Meet 'Captain' Rous, or rather meet George, a barrister, not a captain at all (although two of his brothers were) and almost certainly not painted by James Northcote, celebrated Plymouth born Academician. If George seems familiar then you may have come across him at Buckland Abbey where he had been on loan for several years thanks to an assumed connection with the Drake family which turns out to be as fictional as his captaincy.
And how do you know all this you ask? Since Summer I've been doing some research work for Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery as part of their 'In The Frame: Plymouth's Portraits Revealed' exhibition which opened in December and runs for a whole year. It's surprising how little information there sometimes is regarding paintings that may have been in the collection for years and in other cases how the information that is available is partial, downright wrong or both. None of which is a reflection on the expertise of the museum's curators past or present, merely an observation that probably applies to every similar institution across the country, museum collections are iceberg like in terms of the amount that can be seen at any one time and much of what remains unseen is only partially understood. The current exhibition is an attempt to redress that balance. So, in answer to a request on Twitter I (among others) volunteered to do a bit of digging.
You can hear about what I discovered on Wednesday 11th February at 1.00pm when I'll be giving one of the museum's regular 'Art Bites' and sharing what I found about a number of portraits 'Captain Rous' included. You can also hear about Mary Trelawney and her (probably) non existent 'Van Dyck' dress and her son Samuel's last ditch attempt to recover the family land in America. And I'll be discussing James Doel and Samuel Phelps, two Devonport actors, one of whom inspired Sir Henry Irving to take to the stage and revolutionised our understanding of Shakespeare and the other who eventually became celebrated as 'England's Oldest Living Actor' and whose son made a major contribution to the museum's porcelain collection.
In other news, Tavi Arts Market have announced the dates for their 2015 programme and I'm delighted to say that I'll once again be a regular stallholder from May through to August inclusive and probably at least one of the pre-Christmas markets later in the year.
Work in progress and other stuff that happens.