Garrick in the Garrick

Carmen Holdsworth-Delgado, is Curator for the Garrick Club. In 2011 the Club, acquired two paintings by Johann Zoffany of David Garrick and his wife and in doing so, became only the third owners of The House at Hampton with Mr and Mrs Garrick taking Tea and The Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton House with Mr and Mrs Garrick. These paintings, alongside four others which included; The Farmer’s Return and David Garrick as Jaffir and Sussana Cibber as Belvedira in Venice Preserv’d (also by Zoffany and now in The Bowes Museum) were commissioned by David Garrick and displayed together in Garrick’s London residence. After Mrs Garrick’s death in 1822, they were sold a year later and bought by Lord Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham where they remained for almost 190 years. This blog outlines the paintings’ history and significance.

David Garrick was a man of energy and vision, remembered for elevating the profession of acting and introducing a studious, scholarly approach to the craft. He was not just Britain’s most celebrated actor, but also a manager, playwright, patron, an avid learner, and a collector of art and books. He understood that theatrical painting could be used to immortalize his acting talent and thereby create publicity for himself and the plays he acted in, managed or wrote. His patronage also helped raise others to fame, not least the celebrated portraitist, Johann Zoffany.

The Garrick Club was founded in 1831, 44 years after the actor’s death, in order to build on his work and reputation by being a place ” … for the general patronage of the Drama, for the purpose of combining the use of a Club, on economical principals, with the advantages of a Literary Society; for the formation of a Theatrical Library and Works on Costume; and also bringing together the Patrons of the Drama, and gentleman eminent in their respective circles.’[1]

The collection held at the Garrick Club comprises over a thousand paintings, drawings and sculptures, and a fine library containing well over 10,000 books, manuscripts and ephemera charting the history of British Theatre.

Two of the most recent additions have become the jewels of the collection. They are the two Hampton Conversation Pieces, painted by Johann Zoffany during the summer of 1762 when he was invited to stay with the Garricks at their home: The Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton House with Mr and Mrs Garrick and The Garden at Hampton House with Mr and Mrs Garrick taking tea.


The Garden at Hampton House with Mrs and Mrs Garrick taking Tea, 1762, Zoffany
The Garden at Hampton House with Mrs and Mrs Garrick taking Tea, 1762, Zoffany


The Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton House with Mr and Mrs Garrick, 1762, Zoffany
The Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton House with Mr and Mrs Garrick, 1762, Zoffany


Both paintings depict David Garrick and his wife as a fashionable, well-heeled couple enjoying the grounds (laid out by Capability Brown) of their Robert Adam-designed country house, which they had acquired in 1755. In the first picture, the couple are shown entertaining. Garrick holds out a cup of tea to his brother George, who is fishing by the river, while Colonel George Bodens, a friend and known wit, is seated to Mrs Garrick’s right. In the second, Mrs Garrick is shown perched on the balustrade of the Temple to Shakespeare that Garrick had built in 1758. She leans on the shoulder of her husband, who is gesturing to the approaching boatman. Their nephew, Carrington, son of David’s brother George, is playing on the steps, whilst a footman enters the scene from the right carrying refreshments. The sculpture of Shakespeare by the French Sculptor Roubiliac, which is now in the entrance to the British Library, can just be seen through the entrance of the temple.

The pair come from a series of six paintings that once hung in the dining room of David Garrick’s London residence, No 5 the Adelphi (also built by the Adam Brothers).  Alongside The Garrick Club’s pictures were a pair of theatrical paintings: The Farmer’s Return and Venice Preserved, now at The Bowes Museum, and two smaller views of the House at Hampton that depict Garrick’s nieces.[2]

David Garrick and Mary Bradshaw in 'The Farmer's Return', 1762
David Garrick and Mary Bradshaw in ‘The Farmer’s Return’, Johann Zoffany, 1762


David Garrick and Mrs. Cibber and Belvidera in 'Venice Preserv'd', Johann Zoffany, 1762
David Garrick and Mrs. Cibber and Belvidera in ‘Venice Preserv’d’, Johann Zoffany, 1762

Together these theatrical genre scenes and prospect views served to remind visitors to the Adelphi of Garrick’s acting agility (The Farmer’s Return being a comedy, written by Garrick, and Venice Preserv’d highlighting his skills as a tragic actor), as well as his success and legacy. Acting had enabled him to purchase a country seat in a fashionable area, and to follow the leisurely pursuits of the genteel society with which he now associated.

It is well documented that Garrick met Johann Zoffany in the studio of Benjamin Wilson, and was so impressed by the young artist’s work that he commissioned Zoffany to paint the Farmer’s Return. It seems, from correspondence between Wilson and Garrick, that the former resented having his apprentice poached; he – somewhat self-righteously – signed his letter “Timothy Lovetruth”. Garrick, however, was triumphant at securing the services of Zoffany, replying: “he will be now at Liberty to begin the Conversation Pieces he mentions (DG and Maria on steps to the temple at Hampton) I rely on his fancy to make it a most excellent picture, and I shall Endeavour in my way, but at a humble distance, to prepare a proper Companion for it…”

While few, if any, letters between Garrick and Zoffany survive, there exists in the Garrick Club collection (pasted into the first volume of a large Memorial to David Garrick, assembled and owned by Henry Irving) a bill written by Zoffany and countersigned by Garrick for all six of the pictures that once hung in the Adelphi Dining room. It also mentions a portrait of Mrs Garrick (location unknown) and another of Mr “Kollman” (Colman) which we also have at the Club.  In Italian (his second language) Zoffany clearly lists “…quatro vettute de giardino con ritrati…il returno del farmicero di Londra e jiafir e Belvidira…” [Translation: “…four views of the garden with portraits….the Return of the Farmer from London….Jiafir and Belvidira…”] He says he has received full payment (though he doesn’t say how much) and adds the date, the 23rd April, 1763. Garrick then countersigns the document, confirming the transaction has been settled.




This ensemble of paintings, so important to Garrick and his reputation, also proved crucial to Zoffany’s career. His relationship with the actor brought him to the attention of Garrick’s circle, and the distribution of the prints widened his audience still further. This bill bears witness to a transaction between an artist on the cusp of a great career, and another at the height of his powers.


By Carmen Holdsworth-Delgado, Curator for the Garrick Club


[1] Rules and By-Laws of the Garrick Club, Part 1, Rule 1, 1831 Minutes, The Garrick Club archives.

[2]  Garrick’s Nieces in the Garden at Hampton, 1762, Zoffany, Private Collection, and A View of Hampton House and Garden and David Garrick Sitting on the Lawn Reading, 1762, Zoffany, Petworth House, Sussex.


One thought on “Garrick in the Garrick

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s