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Zoomable Image of Portrait of William Helyar (d.1820), holding a design for the Georgian wing of Coker Court, Somerset, c.1768

Portrait of William Helyar (d.1820), holding a design for the Georgian wing of Coker Court, Somerset, c.1768

Thomas Beach (1737-1806)

Portrait of William Helyar (d.1820), holding a design for the Georgian wing of Coker Court, Somerset, c.1768

Thomas Beach (1737-1806)

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Price:

Price on request

Materials:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

49 ½ x 40 1/8 in, (145.8 x 102 cm)

Provenance:

By descent through the sitter's family at Coker Court, Yeovil, Somerset. Colonel and Mrs Walker Heneage, by 1937

Literature:

E.S. Beach, Portraits by Thomas Beach Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1934, p. 63, no. 158

Exhibited:

Bristol, Royal West of England Academy, Art Treasures of the West Countries, 24 May - 26 June 1937, no. 125 (lent by Colonel and Mrs. Walker Heneage)

Frame:

English 18th century carved and gilded Maratta frame

Helyar was evidently a great patron of Beach, as between 1768-9 he commissioned fourteen portraits of immediate family members…

As one of the most prominent old families of the South-West, the Helyars were typical of Beach’s clientele in the period following his training with Sir Joshua Reynolds between 1760-2, and before he established himself in Bath in 1770.

The Helyar’s family roots in Somerset can be traced back to 1616 when the Reverend William Helyar (1559-1645), chaplain to Elizabeth I, purchased the family residence Coker Court in East Coker, Somerset. William held a number of ecclesiastic positions in and around nearby Devon and initiated the construction of the Helyar Almshouses, which were later completed by his grandson, also called William, a politician who represented Ilchester (1689) and Somerset (1715-22) at Parliament. The sitter in the present work was the grandson of the Somerset politician, and in 1766 commissioned architect Joseph Dixon to design a new wing to Coker Court, the plan for which he is shown holding in his left hand. William Helyar was evidently a great patron of Beach, as between 1768 and 1769 he commissioned fourteen portraits of immediate family members.

Although a painter of national importance, Beach, who was born and died in Dorset, maintained a practice rooted in the South West of England. He trained at the St Martin’s Lane Academy and then under Sir Joshua Reynolds, exhibiting at the Society of Artists 1772-1783, from an address in Bath, and then at the Royal Academy from 1785 until 1790 and again in 1797 from addresses in London. From June to December he left the capital to visit Devon and Somerset patrons and painted them at Bath and at their houses. Beach continued working at least as late as 1802, the date of his Self portrait (National Portrait Gallery, London) which shows a contented and prosperous artist looking back on a career with perhaps some deserved satisfaction.

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