The collections of paintings at Hospitalfield were formed by Patrick Allan-Fraser as a didactic collection that would serve his quite wide ranging vision for Hospitalfield after his death. His idea for the legacy was somewhere between the academy and the museum, a combination of the two. A place where art can be viewed and also made, where learning was central to the experience of being in this place; learning through conventional teaching and learning through the process of doing.
The Picture Gallery at Hospitalfield was at one time referred to as ‘The Museum’ and this is exactly how Allan Fraser would have liked his design of this vast Picture Gallery, filled with his collections, to have been understood. This was the place for study, a place for artists to learn about drawing and painting. Perhaps the one thing that he was less accepting of was that a new generation tends to learn from the past but always to question and often move on from the ideas of previous generations. Now, around a hundred and seventy years after this collection was accumulated, understandings of art have expanded to include painting and so much more.
Allan-Fraser’s great passion was for the discipline of portrait painting. The collection is composed of commissioned portraits and self-portraits from his network of artists including William Powell Frith, Augustus Egg and Robert Scott Lauder and also include paintings and sculpture that were purchased by Allan-Fraser from artists working in Rome. There is also a collection of copies of paintings that were made after famous originals by artists in Europe including Velázquez, Titian, Rembrandt and Frans Hals which illustrate a well-travelled route map around Europe by artists who were eager to learn as much as they could from the famous artists who came before them.
The copied works would have been copied in situ at the museums in which they were held. They would have required the use of a large easel to accommodate the canvas as most of the copies mirror the scale of the original works, some of which are over 2m in height or width. The Louvre in Paris and the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid had designated days for copying within their galleries, the Prado charging copyists for the privilege. Some of the best or most fortunate student artists would have been recipients of travelling scholarship awards affording them the opportunity to travel extensively within Europe.
The copies at Hospitalfield are unsigned and therefore it is not possible to name the artist with complete certainty. We know that Patrick Allan-Fraser himself made Hospitalfield’s copy of The Entombment of Christ by Titian in the Louvre when he lived in Paris making his living as a painter in 1840. It was in the Louvre that he first made the acquaintance of William Powell Frith, and it is likely that more of the copies at Hospitalfield were made by his hand. However, we know that the artist John Bulloch Soutar travelled extensively in Europe in 1912 after spending three years as a student at the newly established Allan-Fraser Art College at Hospitalfield. Soutar went on to establish a successful career as an artist and he was celebrated as a master copyist of famous paintings.
Hospitalfield’s copy of Man in a Red Cap by Titian, currently held at the Frick Collection in New York, was made by Soutar and it is equally possible that is was Soutar and not Allan-Fraser who was responsible for more of the other copies within the collections at Hospitalfield. Indeed, the debate could be extended further to include several of the many Scottish artists who were recipients of travel scholarships to study the master works of Europe’s most famous painters and who had an association with Hospitalfield. This is a subject for further research and debate.
The process of learning the technique and style of painting by copying was well established by the 18th century and essential to the career of a painter in Europe. This was the process by which Dutch, Spanish and Italian painting exerted its influence over Scottish artists during the 18th century through artists including Henry Raeburn, Allan Ramsay, Alexander Nasmyth and David Wilkie and to 19th century young artists including Patrick Allan-Fraser and his contemporaries such as John Phillip who were strongly influenced by the works of Velázquez at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.
We know that Patrick Allan-Fraser travelled to Rome in the company of his artist friends Robert Scott-Lauder and William Calder-Marshall after completion of their studies at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. Patrick Allan-Fraser must also have spent some time in Florence as copies were made of paintings that have been on display at the Galleria degli Uffizi since it opened to the public in 1765.
Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait as a Young Man was painted by the artist in about 1634, Patrick Allan-Fraser was about 25 years old when he painted his copy of the work in about 1838 at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.
Veronese’s The Martyrdom of St Justina was made by the artist around 1573. Like the Rembrandt painting, this work is also held at the Uffizi in Florence having been acquired by Cardinal Leopold de Medici in 1675. The copy of the painting held at Hospitalfield, which may reasonably be attributed to Patrick Allan-Fraser, is in very poor condition with some surface dirt and paint loss and it looks as though it was never framed. Perhaps this is evidence of its unceremonious transit in the luggage of a 19th century travelling young artist.
John Bulloch Soutar, born in Aberdeen, was admitted in 1909 to the newly established Allan-Fraser Art College at Hospitalfield under the Governorship of Peter Munnoch after studying at Gray’s School of Art. In 1912 Souter was awarded the Byrne Travelling Scholarship by the Scottish Education Department enabling his travel in Europe to study works of art and antiquity. Soutar began his European journey in Madrid where he would have studied the works of the Spanish Masters in the Museo Nacional del Prado including the famous works of Diego Velázquez. Supplementary awards received from the Colonel Innes Prize for Sculpture and the Robert Brough Travelling Scholarship, enabled Soutar to extend his time in Spain and Europe. Hospitalfield’s excellent copy of Man in the Red Cap by Titian must have been made by Soutar before the painting was purchased by American coal magnate Henry Clay Frick for his collections in New York where it is still held. The painting was sold to the Frick Collection by the Irish art dealer Hugh Lane who died on the Lusitania disaster on his return trip in which the sale was completed. Hugh Lane owned the painting briefly between 1911 and 1915 meaning that the young artist Soutar must have made brokered a private arrangement to copy the famous Titian work with Hugh Lane himself.
Diego Velázquez was made court painter to King Philip IV of Spain in 1627 and it was in this role that he made the portrait of the young Prince Balthasar Carlos in Hunting Dress in about 1636. The painting came directly from the Royal Collection to the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, in whose rooms it has been on display since the foundation of the institution in 1819. The Hospitalfield copy is of the same scale as the original at just over 190cm in height. It has suffered from the effect of surface dirt and poor storage; however, it is clearly the work of a talented copyist.
Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo was the protégé and son-in-law of Velázquez and built his career emulating his father-in-law’s works for another generation of the Spanish court. The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna have attributed the painting Infanta Margarita Teresa, the sister of Prince Balthasar Carlos, to del Mazo, however it was previously considered to be a work by Velázquez and was in the custodianship of the Prado in Madrid. The Hospitalfield copy of the painting of the princess in the pink dress shows significant damage however the beautifully realistic features of the subject are still in evidence.
The Portrait Sara Wolphaerts van Diemen by Frans Hals has been held by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam since it opened in 1885. It is therefore not possible that the copy of the painting at Hospitalfield was made by Patrick Allan-Fraser who died in 1890 and was heavily occupied at Hospitalfield during the period from 1885, perhaps this is one of the last of the copies made by Soutar during his European travels through Northern Europe on his way back to the East Coast of Scotland.
*In all of the images, the original painting is on the left and the Hospitalfield copy is on the right.