wedding took place in the spring, the date of 14 April on the drawing would place him in Gibraltar on his honeymoon in 1883 or 1884.
Some detailed genealogical investigation, or perhaps a search through the full set of issues of The Gibraltar Chronicle at the Regimental Museum, Gibraltar, might give some greater certainty to all this. Under present coronaviral circumstances that might have to be postponed for some considerable while. And even then – and in some great measure because of the current hiatus – we might very well start to question the desirability of travelling at all for such nebulous purposes. Things might never be the same again. Things, perhaps, never should be the same again.
In this context, it is worth reflecting on the trajectory mapped out by the drawings in the Twopeny portfolio. At the beginning of this journey we encountered a family deeply associated with specific localities. Firstly at Rochester, and then at Woodstock, and then establishing a new branch in rural Rutlandshire. The presiding aesthetic in the portfolio is expressed in ancient trees, sequestration and simple rurality. Then there emerges an increasing mobility. The travels and researches of William Twopeny and to some degree of his brother, David. Antiquarianism is constructed by dynamics of change, but facilitated by improved travel networks and facilities. And then we come to tourism in Susanna Twopeny’s visit to Beaumaris facilitated by industrial engineering , the railway, great civil works, packet steamers from Liverpool, and a mountain being carried away to pave industrial cities. And, now with Edward Maxwell Twopeny, with tours to the Mediterranean becoming normalised, and indeed de rigeur for the very wealthy.
The afterlife of the watercolour is worth consideration. The sheet itself is probably a page from a sketchbook. Hence the inscription gives the day and month, but not the year, which would have already been inscribed on the cover. We may never know what preceded and followed this drawing, but it is an interesting thought that the rest of the book might survive somewhere.
At any rate we can see that the page was stuck down on a backboard, given a fine gilt mat, and put in a frame. The frame has gone, but the marks of the brads are visible on the backboard, etched into to the covering sheet of brown sealing paper. So the question arises by whom was it mounted and framed and when? In whose house did it hang? It seems a safe assumption that it was framed and hung by someone to whom the artist was important. It then arises by whom and when was it deframed and added to portfolio?
Edward Maxwell Twopeny was one of the last of his line. His son Sydney Edward died only three years after him, aged seventeen. His widow, Dora Twopeny remarried in 1900 to J.J. Nesbitt, Vicar of nearby Rodmersham – only two miles north-east of Woodstock – and moved into the rectory. That left Woodstock empty. After Sydney’s death the sole surviving Twopeny was Edward Maxwell’s brother, Charles Dynley (b.1868). He was unmarried but prosperously established in Hythe and London. The contents of Woodstock were sold and the house let, and during the twentieth century it gradually decayed before being demolished in 1967.
In the meantime Edward Maxwell’s mother, Caroline Elizabeth, who had remarried in 1887 was left a widow for a second time in 1908. In the 1911 census we find her living in Charles Dynely’s London household at the age of seventy-five. She died in 1919. In the same year, Charles Dynely became Mayor of Hythe, which office he held until 1922. In 1921 at the age of fifty-three he married Gertrude Isabel Faux, who became the last custodian of the Twopeny heirlooms on his death in 1923, and remained in Hythe until her death in 1954. It seems a reasonable suspicion that this watercolour, possibly framed by his widow or his mother, found its eventual way onto a wall of Gertrude Faux’s house and on her death into a portfolio of items representing the Twopeny family. Perhaps that is why the portfolio itself, which does not appear to be of any great antiquity, carries a relatively modern label initialled ‘P M F’ – perhaps indicative of a relative of Gertrude Faux. Given the partial nature of the selection – there was once an album of drawings that appears to have been split up – perhaps another portfolio (or even more than one) was formed from the Twopeny residue.
TO BE CONTINUED
This instalment concludes the sequence of works by members of the Twopeny family. Next, we consider a Cumbrian connection, and a mini portfolio within the first.