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John Postle Heseltine Sketchbooks



John Postle Heseltine Sketchbooks



Archive reference number



Four sketchbooks depicting paintings and sculptures on sale at Christie's and Sotheby's, and those in galleries in Britain and France, including the National Gallery. Some sketches have the title of the painting and the artist labelled. Some sketches of paintings for sale also include the date of sale and/or lot number. Sketches relating to works within the National Gallery Collection have been identified by their NG inventory number.

Record type


Alternative reference numbers

A.III 8.29

Administrative history

John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929) was a stockbroker and senior partner in the family firm, Heseltine, Powell & Co. In 1859, aged 16, he was sent to Hanover to learn German; during his stay Heseltine was introduced to the process of etching on copper by Major van Usslar-Gleichen. A skilled draughtsman and engraver, he exhibited his first etching ('Hastings') at the Royal Academy in 1869, joined the Etching Club in 1877, and was a founder-member of the Society of Painter-Etchers in 1880. Thirty-eight of his own etchings, reproduced in photogravure, were published by J.J. Waddington in 1915.

Heseltine was a Trustee of the National Gallery from 1893 to 1929 and advised on the purchase of paintings, specifically of the Dutch and Flemish schools. For eighteen months, between Sir Edward Poynter's retirement as director in 1905 and the appointment of his successor, Charles Holroyd, he shared responsibility for running the Gallery with fellow trustee Lord Carlisle. According to his obituary in The Times (4 March 1929), 'It was mainly due to his interest and support that in 1915 the Gallery began the publication of its own photographs and postcards, for sale on the official stall'; see ref. NG1/8. Heseltine donated several paintings to the National Gallery during his lifetime: 'The Virgin and Child with Six Angels and Two Cherubim' attributed to Francesco di Antonio [NG1456], 'A Cowherd passing a Horse and Cart in a Stream' by Jan Siberechts [NG2130], 'A Garden Scene with Waterfowl' by Anthonie van Borssum [NG3314], 'The Sea near Palavas' after Gustave Courbet [NG2767], and 'Portrait of Johannes Feige' by Lucas Cranach the Elder [NG1925]. In July 1929, Heseltine's widow, Sarah (née Edmondson), donated four of his 'Note Books' and Jean-Etienne Liotard's 'Portrait of a Grand Vizir' [NG4460] to the National Gallery in his memory (ref. NG1/10, p.91).

Heseltine was a keen collector of oil paintings, drawings and watercolours of the English and Continental schools. Among the old master drawings were specimens by Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, Michelangelo, Fra Bartolomeo, Holbein, Dürer, Constable, Watteau and Boucher. Campbell Dodgson recalled that Heseltine was 'an indefaticable student of pictures and drawings by the old masters, and up to a few weeks ago was often to be seen, pencil and note-book in hand, in the Print Room of the British Museum, making beautiful little copies of details in engravings and drawings of the Italian school. He pursued the same method on his travels, and there were few more assiduous visitors to the minor as well as the major galleries of France and neighbouring countries' (Burlington Magazine, April 1929, 231). Between 1901 and 1918 Heseltine published thirteen catalogues of art works in his collection; these were privately-printed by J.J. Waddington and distributed by Heseltine as Christmas gifts among his friends.

In October 1912, Heseltine sold the majority of his drawings collection by private treaty sale to P. & D. Colnagi for a reputed £150,000. Further sales of art works occurred at Frederik Muller & Co. (Amsterdam), 27-28 May 1913, and Sotheby's, 25 March 1920, and 7-9 June 1920. The residue of the collection, including the library, was dispersed posthumously at Sotheby's, 10 April 1933, 25 April 1934, 27-29 May 1935, 3-5 June 1935 and 8-10 July 1935.

Custodial history

On 29 July 1929, Augustus Daniel informed Robert Witt that 'Lord Crawford would like us to have one or two of Mr. Heseltine's notebooks as a record and I propose to ask then if Mrs. Heseltine would send us some' (ref. NG26/79/3); four sketchbooks were duly presented by Sarah Heseltine. They were transferred from the National Gallery Archive from library at an unknown date.

Related material

NG1 Minutes of the Board of Trustees NG7 Letters read at National Gallery Board Meetings NG24 Press cuttings NG26/38/1-2 Trustees' correspondence NG68 Letters and miscellaneous papers Correspondence with Sir Sydney Cockerell, 1916-1928: British Library, Department of Manuscripts [Ref. Add. MS. 52721]

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