THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH R.A.
(1727 – 1788)
Portrait of Lord William Campbell, M.P., Last British Governor of South Carolina
Miss Campbell Johnstone, 1868, and by descent to
N. Campbell Johnstone; Sotheby’s, London, 18 March, 1958, lot 115 (£2,300 to Partridge)
The Barratt Family, Christie’s, London, 6 July, 2010, lot 61 to the present owner.
London, South Kensington, National Portrait Exhibition, 1968, no.817 (lent by Miss C.Johnstone)
Bath, Assembly Rooms, International Art Treasures, 1973, no.31
Sir W. Armstrong, Gainsborough and his Place in English Art, 1898, p.192
E.K. Waterhouse, A Preliminary Checklist of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Walpole Society, XXX111, 1953, p.17
E.K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London, 1958, p.58, no.117
A.W. Rutledge, Portraits of American Interest in British Collections, Connoisseur, CXL1, May 1958, pp.266-70
Lord William Campbell was the fourth son of John, 4th Duke of Argyll, and his wife the Hon. Mary Kerr, daughter of John, 2nd Lord Bellenden. The sitter served in the Navy in India from 1752 to 1760. On 20 August 1762 he was promoted to Captain and appointed to the 20-gun Nightingale, in which he was sent to stations in the West Indies and North America. The following year he met and married Sarah Izard of Charleston, a well-known South Carolina family, described as ‘a young lady esteemed to have one of the most considerable fortunes in the province.’
They returned to Britain in 1764 where Lord William became a Member of Parliament, representing the family seat in Argyllshire, but by the end of 1766 he had been appointed Governor of Nova Scotia, a position he held until 1773. In June 1775, at the outbreak of the American Revolution, he became the last British Governor of South Carolina. Faced by a mounting rebellion, however, Lord William left Charleston on a British Warship in September 1775 and returned to England.
In 1776, he joined Admiral Sir Peter Parker, who had been given instructions to form a squadron and launch an attack on Charleston. In June of that year the attack was launched and an attempt made to enter Charleston harbor, past Fort Moultrie and the batteries on Sullivan’s Island. The channel into the port was notoriously difficult and, with the wind and tide against the squadron, the result was a disaster, with great loss of life and ships. Lord William was wounded and mentioned in dispatches. He returned to England, where he died on 3 September 1778, probably from the wounds he had sustained.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for dating the picture from the mid-to late-1770s.