The Ladies Susan, Elizabeth and Mary Fane, Daughters of John, 9th Earl of Westmorland
Painted circa 1775
By descent through the family
This important work dates from 1775 and is closest in style, technique, medium and conception to Gardner's Three Witches from Macbeth, 1775 allocated to the National Portrait Gallery in 2010 under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.
The artist was born in Kendal where he received early encouragement from George Romney who was a friend of his mother. He moved to London in his late adolescence and studied at the Royal Academy schools from 1770 when Benjamin West, Johan Zoffany and G. B. Cipriani were teaching. In 1773 he won a silver medal for drawing and exhibited at the Academy for the first and last time. On finishing his studies he entered the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds as an assistant. Later in his career, in the early 1800s, he knew Constable whose portrait style he influenced.
Gardner found his metier as an artist in a unique form of pastel work which combined oil, gouache, and pastel on paper later laid on canvas, unvarnished but glazed. This technique maintains a lasting freshness and vivacity.
There is clearly a relationship between this picture and Shakespearean scenes which had been growing in popularity since the first decades of the eighteenth century and by the 1760s, the craze was well established in British visual culture. The dreamlike ethereal quality of this picture mirrors the contemporary interest in the supernatural, the sublime and the Gothic.
The 9th Earl of Westmorland's second wife was Susan Gordon the daughter of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon and Lady Catherine Gordon. They married on 28 May 1767, and had the three children depicted here. Lady Susan Fane (3 October 1768 - 8 March 1793), married John Drummond, 12th of Lennoch and 5th of Megginch in 1788, brother of General Sir Gordon Drummond and Lady Hervey. Lady Elizabeth Fane (7 January 1770 - 19 May 1844), married William Lowther's brother Sir John Lowther. Lady Mary Fane (19 September 1772 - 27 June 1855, married George Fludyer, MP, younger son of Sir Samuel Fludyer, 1st Baronet, in 1792.