John Partridge, papers

Scope and Content

The papers of John Partridge consist of a sitters book; three notebooks listing pictures and a folder of correspondence to, and in some cases from, his executors Sir John Clark and James A. Douglas concerning the dispersal of the Partridge's pictures following his death.

The sitters book contains lists of portraits painted from 1827 to 1865, giving the name of the sitter or subject of the portrait, the price paid and the size of the portrait. Additional information can be found at the back of the volume in a list of yearly figures for portraits painted and income received from 1827 to 1861; a list of 'Copies and fancy pictures sold from 1823'; and a list of portraits painted at Rome.

The three notebooks contain lists of pictures in Partridge's house and gallery. The first notebook contains the following lists: 'Pictures in my House & Gallery in 1863', 'Copies and Studies from Old Masters made by John Partridge in France and Italy from 1823 to 1827', 'Original Pictures by J. Partridge' and 'Family Portraits'; the second notebook contains a 'List of pictures in my possession 1863 - originals by Old Masters' and 'Copies of Studies from the works of Old Masters'; and the third volume contains the list '1870 Pictures in my Gallery - originals by Early Masters', 'Copies and Studies from Old Masters made by John Partiridge in France and Italy from 1823 to 1827', 'Original Portraits and Groups and Fancy Pictures and Sketches by John Partridge', the back of the volume contains an incomplete list of wholelength portraits.

The correspondence is mainly to either Sir John Clark or James A. Douglas, with several letters to James A. Douglas being from Sir John Clark. There are 38 letters in total. Other correspondents include the 1st Marquess of Aberdeen; Marianne Arnett; Cowper; Allen H. Gordon; Arthur Hudd; Holland; C Howard; Julia Lennard; A. D. Ryder; George Scharf (with letter from Sir John Clark to James A. Douglas written on the reverse of one letter and a draft written by Sir John Clark on the reverse of another); Temple; J. Woolner and Winnifred Wyte.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Partridge (1789-1872) was born in Glasgow, the son of a merchant, Samuel Partridge and his second wife, Catherine Stuart. Around 1814 he became a pupil of Thomas Phillips and in 1815 he exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time. In 1816 he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools and had a painting exhibited at the British Institution.

In 1820 he married his cousin Clementina Sarah Campbell (d. 1880). In 1823 Partridge visited Italy, there he studied the Old Masters and gained some influential patrons including Viscount Sandon, later second earl of Harrowby. He returned to London in 1827 and selected a property in Brook Street to be both his home and his studio.

Partridge quickly became a successful portrait painter with several patrons from the aristocracy. In 1836 he received a commission from Leopold I of Belgium which led to Queen Victoria seeing his work. In 1840 he painted portraits of the Queen and Prince Albert which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1841, these portraits were very successful and were copied several times for the Royal couple and were later engraved. In 1843 Partridge became portrait painter-extraordinary to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and exhibited a portrait of the Queen at the Royal Academy which was presented to Louis-Philippe, King of France. However he was soon eclipsed in the Royal Family's eyes by the German born court painter, F. X. Winterhalter who painted the Queen in 1842.

Partridge had a difficult relationship with the Royal Academy from 1833, his paintings were badly hung at exhibitions and he was never elected an associate member of the Royal Academy. These slights were probably incited by Ramsay Richard Reinagle whom Partridge had upset by altering one of his portraits at the request of the owner. In 1846 Partridge decided to never exhibit at the Royal Academy again when his portraits of Lord and Lady Beauvale were hung obscurely. He kept his problems with the Royal Academy secret until 1864 when a government report on the academy led him to publish a pamphlet 'On the Constitution and Management of the Royal Academy.'

Disassociating himself from the Royal Academy led to a decline in the number of commissions Partridge received. In 1846 he started work on a large portrait of the Fine Art Commissioners (NPG 342) who were responsible for the decoration of the new Palace of Westminster. This painting was never sold and was given by Partridge, along with several others, to the National Portrait Gallery in 1872.

Partridge also exhibited subject pictures, most often at the British Institution, between 1816 and 1861. His subject paintings encompassed literary, Italian and Scottish themes and often included children. Partridge died at home on 25 November 1872.

This biographical description is largely based on R. E. Graves, 'Partridge, John (1789–1872)', rev. Charles Noble, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 27 Feb 2017]

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.

Related Material

Correspondence from some of the sitters in Partridge's 'The Fine Arts Commissioners' (NPG 342) can be found in NPG46/4/44/1/1.