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The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

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Thomas Stuart Smith

Thomas Stuart Smith Thomas Stuart Smith was a man of fluctuating fortune with a colourful history who became an artist of considerable accomplishment, widely admired by his fellow artists. His grandmother was one of the Jaffray family in Stirling. The family story was that Thomas’s father and uncle were in love with the same woman, had a disagreement over her and parted. Thomas was illegitimate and his mother died when he was young. His father, a merchant working in Canada and the West Indies, sent the young Thomas to school in France. When the school fees failed to arrive in 1831, Thomas deduced that his father was dead. Thomas and his uncle Alexander Smith who held the estate of Glassingall, Dunblane were shocked to hear of each other’s existence. Alexander Smith, although he never met his newly discovered nephew, provided some financial support for him from time to time.

Thomas Stuart Smith obtained a post as a tutor to a young noble man, travelling with the family to Naples, where he obtained for himself some tuition in painting from a master painter “Marsigli, the first painter here and one of the first in Italy”. In 1840 Thomas made “my first attempt at landscape and my first oil picture”. He was funded by his uncle to study and paint in various places in Italy in the 1840s, and by 1849 was exhibiting both at the Salon des Beaux Arts in Paris and the Royal Academy in London.

In that year, Alexander Smith died leaving no direct family and no will.  Although he had been Thomas Stuart Smith’s main financial support, there was difficulty in proving their relationship, and eighteen people pursued claims on the Glassingall estate. It took Smith from 1849 to January 1857 to secure the inheritance of Glassingall.

The estate was much diminished through the demands of legal fees, and Smith missed the warmth and light of the continent. In 1863 he sold the estate, rented a studio at Fitzroy Square in London and began to build up his own art collection, purchasing from his contemporaries both in Britain and in Europe.  With no need to sell his own work, he liked the idea of building an Institute which would house it and his general collection for ‘the welfare of the town and district of Stirling in Scotland’. He drew up a ‘Trust Disposition and Settlement’ for the building of a ‘Museum or Institute’ in Stirling, agreeing to provide £5000 for the building if the town provided a site for it within two years. He had a very specific idea of how the building should be composed of three principal rooms of offices and store rooms, with space left on either side for contingent additions. The style of the building to be plain (Italian), but of first-rate material and construction – the three rooms to be a Museum, a Picture Gallery and a Library and Reading Room, adapted for the benefit of the artisan and working classes.

He intended to oversee the construction himself. The Trust Disposition, naming his fellow artist A. W. Cox, his solicitor James Barty and the Provost of Stirling as Trustees was signed in November 1869. On 31 December he died unexpectedly at Avignon in the south of France.

T. S. Smith was something of an artist’s artist. Having had to struggle to study and practice his art, he had great sympathy for others in the same position,and frequently helped others. The first picture he exhibited in the Royal Academy was a painting of two young artists asking for shelter at the door of a convent in Italy. It was bought by Professor Owen, who had it hanging in his London house. According to Sir William Stirling Maxwell, 'The late Sir Edwin Landseer was struck by it and never visited Professor Owen without taking it down from the wall and examining it with some new expression at the masterly qualities which it exhibited.'

Smith was accomplished in landscape, interiors and excelled in portrait painting too. Whilst pursuing his claim to the Glassingall estate, he lived as an art teacher and portrait painter in Nottingham for a time. One of his pupils, James Orrock (1829-1913) recalled his work with delight and remembered him as ‘a man who could paint anything’, who was a close friend of John Phillip RA, and who knew Troyon and most of the other masters of the Barbizon School. Phillip regarded Smith as ‘one of the best living colourists’.

In the last year of his life, Smith submitted two remarkable portraits to the Royal Academy. Both were of black men of African origin. The Fellah of Kinneh depicts a young man in striped robes. The Pipe of Freedom celebrates the abolition of slavery in America. A smaller study of the same man, The Cuban Cigarette, shows the subject in profile. In subject and presentation, these portraits are quite rare in Scottish painting, and were given pride of place in the Africa in Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh in 1996. They also featured in the Black Victorians exhibition in Birmingham in 2005 and in Manchester in 2006. Black people were sometimes included in paintings. The Lost Child Restored by Sir George Harvey in the Smith’s own collection, where the negro servant is depicted in the doorway is a good example of an incidental inclusion. In Smith’s paintings of black men, the subjects are central, handsome, proud, independent and free. With fellow landowners in the Stirling area managing estates in Jamaica, such paintings would not have been popular. However, another member of the Jaffray family, ‘Citizen’ William Jaffray (1749-1828) had attained local fame through assisting a female slave on the way back to the West Indies to abscond and claim her freedom. His national fame was won through vaccinating some 16,000 children and saving Stirling from the small pox epidemics which raged elsewhere.

The work of T. S. Smith is often overlooked or under valued in Scottish art history. This is because the history is largely market-related. Smith had no need to paint for the board room or the market; his paintings were garnered for Stirling. He wanted his paintings to survive in a single collection, and bought back earlier works for that purpose when he was able to do so.

More                                                                                                                   Back

Thomas Stuart Smith

Thomas Stuart Smith Thomas Stuart Smith was a man of fluctuating fortune with a colourful history who became an artist of considerable accomplishment, widely admired by his fellow artists. His grandmother was one of the Jaffray family in Stirling. The family story was that Thomas’s father and uncle were in love with the same woman, had a disagreement over her and parted. Thomas was illegitimate and his mother died when he was young. His father, a merchant working in Canada and the West Indies, sent the young Thomas to school in France. When the school fees failed to arrive in 1831, Thomas deduced that his father was dead. Thomas and his uncle Alexander Smith who held the estate of Glassingall, Dunblane were shocked to hear of each other’s existence. Alexander Smith, although he never met his newly discovered nephew, provided some financial support for him from time to time.

Thomas Stuart Smith obtained a post as a tutor to a young noble man, travelling with the family to Naples, where he obtained for himself some tuition in painting from a master painter “Marsigli, the first painter here and one of the first in Italy”. In 1840 Thomas made “my first attempt at landscape and my first oil picture”. He was funded by his uncle to study and paint in various places in Italy in the 1840s, and by 1849 was exhibiting both at the Salon des Beaux Arts in Paris and the Royal Academy in London.

In that year, Alexander Smith died leaving no direct family and no will.  Although he had been Thomas Stuart Smith’s main financial support, there was difficulty in proving their relationship, and eighteen people pursued claims on the Glassingall estate. It took Smith from 1849 to January 1857 to secure the inheritance of Glassingall.

The estate was much diminished through the demands of legal fees, and Smith missed the warmth and light of the continent. In 1863 he sold the estate, rented a studio at Fitzroy Square in London and began to build up his own art collection, purchasing from his contemporaries both in Britain and in Europe.  With no need to sell his own work, he liked the idea of building an Institute which would house it and his general collection for ‘the welfare of the town and district of Stirling in Scotland’. He drew up a ‘Trust Disposition and Settlement’ for the building of a ‘Museum or Institute’ in Stirling, agreeing to provide £5000 for the building if the town provided a site for it within two years. He had a very specific idea of how the building should be composed of three principal rooms of offices and store rooms, with space left on either side for contingent additions. The style of the building to be plain (Italian), but of first-rate material and construction – the three rooms to be a Museum, a Picture Gallery and a Library and Reading Room, adapted for the benefit of the artisan and working classes.

He intended to oversee the construction himself. The Trust Disposition, naming his fellow artist A. W. Cox, his solicitor James Barty and the Provost of Stirling as Trustees was signed in November 1869. On 31 December he died unexpectedly at Avignon in the south of France.

T. S. Smith was something of an artist’s artist. Having had to struggle to study and practice his art, he had great sympathy for others in the same position,and frequently helped others. The first picture he exhibited in the Royal Academy was a painting of two young artists asking for shelter at the door of a convent in Italy. It was bought by Professor Owen, who had it hanging in his London house. According to Sir William Stirling Maxwell, 'The late Sir Edwin Landseer was struck by it and never visited Professor Owen without taking it down from the wall and examining it with some new expression at the masterly qualities which it exhibited.'

Smith was accomplished in landscape, interiors and excelled in portrait painting too. Whilst pursuing his claim to the Glassingall estate, he lived as an art teacher and portrait painter in Nottingham for a time. One of his pupils, James Orrock (1829-1913) recalled his work with delight and remembered him as ‘a man who could paint anything’, who was a close friend of John Phillip RA, and who knew Troyon and most of the other masters of the Barbizon School. Phillip regarded Smith as ‘one of the best living colourists’.

In the last year of his life, Smith submitted two remarkable portraits to the Royal Academy. Both were of black men of African origin. The Fellah of Kinneh depicts a young man in striped robes. The Pipe of Freedom celebrates the abolition of slavery in America. A smaller study of the same man, The Cuban Cigarette, shows the subject in profile. In subject and presentation, these portraits are quite rare in Scottish painting, and were given pride of place in the Africa in Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh in 1996. They also featured in the Black Victorians exhibition in Birmingham in 2005 and in Manchester in 2006. Black people were sometimes included in paintings. The Lost Child Restored by Sir George Harvey in the Smith’s own collection, where the negro servant is depicted in the doorway is a good example of an incidental inclusion. In Smith’s paintings of black men, the subjects are central, handsome, proud, independent and free. With fellow landowners in the Stirling area managing estates in Jamaica, such paintings would not have been popular. However, another member of the Jaffray family, ‘Citizen’ William Jaffray (1749-1828) had attained local fame through assisting a female slave on the way back to the West Indies to abscond and claim her freedom. His national fame was won through vaccinating some 16,000 children and saving Stirling from the small pox epidemics which raged elsewhere.

The work of T. S. Smith is often overlooked or under valued in Scottish art history. This is because the history is largely market-related. Smith had no need to paint for the board room or the market; his paintings were garnered for Stirling. He wanted his paintings to survive in a single collection, and bought back earlier works for that purpose when he was able to do so.

More                                                                                                                   Back

Thomas Stuart Smith

 

Thomas Stuart Smith Thomas Stuart Smith was a man of fluctuating fortune with a colourful history who became an artist of considerable accomplishment, widely admired by his fellow artists. His grandmother was one of the Jaffray family in Stirling. The family story was that Thomas’s father and uncle were in love with the same woman, had a disagreement over her and parted. Thomas was illegitimate and his mother died when he was young. His father, a merchant working in Canada and the West Indies, sent the young Thomas to school in France. When the school fees failed to arrive in 1831, Thomas deduced that his father was dead. Thomas and his uncle Alexander Smith who held the estate of Glassingall, Dunblane were shocked to hear of each other’s existence. Alexander Smith, although he never met his newly discovered nephew, provided some financial support for him from time to time.

Thomas Stuart Smith obtained a post as a tutor to a young noble man, travelling with the family to Naples, where he obtained for himself some tuition in painting from a master painter “Marsigli, the first painter here and one of the first in Italy”. In 1840 Thomas made “my first attempt at landscape and my first oil picture”. He was funded by his uncle to study and paint in various places in Italy in the 1840s, and by 1849 was exhibiting both at the Salon des Beaux Arts in Paris and the Royal Academy in London.

In that year, Alexander Smith died leaving no direct family and no will.  Although he had been Thomas Stuart Smith’s main financial support, there was difficulty in proving their relationship, and eighteen people pursued claims on the Glassingall estate. It took Smith from 1849 to January 1857 to secure the inheritance of Glassingall.

The estate was much diminished through the demands of legal fees, and Smith missed the warmth and light of the continent. In 1863 he sold the estate, rented a studio at Fitzroy Square in London and began to build up his own art collection, purchasing from his contemporaries both in Britain and in Europe.  With no need to sell his own work, he liked the idea of building an Institute which would house it and his general collection for ‘the welfare of the town and district of Stirling in Scotland’. He drew up a ‘Trust Disposition and Settlement’ for the building of a ‘Museum or Institute’ in Stirling, agreeing to provide £5000 for the building if the town provided a site for it within two years. He had a very specific idea of how the building should be composed of three principal rooms of offices and store rooms, with space left on either side for contingent additions. The style of the building to be plain (Italian), but of first-rate material and construction – the three rooms to be a Museum, a Picture Gallery and a Library and Reading Room, adapted for the benefit of the artisan and working classes.

He intended to oversee the construction himself. The Trust Disposition, naming his fellow artist A. W. Cox, his solicitor James Barty and the Provost of Stirling as Trustees was signed in November 1869. On 31 December he died unexpectedly at Avignon in the south of France.

T. S. Smith was something of an artist’s artist. Having had to struggle to study and practice his art, he had great sympathy for others in the same position,and frequently helped others. The first picture he exhibited in the Royal Academy was a painting of two young artists asking for shelter at the door of a convent in Italy. It was bought by Professor Owen, who had it hanging in his London house. According to Sir William Stirling Maxwell, 'The late Sir Edwin Landseer was struck by it and never visited Professor Owen without taking it down from the wall and examining it with some new expression at the masterly qualities which it exhibited.'

Smith was accomplished in landscape, interiors and excelled in portrait painting too. Whilst pursuing his claim to the Glassingall estate, he lived as an art teacher and portrait painter in Nottingham for a time. One of his pupils, James Orrock (1829-1913) recalled his work with delight and remembered him as ‘a man who could paint anything’, who was a close friend of John Phillip RA, and who knew Troyon and most of the other masters of the Barbizon School. Phillip regarded Smith as ‘one of the best living colourists’.

In the last year of his life, Smith submitted two remarkable portraits to the Royal Academy. Both were of black men of African origin. The Fellah of Kinneh depicts a young man in striped robes. The Pipe of Freedom celebrates the abolition of slavery in America. A smaller study of the same man, The Cuban Cigarette, shows the subject in profile. In subject and presentation, these portraits are quite rare in Scottish painting, and were given pride of place in the Africa in Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh in 1996. They also featured in the Black Victorians exhibition in Birmingham in 2005 and in Manchester in 2006. Black people were sometimes included in paintings. The Lost Child Restored by Sir George Harvey in the Smith’s own collection, where the negro servant is depicted in the doorway is a good example of an incidental inclusion. In Smith’s paintings of black men, the subjects are central, handsome, proud, independent and free. With fellow landowners in the Stirling area managing estates in Jamaica, such paintings would not have been popular. However, another member of the Jaffray family, ‘Citizen’ William Jaffray (1749-1828) had attained local fame through assisting a female slave on the way back to the West Indies to abscond and claim her freedom. His national fame was won through vaccinating some 16,000 children and saving Stirling from the small pox epidemics which raged elsewhere.

The work of T. S. Smith is often overlooked or under valued in Scottish art history. This is because the history is largely market-related. Smith had no need to paint for the board room or the market; his paintings were garnered for Stirling. He wanted his paintings to survive in a single collection, and bought back earlier works for that purpose when he was able to do so.

More                                                                                                                   Back