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George Arnald ARA 1763-1841
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George Arnald ARA 1763-1841

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Head and shoulders portrait of Admiral Samuel Barrington (1729-1800)

Oil painting on canvas 30 x 25 inches, in its good period carved giltwood “Morland” frame.

Signed and dated 1791 on the reverse of the original canvas

Provenance: with Appleby Brothers, London

Exhibited: (presumably) Society of Artists, 1791 (number 6 or 7)

Samuel Barrington was the fifth son of John Shute Barrington, first Viscount Barrington (1678–1734), barrister and MP, and his wife, Anne (d. 1763), daughter of Sir William Daines, mayor of and MP for Bristol. Barrington entered the Lark in 1740, under the care of Lord George Gordon. He passed his examination for the rank of lieutenant on 25 September 1745. Early in 1747 he had command of the sloop Weasel, and on 29 May he became captain of the frigate Bellona. In her he captured the French East Indiaman Duc de Chartres off Ushant on 18 August; he was shortly afterwards advanced to the Romney.

After the peace Barrington commanded the frigate Seahorse in the Mediterranean, and negotiated at Tetuan the release of Britons held by the Barbary corsairs. He next had command of the Crown (44 guns) on the coast of Guinea, and in 1754–5, in the Norwich, accompanied Commodore Keppel to North America. In 1757 he commanded the Achilles (60 guns) in Sir Edward Hawke's expedition to Basque Roads; on 29 May 1758 he assisted in the capture of the French ship of the line Raisonnable; and on 4 April 1759, while cruising off Cape Finisterre, he fell in with and captured the Comte de Saint Florentin (60 guns), a convoy escort commissioned by the city of Bordeaux.

Barrington afterwards joined Hawke off Brest, and from here he was detached as part of a squadron ordered, under Rear-Admiral Rodney, to destroy the flat-bottomed boats at Le Havre. Rodney hoisted his flag in the Achilles, and the objectives of the expedition were successfully carried out on 4 July. The Achilles then returned to the fleet off Brest, and in September, while with the detached squadron in Quiberon Bay, and attempting to cut out some French ships anchored inshore, she grounded heavily. The Achilles was got off, but was so badly damaged that she had to be sent home immediately. Barrington commanded the Achilles again in 1760 when she was one of the squadron sent out, under the Hon. John Byron, to destroy the fortifications of Louisbourg; and in 1761 he was with Commodore Keppel in the operations against Belle Île, before being sent home with dispatches announcing the successful landing.

In 1762 Barrington was transferred to the Hero (74 guns), but continued in the channel under Sir Edward Hawke, and afterwards under Sir Charles Hardy.

After the treaty of Paris (1763) he was unemployed until 1768, when he was appointed to the frigate Venus (36 guns), as the governor of the duke of Cumberland, who served with him as volunteer and midshipman. In October he nominally gave up the command, to which the prince was promoted, but resumed it again after a few days, when the prince was further advanced to rear-admiral, and hoisted his flag on the Venus, with Barrington as his flag captain. In 1771, on the dispute with Spain about the Falkland Islands, Barrington was appointed to the Albion (74 guns); he continued in her, attached to the Channel Fleet, for the next three years. In 1777 he commissioned the Prince of Wales (74 guns), and on 23 January 1778, after a few months' cruising in the channel and on the soundings, he was promoted rear-admiral of the white.

Barrington was appointed to command the Leeward Islands squadron after Admiral Shuldham had turned down the post. On 20 June 1778 Barrington arrived at Barbados in the Prince of Wales; he was soon joined by another ship of the line. Here Barrington awaited the arrival of an expeditionary force from New York with which he was to attack the French island of St Lucia. The force was to consist of five ships of the line under Commodore Hotham and 5000 troops under General James Grant. However, events in North America delayed the departure of the force and the French at Martinique were able to strike the first blow when news of France's entry into the war over the colonies reached the area at the end of August. On 7 September a French force seized the British island of Dominica and Barrington could do nothing to prevent it. Instead he took his few ships to Antigua to protect the naval dockyard there. Barrington then cruised off Martinique before returning to Barbados in mid-November. At the end of the month the expeditionary force from North America finally arrived and Barrington was able to prepare the attack on St Lucia.

On 12 December 1778 Barrington and Grant sailed from Barbados. The following day found them off St Lucia, and Hotham directed the landing of the troops. The resistance of the French defenders was weak and on 14 December their principal position on Morne Fortuné was captured. However, on the same day the British observed a fleet approaching the island. It was d'Estaing's French squadron which had come from North America and, having collected further forces from Martinique, was intent on preventing the British from completing their capture of St Lucia.

During the night of 14–15 December Barrington and Grant worked feverishly to get their forces into defensive positions on land and at sea. In the morning d'Estaing found the British squadron of seven ships of the line drawn up in line of battle across the entrance to the grand cul de sac. The troop transports were safe inside the bay, behind Barrington's line, while coastal batteries manned by Grant's troops gave further protection to the British ships. Ten French ships of the line attacked Barrington's squadron, but were driven off. A second attack, by twelve ships, took place in the afternoon, with a similar result. The bolder French captains, notably Suffren, wished to anchor their ships opposite the British line and engage in a close combat until their superior numbers eventually prevailed. D'Estaing, however, declined further combat at sea. Instead on 16 December he began to land his troops on St Lucia; they joined the remaining French defenders and forced Grant to withdraw his troops into fortified positions. On 18 December the French launched a major assault against British positions on the Vigie peninsula, but were bloodily repulsed.

Although defeated on sea and land d'Estaing was not, it seemed, willing to give up and he seemed ready to seek to starve the British into surrender. However, he now received word that Admiral Byron's squadron had followed him from North America and was coming to assist Barrington and Grant. On 29 December d'Estaing sailed away from St Lucia and on the following day the French governor of the island surrendered. On 6 January 1779 Byron's storm-battered fleet reached St Lucia. As Byron's squadron had orders to follow d'Estaing wherever he went, the admiral at first tried to preserve a distinction between his force and Barrington's Leeward Islands squadron. However, this policy quickly proved unworkable, so the two forces were merged and Barrington became Byron's second in command. On 19 March 1779 Barrington was advanced to vice-admiral of the blue. In the battle with d'Estaing off Grenada on 6 July 1779 Barrington commanded the van division of Byron's fleet and was hotly engaged, receiving a slight wound. On 22 July he was with Byron's fleet at St Kitts when, anchored in line of battle in Basseterre Roads, it successfully defied d'Estaing's fleet, which then left the area.

Like Byron, Barrington now returned to England. Both wished to justify their conduct in relation to the loss of Grenada, while Barrington felt aggrieved at what he took to be a lack of official appreciation of his capture and defence of St Lucia. He believed he had received only faint praise from the Admiralty, and Lord Sandwich, the first lord, feared that Barrington might join the group of disaffected naval officers led by Admiral Keppel. When Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, commander of the Channel Fleet, died in May 1780 Barrington was offered the post, but he declined it and seemed hostile to Lord North's government, despite the fact that his brother, William Wildman Barrington, second Viscount Barrington, had served as secretary of war until December 1778. Barrington did, however, agree to be second in command to Admiral Geary when he took over the Channel Fleet. In August 1780 Geary fell ill through exhaustion and Barrington was ordered to take the fleet to sea. He declined to do so and was dismissed, Admiral Darby taking over the Channel Fleet.

Barrington was promoted vice-admiral of the white on 16 September 1781, and with the fall of North's administration in early 1782 he was ready to return to active service. Flying his flag in the Britannia Barrington became second in command to Admiral Lord Howe in the Channel Fleet. For a time, while Howe was ill, Barrington commanded the fleet off Ushant. On 20 April 1782 Barrington's ships intercepted a French convoy and escort bound for the East Indies. The French ships of the line Pégase and Actionnaire were captured, along with most of the eighteen-ship convoy. Barrington took part in Lord Howe's relief of Gibraltar (16–19 October 1782) and commanded the van division of his fleet in the subsequent action with the French and Spanish fleets off Cape Spartel (20 October). After returning to England Barrington struck his flag on 20 February 1783 at the end of the war. On 24 September 1787 he was promoted admiral, and in the 1790 armament against Spain in the dispute for Nootka Sound, off Vancouver Island, he hoisted his flag in the Royal George, again as second in command to Lord Howe. Peace was preserved, but when war broke out with France in 1793 Barrington did not return to active service. He died, unmarried, on 16 August 1800.

Whatever his problems with politicians, Barrington was popular with both officers and men in the navy. One of his achievements in the West Indies was to obtain for his men a remission of the postage on their letters, which was a burden on them because they did not receive their pay while abroad. A brave and capable officer in action, Barrington's greatest achievement was the capture and defence of St Lucia in 1778. Amphibious operations were notoriously difficult to carry out smoothly and successfully, often being hindered by bad relations between the naval and military commanders. At St Lucia Barrington's good relations with General Grant were as important for success as his defiance of d'Estaing.

 

George Arnald was born in 1763. One account places his birth in the village of Farndip (now Farndish) in Northamptonshire (now Bedfordshire), although others suggest he was born in Berkshire. There is little information about Arnald's early years, but it is believed that he began his working life as a domestic servant before turning to the study of art. He was a student of the landscape painter and engraver William Pether (c. 1738–1821). Arnald first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1788, and eventually had 176 works exhibited there. He also exhibited 63 works at the British Institution. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy on 5 November 1810, but was never admitted to full membership. Speaking to Sir George Beaumont, who was influential in the founding of the British Institution and the National Gallery, William Wordsworth lamented Arnald's lack of literary education:
"...[He] would have been a better Painter, if his Genius had led him to read more in the early part of his life. . . . I do not think it possible to excel in landscape painting without a strong tincture of the Poetic Spirit.
Probably his best-known and most acclaimed work was a departure from his usual subject-matter. The Destruction of L'Orient at the Battle of the Nile, 1 August 1798 (see below) is Arnald's only known maritime work, and was one of four paintings commissioned for £500 each as part of a British Institution competition for paintings to hang in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital. It was exhibited at the British Institution in 1827 and is now displayed at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. It features as a "picture within a picture" in a work by Thomas Davidson, hanging alongside the famous Lemuel Abbott portrait of Lord Nelson in the gallery at Greenwich Hospital.

Arnald was a friend of fellow painter John Varley, and in 1798 and 1799 the two toured Wales together. His students included the portrait painter Henry William Pickersgill, who became a full Royal Academician and whose eminent sitters included William Wordsworth, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.

In addition to providing illustrations for a number of books, Arnald published on his own an album of views on the River Meuse in 1828: The river Meuse : being delineations of the picturesque scenery on the river and its banks, from the city of Liége to that of Mezières. The drawings were made ... in ... 1818 / and are etched by George Arnald, engraved in mezzotint by S. W. Reynolds, C. Turner, W. Ward ... , T. Lupton, H. Dawe, J. P. Quilley, etc. ... and other eminent engravers]. In 1839 he published A practical treatise on landscape painting in oil: illustrated by various diagrams and with two original studies in oil painted on the principles given in the treatise.

The present painting is highly unusual in the artist's oeuvre, and seems to be the only signed and dated portrait which has come down to us. Another version, until now described as being by an Unknown Artist, is in the National Portrait Gallery. They date to the earliest years of the artist's career, and presumably executed before he committed himself fully to landscape painting. Arnald did in fact exhibit two portraits at The Society of Artists in 1792 (catalogues numbers 6 and 7): it seems not unreasonable to imagine that the present painting was one of them. It was presumably painted to mark the Admiral's retirement from active service at sea in 1791 after fifty years.
Arnald died in Pentonville, London on 21 November 1841.


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