Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Top portrait painter was failed Carlisle chemist

The later life of the miniaturist, Thomas Heathfield Carrick, has been published elsewhere, but his early career and origins have not been fully researched.

Lord John Russell painting
Thomas Carrick’s portrait of Lord John Russell addressing The House of Lords in 1844 was published by the Brampton-born London bookseller and printer George Routledge

He came, according to the Wesleyan Association Magazine, “from a well-known city family of calico printers and Quakers,” but his father John “joined the Wesleyans in 1800 due to the influence of some of his workers”.

It was thought that John Carrick was “a cotton mill owner”, but while a man of that name was a partner in the Willowholme Mill, he died in 1801 and cannot have been the father of Thomas who was supposed to have been born at Upperby on July 4, 1802.

Some change in religious persuasion must have taken place in 1802 because all of John and Mary Carrick’s children, Ann, William and Thomas were baptised at St Cuthbert’s Church on November 4, 1802.

The register merely gives the father’s occupation as ‘calico printer’ and there is no indication of their abode.

Most accounts, including the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), state that Thomas was a “second child”, but from the baptism he clearly was not.

When John Carrick died in 1852, aged 74, he had returned to his Quaker roots and had a glass, china and earthenware shop on Castle Street.

This business was continued by his daughters, EM and S Carrick.

They advertised it as founded in 1811, which would fit with a downturn in the textile industry locally.

His father’s change in fortune would coincide with Thomas entering Carlisle Grammar School which he would leave before 1820.

An important source for this period was Henry Penfold in his ‘Out and About’ column in the 1914 Journal where he stated that Thomas also received “some private tuition from his uncle, the Rev John Topping”.

Penfold stated that Thomas “quarrelled with his family and entered into the employment of a Carlisle chemist named Brunel, eventually himself becoming a chemist”.

The problem is that there was no chemist called Brunel listed in the city for the appropriate period and it could be a mistake for Bonnell.

The DNB entry for Thomas states: “His skill in portraiture was evident at an extraordinary early age,” and suggests that “as an artist he was entirely self-taught”.

But he began exhibiting at the Carlisle Academy in 1827, and as that institution was founded in 1822, he cannot have failed to attend the classes held there.

So convinced was Henry Penfold of the abilities of Thomas that he said: “Before he had ever seen a miniature by another artist, he painted several of great merit, among them one of Charles Keen, the famous actor.”

Living in Abbey Street Thomas set up as a chemist in 1824 on Irish Gate Brow and he married on July 27, 1829 Mary Mulcaster at St Mary’s.

However, the DNB entry states: “His attention was so entirely focused on painting that he neglected his business.”

In a Journal advert in January 1833 Thomas admitted that while he had been in business “for upwards of nine years” he was disposing of his stock and goodwill because he was “otherwise engaged in other pursuits for a number of years to which he is now desirous of devoting his whole attention”.

This change of profession is recorded in St Mary’s parish register because he was described as a ‘druggist’ of Abbey Street in April when his son, John Mulcaster Carrick, was baptised, but in September when his two-year-old daughter Mary was buried, Thomas was given as an artist.

The Journal was complimentary when his work was shown at the last exhibition of Carlisle Academy in November, saying that if you had seen someone in life who Thomas had painted “his portrait lives and breathes again before you”. Again he advertised in May 1834 to dispose of “a counter with mahogany top and counter desk; counter beam and scales, glass bottles, casks and druggists utensils, suitable for the complete fitting of a surgeon’s shop.”

He exhibited at Newcastle in August and in June 1835 advertised that he had “resumed his professional vocation as a miniature painter at 14 Abbey Street for a short time”.

But Thomas decided to leave Carlisle in 1836 for Newcastle and in March advertised his furnished house to let.

That this letting had been achieved by May 1837 was shown by the Journal stating: “John Martin has changed his residence to the house lately occupied by Thomas Carrick in Abbey Street.”

This early part of his career ended in 1838 with the Society of Arts presenting him with a Silver Isis Medal for pioneering the painting of miniatures on marble.

When this was announced in the Journal he was described as a resident of Newcastle but “a native of this city”.

Thomas Heathfield Carrick painted most of the leading men of his day and as well as politicians such as Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, he portrayed Wordsworth, Carlyle and Longfellow. When miniatures became unpopular he turned to photography with a studio in London, retiring to Newcastle in 1868 with an annuity from the Royal Academy where he had been a frequent exhibitor.


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