1st of May 1851. Oil sketch after Franz Xavier Winterhalter


The small 11½ x 9½ ins oil on board is a preparatory sketch by John Bulloch Souter [1896-1971] painted in about 1945 when the artist was working on a full sized copy of the original painting at Windsor Castle. First of May 1851 was a celebration of the opening of the Great Exhibition [seen in the top left], the brain child of the Prince Consort but also the first birthday of Prince Arthur [later the Duke of Connaught], and the 82nd  birthday of the Duke of Wellington, who is shown presenting a casket to Queen Victoria.

Souter had been commissioned with royal permission to make a copy of Winterhalter’s painting to hang in the great hall of Wellington College, a school of which the Duke was a Governor. Tipped to the back of the painting is a letter to Souter, typed on paper embossed with the royal arms in red and Windsor Castle  dated March 16th 1945 and signed Wigram saying how well the picture had been received at the College when he delivered it. Clive Wigram, 1st Baron Wigram [1878-1980] had been Private Secretary to King George V and at this time was Lieutenant Governor of Windsor Castle.

John Souter was an Aberdeen artist who painted in several different styles over his long career. He sold little and I bought this painting from the gallery sale held in Leeds in 1986 after the death of his wife who had wanted to keep his art ‘pure’ by not selling any of his works. He has exhibits in many galleries. The large number of paintings sold in that sale were often just lotted as ‘oil painting – still life’ or similar. This example was catalogued as oil painting with letter attached from Windsor castle. 

The small light coloured spots on the painting seem to be candle wax and could be carefully removed.          nov1/1

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