The Saithwaite Family, ca. 1785
Francis Wheatley (English, 1747–1801)
Oil on canvas; 38 3/4 x 50 in. (98.4 x 127 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2009 (2009.357)
Francis Wheatley, whose father was a London tailor, received some formal training at William Shipley's academy in London and in 1762 and 1763 won prizes for his figure drawings. In 1769, he was among the first students admitted to the Royal Academy. He was elected a member and in 1774 a director of London's Society of Artists. Wheatley worked in both oils and watercolors, at first painting landscapes and small full-length portraits, the success of which led him to take up the conservation piece (a group portrait of family members or friends in a landscape or an interior), of which The Saithwaite Family is an elegant example. Although it has not as yet been possible to confirm the identity of the sitters, the name Saithwaite is commonly found in Lancashire. On the mantle shelf is basalt ware similar in design to Wedgwood, and on the floor is a Turkey carpet. The woman wears a bright summer dress with a gauze fichu and a stylish hat decorated with blue ribbons and ostrich plumes.