Francis Cotes (England, 1726-70)



Figure 1.--Francis Cotes painted Charles Collyer as a boy with a cricket bat (1766). It is an example of the oils Cotes painted in his last decase. It also shows how poular cricket was becoming. Several of Cotes portraits of boys included cricket themes. We do not know who Charles' parents were. There were several prominent Collyers in the 18th century who could have afforded to commission a Cotes portrait. Notice the boy's blouse and unbuttoned military-styled vest. He is holding a hat, but it is not very clear just what kind of hat.

Francis was born in London (1726) and grew up in the city. He was the oldest son of apothecary Robert Cotes and his second wife Elizabeth Lynn. He began training as a portraitist at about 15 years of age (1741). He was accepted into the studio of George Knapton who worked in both pastels and oil and was strongly influnced by Rosabla Carriera, a Venetian Rococo artist. Cotes was a pioneer in English pastel painting. He gained some understanding of chemistry from his fathers's apothecary shop and helped make quality pastel crayons. He began working as a portraitst in his father's house. He soon gained early recognition as a pastel portratist. His first clained portrait was of the beautiful Gunning sisters (1751). There was even a love portrait about the portrait, 'Address to Celia's picture'. After mid-century he was widely recognizd as England's most talented pastel pportratist (1760s). As such he painted many important figures of the era, both men and women. Among his commissions were several portraits of the children from wealthy families. He painted several other child images with cricket props like the portrait of Chrles Collyer here (figure 1). This graphically demonstrated the growing popularity of the sport, incluing one done in genre style suggesting the boy was actually playing--Lewis Cage. As an important member of the English art establishment, he helped found the Society of Artists, becoming its director (1765). He was a founding member of the Royal Academy. He was patronized by the Royal Family. Cotes gradually shifted more toward oils, it is believed primarily because a portrait could be completed in less time making it more profitable. Art experts credit Cotesv with innivative innovative compositions, dramatic use of intense color, masterful and bold line, and what is described as 'informal' naturalism. He was a prolific artist and left a substantial body of work, despite an early death at age 44 years (1770).

Parents

Charles was the oldest son of apothecary Robert Cotes and his second wife Elizabeth Lynn.

Childhood

Francis was born in London (1726) and grew up in the city.

Education

He began training as a portraitist at about 15 years of age (1741). He was accepted into the studio of George Knapton who worked in both pastels and oil and was strongly influnced by Rosabla Carriera, a Venetian Rococo artist.

Career

Cotes was a pioneer in English pastel painting. He gained some understanding of chemistry from his fathers's apothecary shop and helped make quality pastel crayons. He began working as a portraitst in his father's house. He soon gained early recognition as a pastel portratist. His first clained portrait was of the beautiful Gunning sisters (1751). There was even a love portrait about the portrait, 'Address to Celia's picture'. After mid-century he was widely recognizd as England's most talented pastel pportratist (1760s). As such he painted many important figures of the era, both men and women. Among his commissions were several portraits of the children from wealthy families.

Appretices

Cotes took on apprenticescto work in his studio. His most accomplished apprentice would be John Russell (1745-1806). John joined Cotes' studio when he was about 17 years old (1762). He became highly respected not only for his portraits, but as a writer and teacher of artistic techniques.

Media

Cotes gradually shifted more toward oils, it is believed primarily because a portrait could be completed in less time making it more profitable.

Body of Work

Art experts credit Cotes with innivative innovative compositions, dramatic use of intense color, masterful and bold line, and what is described as 'informal' naturalism. He was a prolific artist and left a substantial body of work, despite an early death at age 44 years (1770). Thanks to Coates prodigious output, we have found quite a number of portraits of children providing details about how wealthy English children were dressed in the mid-18th century. We have both individual and group portraits.

Joseph and John Gulston (1754)

Cotes painted this pastel portrait of Joseph (1741-86) and his brother John Gulston (1750-64) in 1754. We know very little about their father, Joseph Gulston other than he was rich, a politican and member of Parliament, and had purchased the Ealing Grove estate where this portrait was presumably painted. It is near where Ealing Studios would be built. In this case Joseph's clothing does not show comtemprary styles, but rather 17th cntury cabalier styles as painted by Van Dyck. This was a stylish convention at the time as demonstrated by Gainsboro's Blue boy painted two decades later (1779). Younger brother John in contrast is dressed in contemporary fashions. He wears a formal dress. Often painters provide male props for boys wearing dresses, but Cotes paints John with a wicker basket full of beautiful flowers, a common prop for girls. The clothing is depicted in great detail, but what makes this workmaster work is the children faces. Joseph was 13 years old engages the viewer directly wuith his gaze forward, but shows the guarded self-reserve of an older boy. His little brother John was only 4 years old and is depicted very differently. He is shown smiling with the innosence and and unguarded spontaneity of a younger boy and deferring to his older brother. One art historian sees it as an alegory on the passing of childhhod. Cotes has captured this masterfully.

Charles Collyer (1766)

Francis Cotes painted Charles Collyer as a boy with a cricket bat (figure 1). It is an example of the oils Cotes painted in his last decase. It also shows how poular cricket was becoming. Several of Cotes portraits of boys included cricket themes. We do not know who Charles' parents were. There were several prominent Collyers in the 18th century who could have afforded to commission a Cotes portrait. Notice the boy's blouse and unbuttoned military-styled vest. He is holding a hat, but it is not very clear just what kind of hat.

Anna Maria and Edward Astley (1767)

This is another of Cotes later oil works. We see Anna Maria Astley (7 years old) and her youngr brother Edward (5 1/2 years old). Their father was the wealthy baronet and landowner Sir Edward Astley. At the time the wealth of the airistocracy was in land. The Industrial Revolution was just beginning. Their mother Astley's second wife Anne Milles. Anna Maria wears a low cut white dress with a long blue silk or satin skirt. She has both a blue hat and some kind garlandon her head. Edward wears a very plain open collar shirt with a pink knee breeches suit with a matching vest with two elavorate colimns of buttons. They children are depicted playing on a classical terrace with balistrade and urn. The family had a grand estate at Melton Constable, Norfolk. Anna Maria is toying with her brother, waving his beyond his grasp. You can see her hat behinnd her head. Notice the colors. Annaaria wears blue an Edward pink.They are with the family's massive pooch. Anna Maria died a year after their portrait was paunted (1868). Edward made a name fir himself in the British Army. He was rtoo young for the American Revolution, but the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars offered great scope for soldiery. It was Edward's elder half-brother was to inherit his fatherís title and estate.

Cricket

No one has any idea when or where cricket originated, other thn it is English. Given the importnce of the sport, the origin has been the subject of considerable speculation. Some researchers believe that its origins lay in medieval times with Anglo-Saxon children living in the Weald--an area of dense woodlands and clearings in southeast England crossing Kent and Sussex. Others believe it was a Norman creation, but that would not explain why there is no trace of the game in Normandy itself. It is believed to have been a children game for centuruies, perhaps explaining why there are no early written records. We note pupils at early grammar schools playing 'creckett' (16th century). Gradually adults began to take an interest in competing (early-17th century). We begin to read about village matches. Unlike several sports, it does not seem to have developed out of the public schools. Cricket was played by a wide range of society. As far as we know, Francis Cotes is the first artist to make a mahor record of the gowing English interest in cricket. Several of his portraits of boys used cricket bats as props. This graphically demonstrated the growing popularity of the sport, incluing one done in genre style suggesting the boy was actually playing--Lewis Cage. Cricket had earlier roots, but by the mid-18th century the children of wealthy people were ckerly enjoying the sport. And because cricket has village roots, we suspect vthat children from more humble families were also involved, although they may not have had purpose made bats.

Family

Cotes married late in life to Sarah Adderley (1764).

English Art Establishment

As an important member of the English art establishment, he helped found the Society of Artists, becoming its director (1765). He was a founding member of the Royal Academy. He was patronized by the Royal Family.









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Created: 2:13 PM 8/25/2017
Last updated: 8:55 PM 8/25/2017