Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Samuel Hieronymus Grimm - No Fairy Tale!

When I am researching a house which would have been of some repute and substance and also would have existed in the late 18th  century, I always check to see if it had been drawn by the Swiss artist Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. He was a fantastically detailed and accurate topographical artist who captured scenes and buildings with satisfying clarity. He started his career drawing alpine scenes in his native country and after working his way through France, settled in England in 1768. His greatest patron was Dr Richard Kaye, a clergyman whose career saw him rise from country parson to Dean of Lincoln. Dr Kaye amassed over two and a half thousand drawings by Grimm, the bulk of which he bequeathed to the British Museum. In the course of my work I have had two assignments where Grimm has captured the building in question. The first was Leyden House and neighbouring buildings along the Thames Bank at Mortlake, drawn in 1778. Today close to the end of today’s Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race.  See below.

Above and Below: Thames Bank, Mortlake in 1778

The second location was Hammonds Place in Burgess Hill in West Sussex.  Grimm had drawn over 900 images of Sussex in total (commissioned by Sir William Burrell in the 1780s). They were exhibited in 1797 and Hammonds Place was later included in a compendium of drawings of English manor houses, dated 1846 entitled Studies of ancient domestic architecture, principally selected from original drawings in the collection of the late Sir William Burrell, with some brief observations on the application of ancient architecture to the pictorial composition of modern edifices” .

It was obviously considered appropriate at some point to make alterations to the images. The first image is the most revealing, showing the original barn at Hammonds Farm. However the image that was eventually published in 1846 (altered by an unknown hand) shows the building in isolation with neighbouring buildings camouflaged by trees and neater lines giving the house a less lived-in appearance.

In addition to the panoramic views, Grimm had also drawn details of some of the buildings. In the case of Hammonds Place, the front door of this predominantly Elizabethan manor house. This was made all the more pleasurable when you see that the said door is still there, if a little weather-worn, 200 years later!

 If you are interested to know more, Grimm’s drawings are available to view through the British Museum, the British Library and the V&A Drawings Collection.