The Camden family portraits at Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery

The Camden family portraits at Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery

A major coup for a dynamic small museum: Magnificent 18th century portraits come to Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery
Three generations of the Camden family, painted by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Lawrence, Dance, Batoni and Beechey. On long loan from the 5th Marquess Camden Will Trust

This exceptional group of 18th century portraits, painted by leading artists in the golden age of English portraiture, is considered to be as fine a collection of English portraits that one could hope to find in any gallery outside London. The 5th Marquess Camden Will Trust have chosen to place these paintings in Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery because of the family’s historically close connections with the area, as they owned the Bayham Abbey estate near Tunbridge Wells from 1714, and because of the impressive way in which the Museum interprets its collections.

Ten portraits are on show. The Museum has elected to display these portraits, informally, in one intimate room, emphasising the family relationships between the sitters. This setting gives visitors a unique opportunity to study these works, and compare the styles of the outstanding artists of the period, close-up – an opportunity that cannot be afforded in a historic house, or even in a larger gallery.

The Camden family included exceptional individuals: 1st Earl Camden, Charles Pratt (1714 – 94); his son, 1st Marquess Camden John Jeffreys Pratt (1759 – 1840); and his grandson, George Pratt (1799-1866), 2nd Marquess Camden. The portraits represent a splendid record of their social and political achievements. Portraits of Charles Pratt’s children, sister and brother-in-law, and John Jeffreys Pratt’s wife and two daughters are also on show.