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The Basil Somerset Long Memorial Fund

Miniature Self-Portrait by Thomas Flatman, 1673, Museum no. P.779-1938

Miniature self-portrait, by Thomas Flatman, 1673, Museum no. P.779-1938

From The Times, 12 October 1938

Paintings in Memory of Basil S Long
When Mr Basil Somerset Long, Keeper of the Department of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a leading authority on miniatures and early English water-colours, died in January 1937, a number of his friends decided to raise a fund with which to make a gift in his memory to the museum in which he worked for so many years. The task of this memorial fund has now been concluded. A water-colour and a miniature have been bought and are on view in the Recent Acquisitions Court at the museum.

The miniature, which was purchased from the Buccleuch Collection by the courtesy and with the assistance of the present Duke, is a self-portrait of Thomas Flatman (1635-1688), signed and dated 1673. It was lent to the museum some years ago by the late Duke of Buccleuch and was well known to Mr Long, who recorded a favourable opinion of it in his manuscript notes. Recently it was shown in Paris at the Exhibition of British Painting at the Louvre.

Flatman was lawyer and poet as well as painter. As a poet he is best remembered by his lines on death, ending:

'Then shall a gasp or two do more
Than e'er my rhetoric could before:
Persuade the world to trouble me no more!'

which are quoted in many anthologies. His miniatures are nowadays held to be the equal of any of their period, excepting only the best works of Samuel Cooper.

Several supposed portrait miniatures of Flatman by himself exist, but a comparison with contemporary engraved likenesses of him makes it clear that the miniature now acquired by the museum is, so far as at present known, the only one which in fact represents him. It shows him as a man of broad and open countenance, grave or even melancholy in expression, with remarkable light grey-blue eyes set widely apart.

The other aspect of Basil Long's work - his study of the early English water-colourists - is reflected in the Memorial Fund's second purchase, a large and free drawing of 'The Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli' by John Smith (1749-1831), commonly known as 'Warwick' Smith because of the many drawings he did, both at home and abroad, for the second Earl of Warwick. Mr Long published a monograph on Smith's life and work, so that this example of an aspect of his art, which only recently came to light when a number of water-colours from Lord Warwick's collection were sold, seemed to the committee of the fund a very suitable choice. It is in extremely fresh condition and contains some delightful renderings of trees with their light green foliage just tinged with the first yellows and reds of autumn.

Proposed Memorial to Museum Official: The Times, 5 February 1937

It is proposed by friends of the late Basil Somerset Long, Keeper of the Department of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, to make a gift in his memory to the museum in which he worked for so many years. It is proposed to buy a miniature, and possibly also a water-colour, which would fill some gap, or gaps, in the museum's collection. The purchase would be made in cooperation with the museum authorities and would be so labelled as to make it a permanent memorial. Subscriptions may be sent to Mr I A Williams, West Hall, Kew Gardens, Surrey and will be duly acknowledged. Cheques should be crossed 'Glyn Mills and Co, Holt's Branch'.

Reproduced with kind permission of The Times
©Times Newspapers Limited

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