Close-up of Sam's initials and date from bottom right of the painting.
The main picture shows Interior of Knole Castle, Kent, dated 1858, and this painting is also signed and titled on the original label on the reverse side. The picture appeared on the Collins Antiques auction web site in 2002. Top right: Samuel Rayner in his carte de visite of 1865 (age 59).Samuel Rayner was born at Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire (where some of the Rayner family live even today) on the 15th April 1806. Known as Sam, he was the third of five children in a large and patriarchal family of Cornchandlers and Farmers of the Baptist faith. Circa 1812, his parents (Samuel, born circa 1781, and Margaret (nee Wiggins)) moved to London and ran an ironmongery business at 7 Blandford Street, Portman Square, Marylebone.
Samuel's father died at the age of 36 in late May, 1817, and was buried at Colnbrook Baptist Chapel. Samuel was eleven at this time, and it appears that his wealthy grandfather Thomas (who died the next year) may have encouraged him to paint. Thomas is thought to be the artist Thomas Rayner, who flourished in the 1770s, and he clearly saw genuine potential in his grandson, for Samuel developed sufficiently as a watercolour artist for his painting of Malmsbury Abbey to be accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1821, when he was 15 years old. At that time his address was still 7 Blandford Street. (His mother remained there for the rest of her life and may have continued to run the business with the help of her other children until her death, when she, too, was buried at Colnbrook).
Samuel exhibited a second painting of Malmsbury Abbey (West Front) at the Royal Academy in 1822, and at some point around this time, Samuel took training in Architectural draughtsmanship with John Britton. Over the next few years he travelled on sketching expeditions with other artists, taking details of buildings and monuments.
One of his early landscapes (location and title unknown).He specialised in topographical subjects in sepia wash, and architectural and historical subjects in watercolour. His titles exhibited at the Royal Academy were mostly English cathedrals and abbeys, and indeed the majority of his paintings were of church abbeys, ruins, castles and old mansions, but often interior rather than exterior views.
It was commonly noted (see below) that his style closely resembled that of George Cattermole - which wasn't surprising, since George Cattermole and George's brother Richard were involved in producing drawings for John Britton's Cathedral Antiquities of England, and Samuel had five of his own drawings engraved for inclusion, so the three could well have worked together at a time when Samuel's own style was still evolving. Given that George and Samuel became great friends, this is probably when that friendship was formed. [John Britton was an antiquary of considerable note, involved in many substantial literary projects which cost lavish sums of money to produce, but while Cathedral Antiquities ran to 14 high-quality volumes (between 1814-1835), it was definitely not a financial success.]
Visiting (and showing paintings in) the London art galleries was probably the way Samuel met Ann Manser, the daughter of William Manser (a successful London publisher) and a promising artist herself. Although they enjoyed each other's company, Ann's father seems to have been far less pleased with their mutual regard, and it is thought that they eloped to get married (on 2 October 1823, according to family records) before he could prevent it.
Afterwards, they returned home to take up residence at 11 Blandford Street, just a few doors from Samuel's mother's business. Their first son, William, was born in 1824 but died young (perhaps in childbirth). When their first daughter, Nancy, followed in 1826, she was always referred to as the eldest.
Two of his paintings from that period were Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824 and 1826 respectively.
They both continued to paint and at this point Samuel's mythical initial 'A.' came into being. Samuel and Ann both exhibited work at the Royal Academy in 1827, and the R.A.'s records show two paintings of the Interior of Westminster Abbey by S.A. Rayner. This almost certainly should have read 'S. and A. Rayner' - but Samuel's name has been wrongly rendered ever since.
The years 1827 and 1828 were eventful. At the age of 21 Samuel inherited his share of his Grandfather's estate, and also received a "VERY handsome order" from the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth. This prompted the family to move to Derbyshire where they lived in what was then a fairly new terrace at Museum Parade (now South Parade) in Matlock Bath (close to the administrative county town). Even so, they envisaged the need to keep a foot in London, and retained their house at 11 Blandford Street. Shortly after the move, Nancy gained her first sister, Rhoda (known as Rose), born in 1828.
Above left: paintings of the Baron's Chapel were hardly rare, but this segment of a picture kindly supplied by Ted Hodgetts of Ontario, Canada, is unusual in picking up the glass imagery and also looking through to the building beyond.
Above right: Clergy in a cathedral interior, probably 1867, was put on auction by Waddington's in Toronto, Canada for an estimated figure of $500-700 (Canadian) in June 2004.
In 1846 Samuel's uncle, Joseph Rayner, died and included this in his will: "I give and bequeath to the children of my late brother Samuel Rayner two hundred pounds stock in the new three and a half per cent to be equally divided between them." Assuming his four siblings were still alive, nephew Samuel would have received £40 of this. At this stage, we don't know much about his finances, though there is a suggestion in a letter that Ann wrote in 1848 that they could have been struggling somewhat - in which case Samuel's share (given its value in those days) would have been very welcome.
Whatever his circumstances, Samuel seems to have had a wide circle of friends and was well liked. Some of them (naturally) were artists, and gave occasional art teaching to Samuel's children, though they never received formal lessons. Even so, the girls were doing well, and in February 1850, his eldest daughter Nancy was herself elected an associate of the Old Water Colour Society. But the following year, things went wrong for Samuel when his father-in-law was charged with fraud and Samuel was implicated. The case was reported in the Times newspaper and is analysed here.
| As Roget again reports: At a meeting of the
Society held on the 10th of February, 1851, for the election of
candidates, after the ‘attention of the Society’ had been ‘called
to his case,’ it was unanimously resolved ‘that Mr. Rayner’s name
be erased from the list of Associates.’
The date of Rayner’s birth has not been ascertained, but he cannot have been a very young man at the time of his election. Probably he is the same artist to whom, under the name ‘Samuel A. Rayner,’ Graves attributes twenty works at the Royal Academy, four at the British Institution, and nineteen at Suffolk Street [London] between 1821 and 1872. There was a drawing by S. Rayner at the Dudley Gallery in 1865 and another in 1871. No less than five daughters of the ex- Associate followed his profession, and one joined our society. [vol. 2, p300]
Denise Speake sent us this image (above left) of The Armourer at the beginning of December 2007. Unfortunately, a virus wiped out the email information we had at the time, but we know it was a white knight variation of a very similar picture In the Armoury that was produced in 1858 and sold anonymously in 1980 at Sothebys, Belgravia. This second image was probably colour - it just lost a lot of tone when photocopied in 1980. The text area copied very variably, producing the very patchy look you see after the text was pulled tightly together to save space here - it all came from the same page! While it might be assumed that Samuel created both paintings at much the same time, his steady output of very similar paintings of the Baron's Chapel at Haddon Hall makes that an unsafe assumption, so we cannot date the coloured image here.
Kingston Church, signed with Samuel's monogram and dated '64. The painting contains minute cryptic messages in Latin and the whole thing is probably a fanciful reworking of an earlier illustration. It is the kind of thing that both Samuel and his friend George Cattermole had been producing for Dickens during the 1840s.
His disgrace must clearly have influenced his situation, and from that time on - another 23 years - Samuel exhibited his works mostly in the provinces. We also know that he lived at a series of addresses in the late 1850's to mid 1860's, including a period in Brighton and nearby Hove. These included 15 Berner's Street, London; 48 Western Road, Hove; 37 Montpelier Street, Brighton; 4 Clifton Terrace, Brighton; 24 Soho Square, London; and 8 Alma Terrace, Allen Street, Kensington (London). Interestingly, his disgrace doesn't seem to have reflected on his daughters' careers as they became more active, though they never escaped the separate and severe disadvantage of being women in a strictly male-controlled profession. But it must have given Samuel some pleasure to see their success, especially in the 1860s.
This painting went to auction at Sotheby's in 2002, and shows White Horse Yard, Edinburgh. It's an 1870s painting, making it one of his last, but the exact year cannot be safely deciphered. His daughter Margaret also painted this scene with some striking differences, and the two paintings are compared on Margaret's pageArtist & Spectator in Ruin was auctioned by Bruck (North Carolina) in autumn 2006. The painting has Samuel's SR monogram deep in the grass along the bottom edge, with the date July 1876. One of Samuel's beloved tombs lies among the bushes to the right, but the central focus is, of course, the two figures. Although they are not identified, it would be easy to suppose they might be Samuel looking over the shoulder of his son Richard as the latter worked on his own creation. The location is thought to be Lindisfarne Abbey.
Samuel was also proud of his son, of course, and in this case we have proof in Samuel's own hand. A recently-surfaced letter has Samuel writing from 38 Pembroke Square in October 1867 to Mr. Moseley[?], apparently an art dealer, asking after the sale of his own works: "May I enquire if you have had any luck with my drawings and if you are disposed to be tempted again. I know you will not mind my asking the question.... In the course of a few days I could offer you something that would be attractive to travelers in your district...." Then introducing the work of his son Richard, thus: "From some of the very clever drawings my Son has made during the last summer I have selected eight, and have advised him to place them at low prices and submit them for your inspection.... I am desirous that his talent may be known to you -- that you may have an opportunity of introducing his works to the notice of others who might feel an interest in putting out a helping hand to a young artist of great promise...."
DudleyMall, 62 Gervase Drive, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 4AT