Herbert Pugh (fl. 1758-1788). View of Sunbury House

View of Sunbury House beside the River Thames, with fisherman and barges on the river, the church of St. Mary's, Sunbury visible to the left.

Signed and dated lower right, Herbert Pugh pinxt. 1767.

Provenance :-  Commissioned from the artist by George, 2nd Earl of Pomfret (1722-1786), and by descent, at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire; Sotheby's London, Early British & Irish Paintings, 4th December 2008, lot 22.

Literature :-
- Anne Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, Ireland's Painters 1600-1940, 2002, p. 104. (Also in the first edition of this book, 1978, p. 91.)
- John Harris, The Artist and the Country House, A history of country house and garden view painting in Britain 1540-1870, 1979,  p. 256 and Pl. 336, p. 300. (‘... His Sunbury Place, Middlesex, dated 1767, is seen across a luminescent Thames ...’)
- Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of British 18th Century Painters, 1981, p. 290.

The Earl and Countess of Pomfret lived both at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire and at Lady Pomfret’s family home at Sunbury in Middlesex. They commissioned Herbert Pugh to paint this view of Sunbury in 1767, as well as a view of Easton Neston and a view of Windsor Castle in which the artist portrayed both himself and the Pomfrets. Amongst the figures in this painting are a group on the small island on the right fishing for eels, with distinctive eel ‘bucks’ or baskets, probably made of willow.

It seems very likely that the figures in the punt and rowing boat in the right foreground also portray Pugh and his patrons. The artist, in the punt, with a blue coat like the artist in the Windsor view, is shown immediately above the signature, and the two figures in the boat with two oarsmen are similar to the figures of the Earl and Countess of Pomfret in the Windsor painting.

Sunbury House, at the time of this painting, was lavishly decorated with large paintings by Antonio Verrio and carvings by Grinling Gibbons. It later became the residence of King Louis Philippe whilst he was in exile following the 1848 Revolution. During his time there the King provided funds for the house to be converted into a military academy during the Crimean War for the education and training of young officers. This painting provides an important historical record of this once splendid house, which sadly no longer survives. It was largely destroyed by fire on 31st December 1915, only one of the wings surviving. St. Mary's, Sunbury, however, visible behind the trees on the left hand island, is still standing.

Pugh's topographical and picturesque landscapes have stylistic similarities to those of Richard Wilson (as mentioned in Crookshank and Glin, op. cit., p. 91, referring particularly to this present painting). The two artists were close neighbours in the fashionable area of Covent Garden and they shared the patronage of the Earl and Countess of Pomfret's contemporary, the 10th Earl of Pembroke. Pembroke commissioned Wilson's View of Wilton House and also Pugh's 1766 painting Westminster Bridge.

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