Francis Bindon, Portrait Painter

(d. 1765.)

Portrait Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was the fourth son of David Bindon of Cloney, County Clare, M.P. for Ennis, who died in 1733, by his wife Dorothy, daughter of Samuel Burton of Buncraggy, County Clare. But little is known of his life; he appears to have studied painting and architecture during his travels abroad in Italy and elsewhere, and on his return to Ireland devoted himself to portrait painting and the designing of large country houses. In 1733 he was presented with the freedom of the Guild of St. Luke, the Corporation of Painter-Stayners.

As a portrait painter he was much esteemed; many of the notable personages of the time sat to him, and his brush has preserved to us in several portraits the features of Dean Swift, as well as of Archbishop Boulter, Dr. Sheridan, Dr. Delany, Dr. Baldwin, Archbishop Cobbe and others.

Among the buildings erected from his designs are Bessborough, the seat of the Earl of Bessborough; Woodstock, County Kilkenny, built for Sir William Fownes; Castle Morres, County Kilkenny, and houses for Lord Desart, Mr. Tighe and others. In conjunction with Richard Castle he designed Russborough for the Earl of Milltown, and Belan House, County Kildare, built in 1743, for Lord Aldborough.

In consequence of age and failing sight Bindon relinquished the practice of his art soon after 1758. In 1761, on the death of his brother David who had been, like his father, M.P. for Ennis and was a writer on trade and commerce and author of two tracts on Wood's Coinage, he succeeded to the family property in Clare. He died "suddenly in his chariot on his way to the country" on 2nd June, 1765.

Bindon's portraits are stiff and awkwardly posed, and have little artistic merit, though his heads are not without character and have the appearance of being faithful likenesses of his sitters. In his portraits of Swift especially, he seems to have been so far inspired by the tremendous personality of the man that he contrived to seize and record much of his character. An obituary notice in "Faulkner's Journal" (June 4-8, 1765), styles Bindon "one of the best painters and architects this nation ever produced. He was a most polite, well-bred gentleman and an excellent scholar, which he improved by his travels abroad." Amongst Bindon's portraits are:

Richard Baldwin, Provost of Trinity College. [Dining Hall, Trinity College.] Painted in 1747 and placed in the College Hall in November, at the expense of the students. "This picture," says "Faulkner's Dublin Journal," "is allowed by the best judges to be not only the most exact likeness, but the finest piece of painting ever performed in this kingdom."

Hugh Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh. [Provost's House, Trinity College.] Painted in 1742 as a memorial of the Archbishop's charity during a period of famine. It was placed in the dining-hall of the Foundling Hospital (now part of the South Dublin Union), where it remained for many years. It now hangs on the staircase wall in the Provost's House. Engraved in mezzotint by John Brooks in 1742.

Hugh Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh. [National Gallery of Ireland.] Formerly at Castle Caldwell, county Fermanagh. Sold in 1878, and purchased by the National Portrait Gallery, London. Transferred to the Dublin Gallery in 1899. A replica, or copy is at Newbridge House, Donabate, county Dublin.

Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin. Seated. Engraved in mezzotint, by Andrew Miller in 1746.

Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin. Full length, standing. Engraved in mezzotint, probably by Andrew Miller.

Dr. Delany.

Lionel, Duke of Dorset, Lord Lieutenant. Painted in 1734.

Lady Catherine Forbes. Was in the sale of the collection of B. Watkins, Dublin, 1850.

Sheffield Grace. Engraved by R. Grave in " Memoirs of the Family of Grace," 1823.

William King, Archbishop of Dublin. A small etching, in profile, Rd. Tighe arm. delin. Fran. Bindon, Sc., was in the Strawberry Hill collection.

George Macartney, M.P. for Belfast. [C. G. Macartney, Lissanoure, county Antrim.]

Hercules Langford Rowley, M.P. Engraved in mezzotint by A. Miller.

Colonel Richard St. George. Engraved in mezzotint, by John Brooks.

Dr. Thomas Sheridan.

Eaton Stannard, Recorder of Dublin. In 1747 Bindon was commissioned by the Commons of Dublin to paint a full-length portrait of Eaton Stannard "in recognition of his great merit and in acknowledgment of his eminent services." (Corporation Records.) The portrait was formerly in the Tholsel, but is not now among the pictures belonging to the city.

Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's. [Howth Castle.] Painted from life in 1735, for the then Lord Howth. In a letter to Swift, dated "Kilfane, July 6th, 1735, Lord Howth writes: "I am very much obliged to my good Dean of St. Patrick's for the honour he did me in sitting for his portrait; and have wrote to Dr. Grattan to give Mr. Bindon strict charge in the finishing of it; and when that is done to bring it to his house for fear I should get a copy instead of the original." A copy of the picture, painted by Robert Home, is in the Examination Hall, Trinity College.

Jonathan Swift. [National Gallery of Ireland.] This picture formerly belonged to the Rev. Edward Berwick. It was purchased by the Gallery in November 1908 from the trustees of the Berwick family. It resembles the Howth portrait, but is three-quarter length instead of whole length, and the accessories referring to Wood's coinage which are in the Howth portrait are omitted.

Jonathan Swift. [J. G. Swift M'Neill, M.P., Pembroke Road, Dublin]. This is also a replica, three-quarter length, of the Howth picture, and resembles the Berwick portrait above. In the background is a landscape with a grey horse, and the scroll held in Swift's hand is inscribed, in place of the "Fourth Drapier's Letter" as in the Berwick portrait, with "Travels by Lemuel Gulliver. A Voyage to the country of the Houyhnhums. F. Bindon, arm. 1735. It is the only picture of Swift signed by Bindon. It belonged to Major Brereton of Kilcullen, county Kildare, who obtained it in 1847 from his father-in-law, Paul Barry of Dublin. It was sold in Bennett's salerooms, Dublin, in 1904, and purchased by its present owner.

Jonathan Swift. [Deanery House, St. Patrick's.] This portrait was painted in 1739, four years later than the Howth picture, for the Chapter of St. Patrick's as a mark of gratitude and esteem for the Dean. It is full length and resembles the Howth portrait, but with different accessories. A cherub holds a scroll with an inscription referring to the granting of the First Fruits to the Irish Church; and in the background is seen the western door of the cathedral. The artist was paid £36 16s. for his work. The carved oak frame, by Houghton, cost £18 13s. "The Gentleman's Magazine," April 1739, says: "This portrait is allowed to be the most finished piece of painting ever performed in this Kingdom." The picture has been frequently engraved, notably by Andrew Miller in mezzotint in 1743. This print is inscribed Frans Bindon Arm; impensis Capituli S. Pat: Pinxt. A.D. 1739. Andrew Miller Fecit Dub. 1743. A stipple engraving by E. Scriven is in Monck Mason's "History of St. Patrick's." In this print the cherub holding the scroll is omitted.

Jonathan Swift. There was formerly in the Deanery a smaller portrait by Bindon—perhaps a copy by him of the Howth picture—which it appears the artist used when painting the large Deanery picture, Swift being too ill to give him continuous sittings. This smaller picture was sold by the then Dean in 1874 to Mr. Thomas Bateman of Moor Park, Surrey. Since his death the picture has disappeared.

Jonathan Swift. "A Head upon a three-quarter cloth," painted in 1739 for Robert Nugent, afterwards Earl Nugent. When the picture was sent to Nugent it was accompanied by verses, written by the Rev. William Dunkin, commencing:

"From Bindon's colours you may trace

 The Patriot's venerable face."

Through Lord Nugent's daughter, the Marchioness of Buckingham, the picture came to Stowe, where it remained until the great sale there in 1848. It was sold to a Mr. A. Robertson for nineteen guineas, and has not been further traced. It may be identical with the second of the two pictures next mentioned.

Jonathan Swift. [Godwin Swift, Swiftsheath, County Kilkenny.] Belonged to the Dean's uncle, Godwin, and has remained with his descendants, and has immemorially been attributed to Bindon. It is a bust portrait—a "head on a three-quarter cloth"—showing the Dean without a wig, his white hair falling from beneath a crimson skull-cap.

Jonathan Swift. [Earl of Drogheda, Moore Abbey.] This portrait is identical with the Swiftsheath portrait. Its history is unknown. It may be the Nugent portrait or a replica. It has been ascribed to Slaughter, but there seems no reason to doubt that it and the preceding portrait are the work of Bindon, though they show some differences from his usual manner.

Jonathan Swift. In the collection of Henry Harrington of 5 Great Denmark Street, Dublin, was a portrait of Swift by Bindon, which was sold in Dublin in 1832.

Jonathan Swift. Bust, life size, in black and white chalk, inscribed Jonathan Swift, 1735, F. Bindon Pinxt. [National Gallery of Ireland.] This portrait was purchased in a dealer's shop in Dublin in 1909, by the late Sir Thornley Stoker. Its previous history is unknown. At Sir Thornley's sale in 1909 it was purchased by the National Gallery of Ireland. It is a poor drawing, and as a likeness does not resemble any of Bindon's other portraits; and despite the inscription its attribution to him must be considered more than doubtful.

Jonathan Swift. An enamel miniature in the collection of the Duke of Buccleugh, attributed to Bindon, is probably a copy by Rupert Barber (q.v.).

Robert Watts, Dean of Ferns, and afterwards of Ossory. [Earl of Bessborough.]

Rev. Peter Westenra. [Lord Rossmore.]

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