RICHMOND, Sir William Blake (1842–1921), painter. Autograph letter signed to ‘Mr Archdeacon’ [Henry William Watkins] , 3 sides of a bifolium, 8vo, Beavor Lodge, Hammersmith, January 20 1890, withdrawing his services in organizing a print to be made of his painting (of a Bishop) having received “a series of letters from Mr John --?-- Wilson of such an indirectly insulting character that I can have no further communication with him”, explaining that “The Bishop spoke to me about the engraving of the picture and hoped that I would see to it ………. Messrs Mawson, Swan & Morgan … submitted to me the names of many engravers all of whom could not undertake the work under a year. I therefore believing it would be perfectly in accord with the Bishop's feeling and therefore of the feeling of the committee, agreed to have the picture reproduced in Berlin by photogramme, as I have seen far more admirable work produced by that company than any mezzotint could produce. I wrote and told Mr. Wilson that the picture was finished ….. I received no answer from him for nearly three weeks. I wrote again, telling him that the copyright was mine that the picture was going to Berlin insured for £1,000 to be engraved: that I was waiting for the frame from Mr. Rushworth ……. It is quite evident to me that Mr. Wilson has prevented the frame being sent here for some reason of his own. After my letter informing Mr. Wilson that I had reserved the copyright I received his cheque. Mr. Wilson writes me curt letters to which I respond. Today he sends me the enclosed; such a letter as during 30 years of dealings with gentlemen I have never received ……. I have nothing to do but to resign all further interest in the matter. I was taking a great deal of trouble about it even to asking Dr. Lippman of Berlin to see the proofs all of which I should have funded myself, but as the secretary has taken the most unaccountable ground of suspicion he must look after the matter now himself as best he can”.
This letter evidently concerns a print being made of the portrait painting by Richmond of the Bishop of Durham, Joseph Barber Lightfoot. The Bishop died on 21 December 1889, just a few weeks after Richmond painted him and a month before Richmond wrote this letter. The Archdeacon of Durham at the time was Henry William Watkins (1844-1922) who managed affairs before the consecration of the new Bishop, and doubtless played a key role in the trust fund set up under Lightfoot’s will assisgning the Trustees full ownership in his works and copyrights for the purposes of the Trust. John Wilson, with whom Richmond has taken great offence, appears to be the Secretary of the Trustees, and the core accusations between the two men appear to centre on the copyright issues in creating a print or engraving. Richmond’s oil painting of Joseph Barber Lightfoot is in the collections of Auckland Castle, the former residence of the Bishops of Durham.
The company Mawson, Swan and Morgan were successful manufacturing chemists based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Their partner Joseph Swan was inventor of the incandescent light bulb, and developed several important innovations in photographic negatives and prints.
Gabriel Lippmann (1845 –1921) was a physicist and inventor, who at the time this letter was written was conducting experiments in capturing colour in photographs, and which by 1908 won him the Nobel laureate in physics for his method of reproducing colours photographically.