Faithful Christopher Pack, Portrait and Landscape Painter

(b. 1750, d. 1840)

Portrait and Landscape Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born at Norwich in 1750, according to Pasquin whom Redgrave follows, but probably, if not certainly, in or about 1759. His father, a Quaker, who claimed connection with Sir Christopher Pack, Lord Mayor of London in 1654-55, was in business as a merchant. The son showed a bent for art at an early age and before he was fifteen had made copies of Wilson's landscapes and had painted some portraits. He, however, worked in his father's business for some years, but eventually adopted painting as a profession, and in 1781 went to London where he was befriended and encouraged by John Hamilton Mortimer, the historical painter, whose acquaintance he had already made. He obtained an introduction to Reynolds, was in his studio about a year and made some good copies from his pictures. In 1786 he exhibited a portrait of himself at the Royal Academy, and in 1787 two portraits. Between 1783 and 1787 he was following his profession as a portrait painter in Liverpool. In the latter year he returned to London, and being recommended by Reynolds to the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he went to Dublin where, for a time, he enjoyed some success as a portrait painter. He appears to have practised also in Cork.

In an exhibition of pictures held at the Lyceum in College Green in 1790, there were two pictures by Pack, "an English artist of much merit" ("Dublin Evening Post," 27th May, 1790), "Poulaphouca" and "The Cave of Dunmore." Early in 1793 Gilbert Stuart, who for a few years had had almost the monopoly of the fashionable portrait painting in Dublin, left for America. "Mr. Stuart's quitting this kingdom for America," says the "Dublin Chronicle" (19th March, 1793), "gives a fair opening for the abilities of Mr. Pack who now stands unrivalled." When Stuart came to Dublin in 1789 he was invited to dine with the artists of Dublin on St. Luke's Day. Pack was of the company and boasted of his intimacy with Sir Joshua Reynolds and of the assistance he had given him. On one occasion, he said, Reynolds was designing a Holy Family: "Mr. Pack, I have been puzzled with this design, the fore-shortening of this infant's thigh, I must lay it aside until I get a model." Pack, taking up the chalk, drew the line, "I think it would come so." Stuart, who had listened with impatience, exclaimed in a loud voice: "Who is that person relating these stories?" He was told, Mr. Pack. "Pack! Pack!" said Stuart, "well, I have often heard of a pack of nonsense, but I never saw it before." A burst of laughter, and Pack was mute for the rest of the evening.

In or shortly before 1796, Pack returned to London and in that year exhibited four pictures at the Academy: "Portrait of an Artist," "Gougane Barra," "One of the Society of Quakers aged 83," and "Edward I, when Prince of Wales, escaping from Salisbury is received by Mortimer." He next spent some years in Bath, where he "instructed the nobility and gentry of England in the arts of drawing and painting," as he tells us in an advertisement ("Dublin Evening Post," November, 1802). In 1802 he came back to Dublin and started as a teacher of drawing and painting at No. 11 Dame Street, and exhibited pictures of horses and portraits in the Parliament House. A portrait of Dr. Magee is described in the anonymous "Journal" in the Royal Irish Academy as "particularly execrable"! In the same year he delivered a series of six lectures in the Dublin Society's House in Hawkins Street, "designed for the instruction of ladies and gentlemen in the art of drawing and painting," in which he expounded practically the theory as laid down by others. "Thus," he says in his announcement ("Dublin Evening Post"), "a portrait, a landscape and a tinted drawing will be executed, and the different modes of the French, Venetian and English schools shown, with the best methods of preparing colours, oils and varnishes."

Pack does not seem to have been very successful in Dublin as a painter, the talents and knowledge which he professed to possess not being shown in his performances. In 1807 he presented a memorial to the Dublin Society praying for assistance. This was accompanied by a statement, signed by seventeen artists of Dublin, saying that Pack had laboured for many years in discovering the art of painting as practised by Giorgione, Titian, etc., and now lost, and has now copied a Venetian picture said to be by Titian. "It is," say the artists, "our decided opinion that the excellencies of the original are all in the copy, and that the method possessed by Mr. Pack differs from all modern art that they have seen, and that upon the most minute investigation they firmly believe it to be the same as practised by the ancient Venetian painters." The statement further refers to its being twenty-five years since Pack left Reynolds, to his enfeebled health and the esteem in which he was held. Notwithstanding the encomiums of the artists, the Dublin Society does not appear to have been impressed with Pack's discoveries; and the "Monthly Pantheon" for July, 1809, refers to them as "Mr. Pack's chimerical invention."

Pack lived from 1812 to 1820 at 6 Redmond's Hill, and in 1821 was at 33 Dawson Street. During this time he exhibited at the Society of Artists, chiefly landscapes. Among a few portraits was one of "Major Sirr," in 1812. He was President of the Society of Artists in 1812, and Vice-President of the Hibernian Society of Artists in 1814. In 1813 he set up an academy in his house in Aungier Street, where he instructed "ladies and gentlemen in the art of drawing and painting upon a plan perfectly new, by which the student may acquire a fair facility of drawing and painting from nature in less time than is usually employed in learning to draw from prints." "Gentlemen in the Army," he goes on to say in an advertisement, "who wish to draw views of countries, cities or fortifications, will be enabled in a very short time on his plan to do with accuracy and critical proportion delineations," etc., etc ("Patriot," 27th April, 1813).

In 1820 an offer to deliver lectures in the theatre of the Dublin Society was declined, and in the following year Pack left Dublin and went to London. Before leaving he had, on 21st March, 1821, a sale at his residence, 33 Dawson Street, of his collection of pictures, including a number of his own works. In London, where he remained for the rest of his life, he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822 and 1840, and at the British Institution from 1825 to 1839. Among the works shown by him were "Rouncarry Cove, Giant's Causeway," 1825; "Brien's Cove, near the Causeway," 1826; "The N.E. Termination of the Giant's Causeway Rocks," 1839, and "Shakespeare after his return to Stratford entertains his father and mother by reading the character of Falstaff," a large picture 4 feet 10 inches by 6 feet 9 inches. Besides works in oil and water-colour, Pack did pastels somewhat in the style of Russell. Two views of the Giant's Causeway, which were in his sale in 1821, Pack had reproduced in aquatint, coloured. These are:

"East View of the Giant's Causeway, No. 1: To his Royal Highness, George Prince of Wales, Regent of the United Kingdom. These views of the Basalt District, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, are with permission most respectfully dedicated by His Royal Highnesses devoted Servant Faithful Christopher Pack. F. C. Pack Esq. Pinxt. Engraved by R. Havell and Son."

"West View of the Giant's Causeway, No. 2: Select views of the Basalt District, in the county of Antrim, Ireland. F. C. Pack Esq. Pinxt. Engraved by R. Havell and Son. Published Nov. 9, 1819, by F. C. Pack, Dublin, and Mr. Ackerman Printseller, Strand, London."

No. 1 measures 25 ½ by 17 ¾ inches; No. 2, 26 by 17 ¾ inches. These prints are amongst the scarcest of Irish views. The pair in the possession of the writer are marked "Proof," and are signed by the artist himself F. Chris. Pack. In the various exhibition catalogues his name appears as "C.," "F. C." or "F. Christopher" Pack. He died at No. 20 Sandwich Street, Gray's Inn Lane, London, on 25th October, 1840, aged 81. A portrait of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds was sold at Christie's on 24th May, 1902. In the collection of pictures belonging to Major Sirr, sold in August, 1841, was a landscape by Reynolds, "Given by Reynolds to his gifted pupil the late F. C. Pack, Esq."

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