This striking large scale portrait depicts Captain Cecil Tufton Otway, an army Captain, High Sheriff of Radnorshire in 1881 (when he resided at Newcastle Court), and a Politician. Born Cecil Alfred Otway in Bognor, Sussex, England in 1845, he was the eldest son of William John Marjoribanks Loftus-Otway of Otway Towers, Hertfordshire, and Georgiana Frances. The sitter has been depicted in the uniform of the Life Guards – a scarlet tunic, a metal cuirass and a matching helmet with a white plume worn bound on the top into an 'onion' shape – for which he was Captain of the 2nd Life Guards (the senior regiment of the British Army and part of the Household Cavalry, along with the Blues and Royals) prior to December 1880.
The sitter married Isabelle Hubertine Emma Caroline Le Clement de Taintegnies in 1870 and they had one son together. Cecil was living in London by 1871 and his surname changed to Otway around 1873 (as his father changed his surname by Royal Decree to Otway). He then married his second wife Margaret Abernethie McGregor Gordon (1855-1925) in Hanover, Jamaica in 1876 and the couple had one daughter, Ayliffe Tufton Otway (1877–1928) whilst they lived in London. The couple were living in Radnorhsire by 1880 and it is there that they gave birth to their son Cecil Waller Otway (1880-1918), one year prior to Cecil’s appointment of High Sheriff or Radnorshire in 1881. Having died in Brighton in 1884, aged 38 years old, he was interred, on his birthday, in the family tomb at Highgate Cemetery in London. According to his will he left an estate worth £12,419.10.3d.
The canvas contains a stencil on the reverse “Kemp & Co, Artists and Colourmen, 9 Holden Terrace”. Kemp & Co were an artist’s supply business in London (1877-1940) and they operated from 9 Holden Terrace, Pimlico, London between 1877 to 1889. This portrait therefore can be accurately dated from 1877 when the canvas was supplied and no later than Dec 1880 when the sitter was no longer a Life Guard.
This masculine portrait is in superb condition original condition having not undergone or required a lining process. Signed by Margaret Thomas bottom left and presented in its fine good quality and condition frame.
Newcastle Court (Evancoyd, Presteigne, Powys) was a grand Gentleman’s Residence in the late 18th century, being home to John Whittaker, who was the Sheriff of Radnorshire in 1809. The next owner of record was Captain Cecil Alfred Tufton Otway, followed by Major Samuel Nock Thompson who acquired the property in the late 1800s and the family lived there until the mid-1940s.
Margaret Thomas (1842-1929), artist, sculptor and author, was born at Croydon, Surrey, England, daughter of Thomas Cook, a shipowner. She came with her parents to Melbourne in 1852. Taught by C. Summers, she was the first woman to study sculpture in Victoria and was later described by D. B. W. Sladen as 'the first Australian-bred sculptor of eminence'. Her work was first shown when the Victorian Society of Fine Arts held its initial exhibition in December 1857; she lived at Richmond and continued to exhibit regularly. Her oil paintings and drawings as well as her popular medallion portraits and busts were noted by Melbourne critics. She also had a bust and plaster figure accepted for the London International Exhibition in 1862.
In about 1867 Thomas left for England and soon decided to continue her studies in Rome and Paris. Returning to London in 1870, she received a studentship next year at the Royal Academy of Arts, where she had the distinction of being the first woman awarded a silver medal for modelling at the academy schools. Between 1868 and 1880 she exhibited eleven times at the academy (six of her portraits were hung in 1874), seventeen times at the British Institution and five times in other galleries. She paid tribute to Summers in her monograph A Hero of the Workshop … (London, 1879); her memorial bust of him for the town hall at Taunton, Somerset, brought further commissions to commemorate famous sons of the county, including Henry Fielding.
Thomas was a colourful artist, skilled in realistic portraiture. She was an admirer of Turner and was influenced by neo-classicism. According to Sladen her portraits were so successful that she was able to retire and devote the rest of her life to travel and book-writing. She had a comprehensive knowledge of the picture galleries of the Continent; she published in London in 1906 a lively dissertation on How to Judge Pictures and in 1911 How to Understand Sculpture. An intrepid traveller, she wrote and illustrated A Scamper Through Spain and Tangier (1892), Two Years in Palestine and Syria … (1899) and Denmark, Past and Present (1902). She accompanied Rev. John Kelman (1864-1929) through the biblical lands and her sixty-seven coloured paintings for his book, From Damascus to Palmyra (London, 1908), included also scenes in Baalbek, Armenia and Lebanon.
Thomas's verse was published in English, American and Australian periodicals, including the Australasian; seven of her poems appeared in Sladen's Australian Poets, 1788-1888 (London, 1888) as well as other anthologies. A volume of rather erotic love poems, Friendship, Poems in Memoriam (London, 1873) was dedicated to her friend Henrietta Pilkington; she published another book of verse, A Painter's Pastime, in 1908. She never married and for some years before her death, aged 86, on 24 December 1929 she lived at Norton near Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Among her more important works in Australia are an oil painting of Summers and a plaster medallion of Sir Redmond Barry, both in the historical collection of the La Trobe Library, Melbourne.
Thomas is also believed to have painted a number of middle eastern watercolours with a curious monogram consisting of an inverted L or Greek gamma (Γ) over a gothic M. She published ‘A hero of the workshop and a Somersetshire worthy, Charles Summers, sculptor; the story of his struggles & triumph’ (London: Hamilton, Adams, 1879?).
Provenance: Private UK collection
Literature: The Morning Post, 27 August 1884
Measurements: Height 150.5cm, Width 120.5cm framed (Height 59.25”, Width 47.5” framed)