Captain George K. H. Coussmaker (1759–1801)

Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, Plympton 1723–1792 London)

Oil on canvas
93 3/4 x 57 1/4 in. (238.1 x 145.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Reynolds gave close attention to his portrait of George Kein Hayward Coussmaker, a lieutenant and captain in the first regiment of Foot Guards. No fewer than twenty-one appointments—and at least two more for the sitter's horse—are recorded between February 9 and April 16, 1782. The composition is complex and the whole vigorously painted.

  • Catalogue Entry

    George Kein Hayward Coussmaker was born in London in 1759. His father, Evert Coussmaker, died in 1763, and his mother, Mary, was remarried, to Sir Thomas Hales, Baronet, of Howlett, Kent. In 1776, George joined the First Regiment of Foot Guards as ensign and lieutenant, the lowest commissioned rank; he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and captain in 1778, and to that of captain and lieutenant colonel in 1788. He saw no active service and retired from the military in 1795. In 1790 Coussmaker married Catherine Southwell (1768–1802), eldest daughter of the late Edward Southwell, 20th Baron de Clifford. They had a son, George, who died unmarried in 1821, and a daughter, Sophia (1791–1874), who became the 22nd Baroness de Clifford in 1833.

    Reynolds recorded an exceptionally large number of sittings for this portrait: twenty-one appointments with Coussmaker between February 9 and April 16, 1782, and perhaps as many as six or eight sessions with his horse. Payments were made on February 9, 1782, and possibly also in May, or within the year following, in the amounts of one hundred and one hundred and five pounds, plus ten guineas for the frame.

    An exceptionally fine work by the artist, the portrait is also remarkably well preserved. It was engraved by James Scott in 1784. A small (24 x 18 in.) replica, not by Reynolds, was sold twice as a portrait by him of Viscount Ligonier: Lord Tweedmouth's sale, Christie's, London, June 3, 1905, no. 46; Hon. Mrs. George Keppel's posthumous sale, Christie's, London, July 15, 1949, no. 120.

    [2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]

  • Provenance

    Lieutenant-Colonel George Kein Hayward Coussmaker (until d. 1801); his brother-in-law, Edward Southwell, 21st Baron de Clifford (by 1813–d. 1832); his niece, the sitter's daughter, Sophia Coussmaker Russell, 22nd Baroness de Clifford (until d. 1874); Edward Southwell Russell, 23rd Baron de Clifford (1874–d. 1877); Edward Southwell Russell, 24th Baron de Clifford (1877–84; sold to Wertheimer); [Charles J. Wertheimer, London, from 1884]; William K. Vanderbilt, New York (probably from 1884–d. 1920)

  • Exhibition History

    London. British Institution. "Pictures by the late Sir Joshua Reynolds," 1813, no. 65 (as "Colonel Coussmaker," lent by Lord De Clifford).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1875, no. 159 (as Colonel George K. H. Coussmaker, lent by Lord de Clifford).

    Kansas City, Mo. William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. "English Painting," April 1–30, 1937, no catalogue.

    New York. University Club. October 13, 1948–March 20, 1949.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 134.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 96).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 337.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792," October 7–December 16, 1985, no. 60.

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Reynolds," January 10–March 31, 1986, no. 130.

    New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney," September 27–December 30, 2001, no. 32.

    San Marino, Calif. Huntington Library. "Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney," February 3–May 5, 2002, no. 32.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion," May 3–September 4, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 153).

  • References

    William Cotton. Sir Joshua Reynolds, and His Works. London, 1856, p. 161, mentions the 1782 portrait of Mr. Cousmaker and, in March, an appointment for Mr. Cousmaker's horse.

    William Cotton. A Catalogue of the Portraits Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt., P.R.A. London, 1857, p. 18, dates it to Feb. 1782 based on Reynolds's Pocket Book.

    Charles Robert Leslie and Tom Taylor. Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, 1865, vol. 2, p. 387, as Mr. Coussmaker.

    Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. 1, London, 1899, p. 199, as Colonel George Coussmaker, Colonel Grenadier Guards; record, in addition to sittings, payments in 1781 and 1782; provide biographical details.

    Walter Armstrong. Sir Joshua Reynolds, First President of the Royal Academy. London, 1900, p. 200.

    Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. 4, London, 1901, p. 1287, provide biographical details.

    A. L. Baldry. Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, [1903], p. xxxiv.

    "The William K. Vanderbilt Bequest." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (December 1920), p. 270.

    C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, pp. 164, 284.

    "Kansas City: Exhibition of English Painting." Art News 35 (April 24, 1937), p. 10.

    Ellis K. Waterhouse. Reynolds. London, 1941, pp. 74, 87, 116, pl. 234.

    Lillian Ross. "Profiles: How do you like it now, gentlemen?" New Yorker (May 13, 1950), p. 59 [reprinted as "Portrait of Hemingway," New York, 1961, p. 59], records Ernest Hemingway's comments on this painting during a visit to the Museum, noting that he called it "a damn good picture" and remarked on the arrogance of the sitter.

    "Ninetieth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1959–1960." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (October 1960), p. 36, ill., when installed in a frame from Croome Court.

    Malcolm Cormack. "The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds." Walpole Society 42 (1968–70), pp. 148–49, records payments by Mr. Cousmaker of £100 on February 9, 1782 and of £105 plus "Frame 10 gs." in May 1782.

    Edith A. Standen in Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. New York, [1970], p. 96, ill. (color).

    William S. Talbot. "Thomas Gainsborough: George Pitt, First Lord Rivers." Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 58 (November 1971), pp. 260–61, fig. 5.

    Ronald Paulson. Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass., 1975, p. 91, fig. 47, analyzes the composition.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 384, 389, fig. 697.

    David Mannings in Reynolds. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1986, p. 301, no. 130, ill. p. 154 (color) [French ed., 1985, pp. 240–42, no. 60, ill.], observes that this portrait "might be described as a tribute to Gainsborough . . . not a capitulation to him".

    Nicholas Penny in Reynolds. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1986, p. 20 [French ed., 1985, p. 26].

    M. Kirby Talley Jr. in Reynolds. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1986, p. 60 [French ed., 1985, p. 93].

    Walter Liedtke. The Royal Horse and Rider: Painting, Sculpture, and Horsemanship, 1500–1800. New York, 1989, p. 312, no. 197, colorpl. 33.

    Renate Prochno. Joshua Reynolds. Weinheim, 1990, pp. 72–75, colorpl. 30, analyzes it among dismounted equestrian portraits.

    Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 220–21, ill. (color).

    Kenneth Paul Bendiner in The Taft Museum: Its History and Collections. 1, New York, 1995, p. 189.

    Judy Egerton. National Gallery Catalogues: The British School. London, 1998, p. 208, notes that Reynolds here adapted the position of Captain Orme's horse.

    Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), p. 31, ill. p. 32 (color) and inside back cover (detail, color).

    David Mannings and Martin Postle. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (The Subject Pictures catalogued by Martin Postle). New Haven, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 10, 148, no. 429, ill.; vol. 2, colorpl. 105, fig. 1379, observe that it "seems to have been wholly executed by Reynolds himself," an impression confirmed by the exceptional number of sittings; records appointments and payments; and, as no. 429a, lists a copy, measuring 76 x 63.5 cm, of the head and shoulders only.

    Nadia Tscherny. "Style and Substance: Gainsborough." Art in America 91 (July 2003), p. 54, ill. p. 52 (color).

    Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 76–78, no. 32, ill. pp. x (gallery installation, color), 77 (color).

    Malcolm Warner. "Books: British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Burlington Magazine 153 (April 2011), p. 257, reviews Ref. Baetjer 2009.

  • Notes

    Reynolds noted an exceptional number of sittings connected with this portrait (Mannings and Postle 2000, p. 148). He had twenty-one appointments with Coussmaker between early February and mid-April 1782 (February 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 23, and 27; March 2, 5, 8, 14, 28, and 29; April 1, 3, 6, 10, 13, and 16) and, probably, eight with his horse (March 20, 22, 26, and 29; April 1, 3, 6, and 10 [on March 26 he specifies "Mr Coussmakers Horse"]).

    Mannings and Postle (2000) record a head-and-shoulders copy (no. 429a, 76 x 63.5 cm).

  • See also