Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Painting Thomas Sutherland

This is the third image of Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) I have posted. The first was also a painting; the second, a silhouette by his daughter, Grace. This image is included in Sutherland Centennial: The Commemoration of One Hundred Years of the Ministrations of the Anglican Church in the County of Moore (1941).

We know that Sutherland arranged for David Scott to do paintings of himself and his wife. My assumption is, based on the quality of the work and the lack of stylistic similarity with the portrait of Grace Hogg, that this is not the work by Scott. Nor does it appear to be by Field Talfourd, Sutherland’s neighbor in Upper Canada for a period, who is the same Field Talfourd who famously sketched Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Regardless of who painted it, that Sutherland arranged to be painted twice late in life seems somewhat remarkable. Commissioning two paintings in such a short period would be seen at best as a foolish extravagance, at worst as a marker of vanity. But Sutherland was careful to appear neither extravagant nor vain. Indeed, the garb, accessories, and pose in each portrait convey both solidity and respectability. That each work includes either a book or a letter, and that Sutherland wears glasses in each signals his education, literacy, and appreciation of culture. The written works appear secular not sacred suggesting he is a man of the world; at the same time the absence of excess testifies that he is not falsely worldly. His clothing and pose attest that he is a gentleman, not a laborer, even as he does not appear to be strictly a man of leisure, but a man of business. While these markers may be conventions of the time, they are not universal. Consider, for instance, the famous John Singleton Copley painting of Paul Revere; Revere foregoes the standard trappings of the period such as wigs and stately poses, instead sitting at his work table, a silver teapot of his own crafting in hand. He is, in this instance, aligning himself with the innovations and standards of the new world. Sutherland, by contrast, remains oriented towards the formality of the old.

The possibility does exist, of course, that the painting featured above is a copy of the other, revising it, and might have been commissioned by a child of Sutherland who wished their own copy. But this is all speculation, and without access to the painting I have nothing to go on. At least one of the Sutherland family paintings was in the possession of Grace Ann Minty Robinson (1875-1951) of Minneapolis, as of the 1930s—where it is now, I have no idea. Any leads would be more than welcome.


  1. Part 1
    Hi Jennifer,
    I ran across your blog while looking for information on Lodwick’s descendants. It is a treasure trove of information and I thank you for sharing it with the public. You have scratched so many intellectual itches I had after working with Winning Pendergast’s document. My mother-in-law is Sally Sue Sutherland (Ruddy) is the granddaughter of George A Sutherland (1868-1940) and Augusta Scheekloth. Through Sally I have copies of both Winning Pendergast’s document and a “Memory Book” created for a reunion of George & Augusta’s descendants held in 1994. Their son Rollie was in attendance even though he was nearly 90.
    I notice that you propose that the children attributed to Grace Hogg Sutherland born before her marriage in 1824 (just 9 months after the death of Elizabeth Beddoes) are in fact Elizabeth Beddoes Sutherland’s. I would like to pose an alternate theory regarding the maternity of Alexander (b 1804), George (b 1804 or 1816) and Thomas-Ann (b 1812) Sutherland. From what I’ve read, I believe that Grace Hogg Sutherland had a long term liaison with Thomas Sutherland and during that time had several children with him. My theory is base on four major points.
    1. Winning Pendergast was the granddaughter of George Sutherland, one of the children born well before Thomas’ marriage to Grace Hogg. Her interest in genealogy seems to have been a lifelong interest. Her family history document was a serious and thorough effort to collect and document Sutherland genealogical information. In her research, and in her family life, she must have interviewed individuals who would have known and shared the exact details of the situation. Given the overall accuracy of the document I cannot conceive of her not understanding the implication of the overlapping birth dates published for Grace and Elizabeth’s children.
    2. In every reference throughout the document she specifically identifies Grace as her Great Grandmother not Elizabeth. This is not a case where the biological mother would have died very early and the children having few reliable memories of her. At the time of her marriage to Thomas Sutherland, Alexander would have been 22, Thomas-Anne 12 and George 8 (possibly older) . All old enough to have retained distinct understandings of who was their mother and who was their step mother. Why would they be singled out and be attributed to a step mother when Laura Alison, a year younger than Alexander, is still clearly identified as Elizabeth’s issue?
    3. In a letter written to George, signed by TWJ (Dr. Thomas W Johnston?), Alexander’s death is described “he gradually declined and died in your Father’s and Mother’s arms”. Again in this missive, although it dwells extensively of family relationships, there is no hint that Grace is either Alexander’s or George’s stepmother. In my admittedly modern mind the type of intimate scene described between Grace and Alexander on his deathbed would need to be justified if she were in fact a stepmother introduced into his life after he was an adult.
    4. Although the date of George’s birth is questionable, the dates for Richard, Laura Alison, and Alexander show that they were all born in a 3 year time frame. If there was in fact an infant named George there would have been 4 children in 3 years virtually a biological impossibility for one woman.
    Cont. See Part 2
    Regina Ruddy
    Seattle WA

  2. Part 2
    The Pendergast document can be confusing as she refers to many people as they are related to her (aunt, cousin etc.). After I transcribed the information into a family tree format, it is obvious that she had to have had a similar graphical representation with meticulous notes. The discrepancy of the birth dates surrounding children identified as Grace’s is so readily apparent and given the consistency of the rest of the information, I cannot reconcile it in my mind as it being an oversight. In just over 30 pages, Winning mapped out a comprehensive genealogical index of a little over 200 people. I have not run across any indication that Winning was inclined to arbitrarily fill in gaps with questionable information. Repeatedly throughout the document she indicates where she doesn’t have dates or details. The fact that she lists an exact day, month and year leads me to believe she copied the information from a source she deemed credible.
    I think Winning knew (or Ellen Black Wild knew when she re-typed it for Christmas gifts to her siblings on Dec. 25, 1939) that she was disclosing unflattering and potentially scandalous information about the family and deliberately tried to lessen the impact in the construction of the document. In the original hand typed version every other generation starts with a new page. Only the third generation is run into the second, putting Elizabeth’s children on a different page from Grace’s. She also suppressed the birth date of Alexander when she is describing the 3rd generation, but later accurately gives his age and the date of his death. If the information had come in late, there was plenty of room to append that page. I think having so many children born so closely together would have been more appearent if she included Alexander's information.
    It seems reasonable to me that similar to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Sutherland a younger son may have married a much older woman to set himself up in the world and then proceeded to have a mistress with whom he had several children. Unlike Franklin, he seems to have limited himself to one mistress that he married immediately upon his wife’s death. He seems to have been a loving and committed father to all his children.
    There are a couple of supporting circumstances for this explanation of events. Although it is proposed that his political philosophy might have lead a prosperous merchant to leave his thriving business in Edinburgh and emigrate to Canada. In the early 1830s when the emigration was conceived and planned, even though the family was now united by marriage, there was likely still some stigma surrounding the children who had been born out of wedlock. The move to Canada was clearly a chance to suppress some of the precise history.
    The whole tone of the Winning’s document is so specific that Grace is her maternal great grandmother. If she were a step relation, I think that would have altered the sentiment in many sections.
    This would be an excellent chance to use DNA testing, but short of that without detailed birth records I don’t think we can know for sure. Like Winning my mother-in-law is a descendant of George Sutherland. Based on my research I’m inclined to put my faith in Winning’s information and tell my daughter that she is probably a descendant of Grace Hogg rather than Elizabeth Beddoes.
    As with the Minty scandal, I don’t think Winning wanted to focus on any unpleasantness or in any way sensationalize behavior that was outside the conventions of the day, but I think she felt an obligation to ensure Grace and Elizabeth’s descendants could reliably trace their true maternal lines.
    Regina Ruddy
    Seattle WA

  3. It's all quite possible, and quite fun to ponder. Playing a bit of devil's advocate (!), I would point to the 19thC convention whereby stepmothers were quite often addressed as mother without any of the distinction we make today, even in such deathbed scenarios as that described above. The other question has to do with Grace and the scandal involved in her being a mistress. I haven't yet done anything with the information I've gathered on Grace and her family, though I mean to do so at some point. The question becomes: would they still acknowledge her--as they did--after her marriage to a man who had dishonored her? Moreover, would TS, with his upwardly mobile ambitions, have risked seducing a respectable woman (versus a liaison with someone deemed disposable)? History suggests one had to be much higher than he was in society to take such a risk, and his business did appear to depend on custom from a certain class. There are some excellent books on "seduction" (as it was known) and the 18th& 19thC which address the practices, conventions, consequences, etc. I will try to get back to the Hoggs this winter if I can, to see what else I might find in relation to this.