Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: John Hoppner (England, 1758-1810)

Figure 1.-- John Hoppner exhibited this portrait of his three sons at the Royal Academy (1791). The boys are going to bathe in a small brook. The oldest boy, 7-year-old Catherine Hampden is beginning to unbuttons his jacket. He wears a long pants skeleton suit with a frilly open collar. Men at the time wore knee breeches. Catherine could apparently be used as a boy's name at the time. Richard, already undressed, looks up at his older brother. Baby Wilson struggles to take off his frock. The two older boys grew up to have reasonably sucessful political and diplomatic careers. Wilson became an artist.

John Hoppner was a majort English portratist. His family immigrated from Germany. His father was a surgeon to the British court. This apparently represented the still German outlook of the royal family. His mother was a royal attendant in the court of King George II. The Hannovers were a German dynasty. King George I spoke German an German was still very important in Gerorge II's counrt. Thus there were positions aavailable to Germans. John was born in London (1758). He was awarded a position as a chorister in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace. He then received allowance from King George III to study at the Royal Academy Schools (1775). He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy (1780) and won a gold medal for historical painting. His penchant was for landscapes, but the need to make a living meant he had to do portraits. The royal favors he received led to rumors that he was the king's illegitimate son, rumors that Hoppner rather encouraged because it provided some prestige to his studio. The Prince of Wales (Prince Reagent later King George IV) appointed portrait painter at his court. After the death of Reynolds, who he emulated, he and Lawrence were seen as England's leading portraitists. He painted quite a few portaits of families and children, among the much larger portraits of notables. The boys he painted mostly were portrayed wearing skeleton suits. The portrait here are his three sons (1791) (figure 1). The older boy wears a skeleton suit, the first destinctive child's outfit. Earlier boys wore dresses until breeching and then began wearing suits styled like those of their fathers. This is the beginning of clothing actually designed for children amd made to fit their needs. The suit has long pants, although cut above the abnkles. At the time men wore knee breeches. Boys began weatring long pnts before men did.


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Created: 7:09 AM 11/24/2014
Last updated: 7:09 AM 11/24/2014