British school, Painshill, oil on canvas, c. 1780s, Garden Museum
A view from the Turkish Tent over the lake at Painshill
The Museum's painting and the view at Painshill today.
Oil on canvas
This painting shows the landscape garden at Painshill. The garden was designed by its owner, Charles Hamilton. Hamilton was born in 1704, and was educated at Christ Church College, University of Oxford. In his youth he travelled extensively, undertaking the requisite Grand Tour to France and Italy, before taking up the post of Clerk Comptroller in the household of the Prince, around the same time as he purchased his new Surrey estate, Painshill, in 1738.
Hamilton spent considerable sums on his garden, which he created in the Picturesque style. The landscape in this painting shows many of the features typical of the movement including follies such as the Grotto and Gothic Temple, expanses of water, and dense groupings of trees.As you move around the garden, you encounter different views designed to resemble a series of paintings. This view was painted from the Turkish Tent. The garden became a destination for many travellers in the eighteenth century, including William Gilpin. Visitors could depart from a nearby inn to tour the garden in a horse and carriage.
Hamilton was forced to sell his estate in 1773 when it was bought by Benjamin Bond Hopkins, who built a large house on the site (which can be seen on the left hand side of the picture). It is likely therefore that this painting dates from the 1780s. It was misidentified as Virgina Water and attributed to the landscape painter George Arnald (1763-1841) when it was acquired by the Garden Museum in 2014.
The identity of the artist of our painting is still a mystery. There is one other ‘View from the Turkish Tent’ that we know of. Michael Symes, author of Mr Hamilton’s Elysium, the book about Painshill, suggests the artist of this painting may have been any one of three. His first suggestion, William Hannan, was mostly employed at West Wycombe, and was responsible for the views that William Woollet later engraved there. Woollett was commissioned to create engravings of Painshill and these are the earliest existing images of the garden, dating from 1760 - they were sold for one guinea the set. The second candidate Elias Marten (1739-1818) exhibited two oils at the Royal Academy in 1777, one of which was entitled 'A View of Pain’s Hill, near Cobham, taken from the Tent'. He also drew sketches of the garden. William Tomkins is another possible candidate - he exhibited a pair of views of Painshill in 1772 – although details of these are lacking.