Two men converse in a field, watched by the resident cows. In the distance we see the Kirkstall Valley Park, near Leeds. Armley House, owned by the cloth merchant and manufacturer Benjamin Gott (1762-1840), is on a hill, to the far left of the composition. To the right, Kirstall Abbey can be seen in the distance.
This painting by Charles Henry Schwanfelder was sold through Sotheby’s, London, in 1964 as 'Armley House'. The house was formerly owned by cloth merchant and manufacturer Benjamin Gott (1762-1840), who moved to Armley House, on the edge of Leeds, in 1803. Gott had purchased a water-driven mill at Armley and was able to survey the mill from his new home. Seven years after buying the House, he commissioned landscape architect Humphry Repton to design the 76 acre Armley Park. Unusually he chose to have distant views of his factory and the city of Leeds incorporated into the plans. In 1822, at about the time this work was painted, Gott employed architect Sir Robert Smirke to remodel Armley House in the Greek-revival style. Gott was a prominent art collector and patron, and Schwanfelder was among several local contemporary artists he patronised. He died at Armley House in 1840.
Landscape and animal painter Charles Henry Schwanfelder was born in Leeds; the son of John James Schwanfelder, an artist and painter of clock dials, trays, etc. He studied under his father, before launching himself as a portraitist in Leeds. He exhibited at the Northern Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Leeds, and the Royal Academy and British Institution in London. In 1815 he was appointed animal painter to the Prince Regent, who reappointed him after becoming George IV. Schwanfelder’s landscapes, sketched during painting tours, often formed the backgrounds of his animal portraits. By 1835 he was dividing his time between painting and teaching. He developed a disease of the windpipe and died following an operation, aged 63.
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