Robert Alexander Hillingford

British, (1828-1904)
The Duke's Musicians – A Reminiscence of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
Oil on canvas, signed, with the original Royal Academy exhibition labels to the reverse
Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883, no. 844
Exhibited at the Yorkshire Institute

A large-scale Royal Academy painting of a group of musicians at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire by Robert Alexander Hillingford. At the time of this painting Hillingford was living at Cornwall Lodge in Rowan Road, Hammersmith. On 2 April, 1883, the Telegraph reported that he was about to present “…a perspective view of a ‘Musicians’ Gallery’…” to the hanging committee of the RA at Burlington House. The size and composition suggests it was specifically painted for the exhibition at the RA. Hillingford would have most likely spent time at Hardwick Hall making sketches in order to get the details and proportions correct.

Hardwick Hall itself was built around 1590 by Bess of Hardwick and was designed by the architect Robert Smythson. The property passed to her son William Cavendish 1st Earl of Devonshire in 1608 and later to his great grandson, William who was made the 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694. The property passed to the National Trust in 1959 and retains most of its original features. The galleried area in the painting can be found at the main entrance hall and appears relatively unchanged since Hillingford painted it.

Robert Alexander Hillingford was born in London on 28 January, 1828. In 1841, he moved to Germany to study at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. After 5 years of studying he travelled to Italy visiting Rome, Naples and Florence where he met and married his wife Ciara in 1858. During this time, he produced paintings of Italian life and one of these ‘The Last Evening of the Carnival’ was exhibited at St. Petersburg in 1859.

In 1864, he returned with his family to London and began to specialise in historical subjects often including battle scenes. He also produced a number of theatrical scenes and contemporary paintings of the Boer War. He made his debut at the Royal Academy in 1866 exhibiting there regularly throughout his career. He also exhibited at the British Institution, Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham, Glasgow Institute, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery, Royal Institute of Oil Painters and Arthur Tooth Gallery.

From 1871 he lived at 30 Scarsdale Villas, in Kensington and by 1878 had moved to Cornwall Lodge in Rowan Road from where he worked and exhibited from until 1892. Hillingford was known for his close attention to accuracy in details of dress and had a collection of original uniforms. He was Vice President of the Kernoozers Club an organisation for collectors of objets d’art and militaria. He died in Fulham in 1904.

Examples of his paintings can be found at the Courtauld Institute, Grundy Art Gallery, Glasgow Art Gallery, Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, Williamson Art.

Presentation The painting is housed in a new, English made gilt frame which is in excellent condition.The stretcher bears the original Royal Academy exhibition labels.
Condition As with all of our original antique oil paintings, this work is offered in ready to hang gallery condition, having been professionally cleaned, restored and revarnished.
Image Size 40 inches x 59 inches (102cm x 150cm)
Framed Size 47.5 inches x 66.5 inches (120.5cm x 169cm)