The Saatchi of the 18th Century; George III Was an Enthusiastic Patron of Modern Art and Left a Magnificent Collection, of Which Some 500 Works Are Now Displayed at the Queen's Gallery

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Saatchi of the 18th Century; George III Was an Enthusiastic Patron of Modern Art and Left a Magnificent Collection, of Which Some 500 Works Are Now Displayed at the Queen's Gallery


Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

POOR George III - six decades on the throne and all that most of us know of him is that he lost what was to become the USA, was nicknamed Farmer George for his interest in agriculture, and died a lunatic.

These are bald truths. Britain did indeed lose her grip on colonial America but this was far more the fault of his ministers than of George himself, and the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was deliberately in mischievous error when it enshrined the King as villain; he was indeed something of an expert on grass and hay and modern farming methods; and die a lunatic he did, but not of the conventional dementias or senility, nor of Alzheimer's disease, but of a hereditary metabolic disorder that we now identity as acute intermittent porphyria.

From this last he temporarily recovered, despite the formidable brutality of doctors ignorant of the disease, but in his last years it returned with a vengeance and rendered him totally deaf to the music that he continued to play on his harpsichord, and blind to the paintings, drawings and other aesthetic possessions that he had so diligently collected earlier in his reign.

Some five hundred of these form the new exhibition at Buckingham Palace, the house that as a young man he bought in 1762 for his 18-year-old wife, Charlotte Sophia, newly uprooted from the small German court of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Theirs was not a love match; love was something that he had learned to eschew when his tutorturned-friend and eventual Prime Minister, Lord Bute, forbade him to propose to Lady Sarah Lennox, a 15-year-old beauty for whom George felt passionate desire.

In contrast, Charlotte was thin and plain to the point of ugliness, sexually undesirable (though we would never guess so from the flattering portraiture of the day), and it was only out of a sense of duty to the state's requirement for an heir to the throne that she and George doggedly came together again and again to breed another and another child. A sane couple would have stopped at four or five, but 13 sons and daughters were alive for Gainsborough to paint in 1782-3, and two others died in infancy.

As George and Charlotte kept separate households the prurient may wonder how their bedding assignations were arranged, for though their shared interests in music, books, philosophy, botany and what was then contemporary art must have eased them into companionable states, they can hardly have engendered the blind lust required for coupling without mutual desire.

Both cared passionately for the children whom they pupped, both were severely Protestant and anti-Catholic, and both led lives that were as utterly proper in privacy as they were when going about their public duties - as they very frequently did.

It is easy to forget that George's reign, 1760-1820, was more or less concurrent with the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, the decades of the 18th century when intellectual enquiry was a driving force for kings and gentlemen, when sciences were hand-in-hand with new philosophies, when all over Europe dictionaries, encyclopaedias and lexicons were published, when the origins of man and language were topics of drawingroom discussion, when new uses were developed for coal and iron, when the expansion of empire expanded industry too. In Britain there were painters, architects, designers, poets and novelists in numbers hitherto unimaginable, the British Museum and the Royal Academy were founded, and the National Gallery was the brave intention of men both rich and wise.

In so fervid an intellectual and aesthetic atmosphere it is not altogether surprising that in pursuing many of these aims and interests George III became the Charles Saatchi of his day. Looking back at him from the first years of a new century and seeing pictures by Zoffany, Gainsborough, Loutherbourg, Ramsay, Canaletto and West, it is essential to remember that these were as much George's contemporaries as Freud, Hockney, Lucas, Emin and Hirst are ours, and that in their 18th-century day some of these artists must have been the subject of something of the same excitement and anticipation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Saatchi of the 18th Century; George III Was an Enthusiastic Patron of Modern Art and Left a Magnificent Collection, of Which Some 500 Works Are Now Displayed at the Queen's Gallery
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.