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George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Whilst researching my ancestor Joseph Austin Benwell, I acquired at auction a collection of  small watercolours and drawings, including  one purportedly by Benwell, Many of the other artworks depict scenes in the Bristol area, and most appear to be by George Cumberland. Some are shown below.

Lifelong friend of William Blake, George Cumberland (1754-1848) was a man of artistic, antiquarian and literary tastes. Between 1793 and 1798, while living at Bishopsgate, Egham, Cumberland published seven works, including earlier works of poetry, A Plan for the Improvement of the Arts in England (1793), which included proposals for a national gallery of sculpture in Green Park; and other works illustrated by William Blake. Cumberland bought many of Blake's publications, pressed booksellers to take them, and found work for the artist. In 1803 Cumberland moved to Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, before settling at 1 Culver Street, Bristol, in 1807, where he lived until his death there on 8 August 1848. He was buried at St-Augustine-the-Less on 14 August 1848.

He became one of the earliest members of the informal group of artists which has become known as the Bristol School, and one of the first to take part in the group's excursions to sketch the scenery around Bristol. Cumberland helped many of the Bristol artists through recommendations and introductions to his influential friends. His landscape sketches and watercolours produced at this time have a simple directness of vision, reminiscent of those of his friend John Linnell. 

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has a collection of George Cumberland's works.

George Cumberland (1754-1848)
10 (Mount Pleasant) Culver Street, Bristol. Home of George Cumberland (1754-1848). He moved to Bristol in 1807. Cumberland lived here with his daughter Eliza, possibly one of the two female figures in the distance. 
 Culver Street, Bristol. Home of George Cumberland (1754-1848). Pen and inkwash drawing of the same scene for comparison purposes (not in the collection). 


Inscribed on the reverse "Flower Garden, Autumn afternoon at Lawrence Weston near Bristol __ little garden of old Jenkins' Cottage, GC."
(see below for image of inscription on reverse- described by the Wellcome Collection as "a case of spontaneous amputation above the ankle, circa 1820.")

"He & his wife Sarah married young, and together built the cottage and enclosed the Garden with their own hands, at 70 they were both alive and cultivating the flowers together - He was a quarrier and from a wound on his leg had a gathering, which induced the Surgeon to advise him to go to the Hospital & be amputated at 65 -- but his wife assisted/opposed? the operation and dressed it __ __ when one morning? it suddenly separated above the ankle, and he got quite well. 14 Gui(neas) were given him for the limb by the faculty. He walked? afterwards on a wooden leg. Tenants in common of De Clifford."

'Kings Arbour, Lawrence Weston, near Henbury, Bristol'  A similar scene, not in the collection.  Auctioned by Christie's on 11 July 1989 'Fine Bristish Drawings and Watercolours', London. Extract scanned from my copy of the catalogue. (please see below for Christie's biographical notes on George Cumberland).

Could the man with the top hat and walking stick sitting in the arbour be ‘old Jenkins’, the same person depicted in the Lawrence Weston Flower Garden picture above? or a neighbour?


George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Inscription on reverse of 'Flower Garden, Lawrence Weston.'

It is interesting that a copy of this image is held in The Wellcome Collection, part of the Wellcome Trust (global charitable foundation) based in London. The description states: "Inscription on the back of a painting by George Cumberland. Describing a case of spontaneous amputation above the ankle, circa 1820." Note that in the 18th and 19th Centuries a 'gathering' was a medical term used to describe an accumulation (or collection) of pus, or a suppurating swelling or abscess. 


George Cumberland (1754-1848)
George Cumberland. Written on reverse: "Copy from Mr Townley's Possession? G Cumberland". This could be a scene from Italy: the buildings look to be Italian in style. Cumberland was in Italy between 1785-1790, but it is not thought that he painted this in this style or type of scene while there. The style of this small watercolour is similar to that of artist John Warwick Smith (1749-1831), one of Cumberland's associates, but could be of an earlier scene. The inscription on the reverse suggests that Cumberland may have 'copied' a larger painting that was in the collection of his friend Mr Townley. A group of artistic-minded friends would get together socially and practice their artistic skills by 'copying' a known painting.

George Cumberland (1754-1848)
George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Inscribed on the reverse: "Cottage Tea house. - Mrs Hall, Leigh Wood gate"    (near Bristol)
Leigh Woods is near the Clifton suspension bridge, across the Avon from Bristol. Leigh Woods is in the parish of Abbots Leigh and/or Long Ashton, Somerset. The 1851 and 1861 census reveals a Miss Sarah Hall, proprietor at 'Tea and Coffee House', Abbots Leigh parish (occupation "Tea Garden Keeper). She is likely to be the daughter of "Mrs Hall", who would may have lived at the property in earlier years. The adjacent census record is for 'Chapel Pill Farm', so the Tea House may not be very far from there.
 
Does anyone know the exact location of this scene?

Tea House, Leigh Wood Gate. Unsigned, another of George Cumberland;s small watercolours showing the same scene as above, but from a little further away.

Similar scenes set in the Leigh Woods area, not in the collection.  Auctioned by Christie's on 11 July 1989 'Fine British Drawings and Watercolours', London. Extract scanned from my copy of the catalogue. (please see below for Christie's biographical notes on George Cumberland)

George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Untitled, likely by George Cumberland (same collection). Shows a garden scene with tunnel.
Does anyone know where this is? A quick search revealed that there is a tunnel in Goldney gardens at Clifton, Bristol, which could be a possibility, or .
George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Inscribed on the reverse "Old Piggots Way from the barn at Weston, with the old fashioned?? fox hound? garden, which you will remember."

It is possible that the scene could be in the area of 'The Grove' or 'Grove House', home of the Piggott family at Weston (now Grove Park, Weston-super-Mare). George Cumberland stayed at Weston before moving to Bristol in 1807, and he was friends with the Rev Wadham Piggott, exchanging correspondence. (the Cumberland Papers). This was before Weston-super-Mare became the large town we know today.
Does anyone know the exact location of this scene?
George Cumberland (1754-1848)
Inscribed on the reverse: "Windmill Hill and Princes buildings -from the Avon bank ----afternoon". (In pencil: "Windmill Hill, Long Ashton side of river toward evening")

George Cumberland (1754-1848), View from Mr Gutch's villa, view of St Georges Church Bristol
Inscribed on the reverse: 'View from Mr Gutch's Villa, with a view of St Georges Church near Bristol'.

I would imagine this idyllic pastoral rural scene no longer exists, as the area will  now be built up. From the shape of the church in the distance, it is likely to be St George the Martyr church (St Philip & St Jacob), which I understand was demolished in about 1976. Note the tiny figure in the field with plough and horses.

Mr Gutch is likely to be John Mathew Gutch (1776-1861), friend of Samuel T Coleridge and Charles Lamb and a Bristol newspaper editor and publisher. Gutch knew Cumberland (ref. Metropolis and Province: Science in British Culture, 1780 - 1850), published at least one of Cumberland's books, and both were involved in the Bristol Institution and in civic and intellectual pursuits in the city at around the same time.  Gutch is an unusual name, and there do not appear to be any other suitable candidates. Gutch moved to Bristol in 1803, then to Worcester after his second marriage in 1823.  This small watercolour may therefore have been painted between those two dates. He may not have moved to Worcester finally until 1827, as indicated by a newspaper entry in the Bristol Mirror 16 June 1827- auction sale of "valuable effects of J M Gutch Esq, quitting his residence Beaufort Villa, Redland..,.."

Mr Gutch lived at Beaufort Villa, about a mile north of central Bristol, from a listing in 'Mogg's Pocket Itinerary of the direct and cross roads of England and Wales' 1826. The neighbouring properties were Redland Court (Sir Richard Vaughan) and Redland House, in the Redland area of Bristol, and it looks as if Beaufort Villa was very close by. The view towards the church is likely therefore to be over Bristol in an east-south-east direction.


George Cumberland (1754-1848) Boat builders sheds, Bristol
Inscribed on the reverse: 'Boat builders sheds, Bristol'
George Cumberland (1754-1848) Boat builders sheds, Bristol from the Quay
Inscribed on the reverse: 'Boat Builders Sheds from Quay'


This rather strange little watercolour of a seascape and stormy skies is unsigned. It is possible that there could be writing on the reverse but it was stuck in an album so it is difficult to tell.

Pair of dogs, unsigned. It is known that George Cumberland also painted animals, birds, insects and plants. The collection at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has a number of such watercolours by Cumberland. This rather exquisite little painting was in the same collection, and could well be by George Cumberland.
Bird of Prey, unsigned, See above.

Miniatures
This miniature (4 x 2.7 ins, 102 x 68mm) is one of a set of five similar. Artist unknown, although in the same collection as George Cumberland's other pieces. 
This appears to be a view of Tintern Abbey on the River Wye, around 20 miles north of Bristol. The ruins and the situation on the curve of a river (or other body of water) bear a resemblance to Tintern Abbey as depicted in the 1804 painting by William Havell 'Tintern Abbey in a bend of the Wye'.

This set may possibly be tinted prints, rather than original watercolours, although it is difficult to tell. However, I have not found any similar on the internet. If anyone recognises the images or a possible source, please do let me know via the contact page.

Another miniature in the set. Does anyone know where this is?
Another miniature in the set, figures in front of a ruined building, with arch to the left. 
Another miniature in the set, a church scene with figures under a tree. 
Another miniature in the set, a river bridge
A miniature watercolour, ships on the sea
Leslie Forte
Inscribed on the reverse: 'Leslie Forte'. Same hand as other George Cumberland pieces. 
This lady could be one of the Forte family of Clifton, Bristol and Barbados. There is a Caroline Leslie Forte born 16 Dec 1805, daughter of Nathaniel Weekes Forte. Leslie appears to be a family name. Spinster, died 1889 Bristol. Or she could have married into the Forte family.

 Extract scanned from my copy of Christie's catalogue (page 18, biographical notes)  11 July 1989 'Fine British Drawings and Watercolours', London, 
Lots 22 to 48 in the auction were small watercolours by George Cumberland.

Pencil sketches of a soldier, and scene of boats.
In the same collection as the Cumberland paintings, but artist unknown.

Other artists
Coquette and Isabella of Cossipore, Calcutta, East India Company
Inscribed along the base 'Coquette and Isabella of Cofsipore' {Cossipore}
Although nowhere near Bristol (Cossipore is a northern area of Calcutta, where the East India Company set up its gun foundry in 1801) I have included this  little watercolour from the collection as it may be of relevance to Benwell. He worked for the East India Company in Calcutta in the 1840s. 

The 'Coquette' is flying a White Ensign so is likely to be a Royal Navy vessel- a single-masted cutter. Two of the seated figures on the keft are wearing navy blue jackets and white trousers or breeches and navy headwear (possibly bicorn) and look as if they could be early nineteenth century. The Isabella, in the background, is two-masted and flies a Red Ensign, it could be a merchant or passenger schooner. The Calcutta Monthly Journal and Register for 1836 shipping records arrivals and departures for a schooner Isabella in Calcutta and other parts of India and the East. A list of shipwrecks for 1816 (on Wikipedia) includes: “Isabella - The ship ran aground and was damaged near Calcutta, India. She was on a voyage from Calcutta to Penang. Isabella was later refloated." This may (or may not) be the same vessel.


Small watercolour initialled on the left JAB, and written on the reverse in another hand is 'Joseph Austin Benwell'. However, this does not seem to be his style or usual subject matter, unless it is an early watercolour when he was learning how to paint. So it could be by him, or it could be by another 'JAB'. The Bristol link is there though.

Inscribed on the right hand side is 'A Revolution from a potatoe field'. What this means or signifies, I have no idea!


Material researched and written by Dee Murray. Website compiled by Dee Murray. Photograph of Joseph Austin Benwell courtesy of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

All images on this website are either scanned or photographed from the author’s own resources, appear with permission of owners/copyright holders, or are in the public domain in digital format via websites such as HathiTrust, Openlibrary.org, the Internet Archive (archive.org) or Google Books.

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