Early Romney painting returns to Cumbria after 126 years

After almost 130 years, an early painting by renowned British artist George Romney (1734-1802) has been returned to Sizergh Castle in Cumbria.

Painted by Romney in the 1760s, ‘Charles Strickland with a Fishing Rod’ depicts a member of the Stricklands of Sizergh proudly standing in a lush green landscape. The prominent Strickland family built the castle in the 14th century and still live there today. Romney produced six paintings of the family, five of which remain on display at the castle.

It’s fantastic to see the portrait of Charles Strickland back on the walls of the house it was painted to adorn,” enthused Matthew Brown, Senior House Steward at Sizergh Castle.

In the 1800s the impressive oil painting was sold at auction to the Grosvenor Estate, where it was discreetly hung in an accountant’s back office. During a chance visit to Sizergh Castle, the accountant happened to notice the similarities between his painting and the other five paintings by Romney. He decreed in his will that the castle should have first chance to buy the painting when he died, even though he was completely unaware of the ancestral connection.

The portrait hasn’t been seen at Sizergh since 1896 so it’s wonderful to have it back in its original setting after 124 years. The Romney portraits tell a significant part of the family’s story and of their place within British society and we are grateful to everyone who donated towards the cause over the last two years,” said Brown.

Generous donations from volunteers at Sizergh, the Romney Society and the V&A Acquisitions Fund enabled the castle to purchase the painting, which will go back on public display at the end on March. Romney inspired guided walks will also take place to celebrate its return.

Romney became one of the most successful portraitists in the 19th century, having built up his reputation by painting flattering portraits of the local gentry. Although his enormous success rivalled Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) at the time, Romney’s fame has since faded considerably.

The Dalton-born artist eventually settled in London, but in his youth he toured the north of England and Europe working for many leading society figures. This painting is a rare example of the portraitist’s early work, demonstrated by its elegant composition and Charles’ silky-smooth features.

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