John Widdas of Hull 1802-1858
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John Widdas of Hull 1802-1858

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Two spaniels in a wooded landscape

Oil painting on canvas 18 ½ x 23 ½ inches / 47 x 60 cm


John Widdas was born in 1802, the child of Cornelius Widdas and his wife Sarah; his father had been born in Nottingham where he had been baptised on 19th January 1775 at St Mary's church. John himself. The Widdas family had been working in the lace manufactury in Nottingham for at least two generations: Thomas Widdas and his wifeSarah Caladine are recorded in the parish registers there over several decades, but the origin of their rare surname is untraced.

John's birth on 11th July 1802 was not formalised by baptism until 18th February 1803 at St. Cuthbert's in Darlington where the family had moved at some unknown date. They were probably itinaerant during these early decades of the 19th century, and by the time of his marriage at St. Peter's church to Susannah Day on 6th July 1823 the family was living in Leeds. No record survives of his training as an artist, though by 1828 he was painting highly competent views of medieval churches1. Perhaps he was self-taught.

There were several children of the marriage from 1824 when Henry Thomas Widdas was baptised at Selby. The latter seems to have died as an infant, because on 9th October 1826 twins were baptised, again at St Peter Leeds; these were named Richard Dodd Widdas, who followed his father into the painting profession (he describes himself as “Portrait and Animal painter” in the 1881 census) and another Henry Thomas Widdas, who in 1891 was living in the workhouse in Selby where he was described in the census as “pauper class 2” and aged 71. This age was untrue: we may imagine that he concealed his true (lower) age in the desperation of getting into some accommodation, however mean.

Widdas's work is surprisingly accomplished. The family settled at Hull for some considerable time, where they produced a variety of sporting, portrait and marine images, a number of which are in the Art Galleries of that City.