Collections Assistant, Laura Millward, talks about her fellowship work funded by the ‘Understanding British Portrait Network’.
I am a few days into a 30 day research fellowship funded by the ‘Understanding British Portrait Network’ (http://www.britishportraits.org.uk). Although it’s still early days, I have discovered a few interesting facts relating to the University’s pastel portraits of the Leeds industrialist John Marshall (1765-1845) and his wife Jane (1771 to 1847), produced by John Russell (1745-1806) in 1802. I had read from various sources that John was born at his father’s draper’s shop at Number 1 Briggate, so one of my first visits was to the Leeds Local History Library. It was here I was able to look at early insurance maps of the city centre, which included the street numbers and I discovered that Number 1 Briggate is now The Cosmopolitan Hotel. I have spent time looking through the Marshall business papers held in the University’s Special Collections and through chatting with colleagues in Special Collections, I have met other researchers of the Marshalls, including Rebecca Bowd and Dr Barbara Hahn. Rebecca told me about the remains of John Marshall’s first mill in Adel which I am planning on visiting.
Last week I visited the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum where I viewed the journals of John Russell. John Russell toured Yorkshire between 1790 and 1806, so I was hoping he had made a few notes on his encounter with the Marshalls; unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Russell did mention the Leeds surgeon Dr William Hey, who he stayed with in Woodhouse. I would assume the Marshalls were part of the same social circle as Hey in Leeds and were introduce to the artist via Hey or quite possibly another Leeds mill owner Richard Paley, whose portrait by Russell (produced same year as Marshalls) is held at Leeds Art Gallery, although further research is required.
John Russell was born in Guildford and the Guildford Museum has the largest collection of portraits by the artist. The Assistant Curator, Andrew Longworth, very kindly showed me many of the portraits which were in the museum’s store and the files related to them. The museum also has pastels and an easel which were owned by John Russell, which were fascinating to see. The following day I visited the Heinz Archive at the National Portrait Gallery where I was able to view various files and articles relating to Russell’s portraits and staff had made it possible for me to view another pair of companion portraits and a self-portrait of John Russell.
Come to the Gallery in mid-July, when a new interpretation panel and visitor leaflet relating to the portraits will be available. The research project is also linked to the University of Leeds Public Art Project with events and contemporary art installations at the Gallery and on campus, celebrating Yorkshire’s textile heritage.