My favourite painting: Baroness Trumpington

'I nearly lost it when we lived in Cambridge and the Queen Mother came to visit.'

View of Windsor Castle, late 1820s, possibly by William Havell (1782–1857), 241⁄4in by 151⁄4in, Baroness Trumpington’s private collection.

Baroness Trumpington says:
‘My husband was a beak at Eton, so I knew the area very well. I love searching through junk and antique shops and, one day, we were in a grotty old shop in the Thames valley and saw this picture sitting on the floor with 50 others. I fell madly in love with it, so my husband bought it for £5 and gave it to me as a present for having just had a baby. It’s in my dining room and was damaged when my new panic-button installation set the flat on fire while I was out playing bridge, but luckily not badly and I’ve had it restored. I nearly lost it when we lived in Cambridge and the Queen Mother came to visit. She said how much she admired it; I replied: “I suppose I ought to give it to you, but I’m not going to”‘

Baroness Trumpington is a life peer in the House of Lords.

John McEwen comments:
In her characteristically forthright and merry memoir, Coming up Trumps, Baroness Trumpington writes she ‘had a good grounding in art’. Before the Second World War, she was ‘finished’ in Montrichard and Paris, which included a year of art lessons twice a week in Tours. In the mid 1950s, she married Alan Barker, an Eton beak and then headmaster of The Leys. At Eton and Cambridge, she ‘learnt a lot’ through friendship with antique dealers and, eventually, even dealt a bit herself.

This charming prospect of Windsor Castle from the Long Walk on a hazy autumn day shows members of the Old Windsor Hunt. Jeffry Wyatt (later Wyattville) was commissioned by George IV in 1824 to ‘vamp up’ and extend the castle. By 1830, the work was almost complete, including the additions, shown here, to the Round Tower, Henry II’s keep. Huon Mallalieu writes: ‘A good many early-19th-century artists painted views in the Park, quite often variants on this one down the Long Drive. It’s a bit like Barret Jr, but, if pressed, I would tentatively go for William Havell.’ Havell’s undated painting The Long Walk, Windsor Great Park has a similar composition and mellow atmosphere.

Havell’s father was drawing master at Reading Grammar School. There were 14 children, the source for a dynasty of six Havell painters into the 20th century. William, the most admired, travelled widely. He was official artist to the British embassy in Peking in 1816, a portrait painter in India and Burma, 1817–25, and toured Italy in 1828/29. His most popular works remain scenes of the Thames valley.

This article was originally published in Country Life, April 1, 2015

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