The Chow Collection

The Chow Collection

Portrait of Thomas Hill, Esq.

You can see in the trees at the bottom and in the sitter's hair how Linnell uses oil paints with the fluidity of watercolors or gouache.

One of my favorite things about this portrait is how much the grain of the wood shows through in the surface. The piece of oak that Linnell used here is by far the highest quality panel that I have seen used for painting.

February 21st, 1829 - At six dined with Gooden. Tom Hill, the original Paul Pry was there, the man whom everybody laughed at and whom on account of his good nature many tolerated, and some made use of as a circulating medium. He was reported to be of great age; and Theodore Hook circulated the apology that his baptismal register could not be found because it was burnt in the tower fire of London. He dealt in literary haberdashery, and was once connected with the Mirror, a magazine the motto of which was "a snapper up of unconsidered trifles." He was also a great fetcher and carrier of gossiping paragraphs for the newspapers. His habit of questioning was quite ludicrous, and because it was so ridiculous it was less offensive when he was universally known. --Crabb Robinson's Diary, Vol 2 p. 103. See also Theodore Hook's Reminiscences; The Mirror; Fraser's Magazine.

Once a gentleman who had the marvellous gift of shaping a great many things out of orange peel was displaying his abilities at a dinner party before Theodore Hook and Mr. Thomas Hill, and succeeded in counterfeiting a pig. Mr. Hill tried this same feat; and, after scheming and strewing the table with the peel of a dozen oranges, gave it up, with the exclamation, "Damn the pig! I can't make him." "Nay, Hill," exclained Hook, glancing at the mess on the table, if you have [...] of oinking, you have made a Ham. ––

Portrait of Thomas Hill, Esq. [1760-1840], Book Collector and Proprietor of The Monthly Mirror.

Creator: John Linnell [1792-1882]

Acquired 2013-01-22 from Dover, New Jersey (US)

Dimensions: 13" x 10"

I replied: There is nothing which for my part I like better, Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as travellers who have gone on a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to enquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets call the ‘threshold of old age’ –Is life harder towards the end, or what report do you give of it?

I will tell you, Socrates, he said, what my own feeling is. Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is –I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by relations, and they will tell you sadly of how many evils their old age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age were the cause, I too being old, and every other old man, would have felt as they do. But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom I have known. How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in answer to the question, How does love suit with age, Sophocles, –are you still the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master. His words have often occurred to my mind since, and they seem as good to me now as at the time when he uttered them. For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many. The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not old age, but men’s characters and tempers; for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.
- Plato’s Republic, Book I

The engraving in the National Portrait Gallery made after this painting: http://i.imgur.com/uxU1P2Y.jpg

This portrait is listed as “Thomas Hill, Esq., 1831. R.A., 1832.” in A.T. Story’s catalogue of Linnell’s paintings: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/linnell/story2/appendix.html

It is a companion piece to the portrait of John Varley in the Yale Center for British Art: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1666180

The engraving in the National Portrait Gallery was used for the following article in Bentley’s Miscellany: http://archive.org/stream/bentleysmiscella09dickuoft#page/86/mode/2up

A thorough list of references to Thomas Hill: http://lordbyron.cath.lib.vt.edu/persRec.php?choose=PersRefs&selectPerson=ThHill1840

3D Model (recommended for viewing): http://www.123dapp.com/obj-Catch/Portrait-of-Thomas-Hill-Esq-by-John-Linnell/1901738


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Interior of a Monastic Chapel