Field, Henry William (McKechnie Section 7)

See also Section Two and entries on Field, John, Miers, William, and Miers [William] and Field in this Section and Section Two

Recorded by Jackson (The History of Silhouettes). I have placed the main entry on Field in this Section because the only extant silhouettes signed with his initial (the first only) as well as his surname are those painted on ivory. Field appears to have painted silhouettes on ivory for the partnership formed by William Miers and John Field (Henry Field's father), also for William Miers after the ending of this partnership; readers are therefore referred above to the relevant entries in this Section.

Henry William Field was the fourth child and second son of the great profilist, John Field (see Section Two), and his wife Mary. According to the Field family Bible, Henry was born at 25 minutes past 5 o'clock on 17 April 1810. At the time, his father was possibly a tenant at 25 Strand, London. Records show that Henry William was twice married. His first wife was Eliza Leech, whom he wed on 9 September 1841 at St George's church, Hanover Square. Eliza died of consumption in April 1853 at the age of forty-nine, 'after a most protracted illness, borne with exemplary patience, most deeply mourned' (according to the Field family Bible). The family Bible also gives the date (5 March 1857) of Henry Field's second marriage: to Mary Ann Gearing, second daughter of John Brooks Gearing and Sarah Ann Ancel; he married her at St Martin's in the Fields.

There were sons of both marriages. The eldest, Henry John, born on 29 November 1843, calls for mention; he eventually became a photographer and I own a photograph (illustrated) of Henry Field taken by him. Henry John's eldest son, William Henry (1880-1967), whom I met, and his widow, provided me with much new information about the Field family. (It was they who showed me the Field family Bible, as well as a prayer book which had belonged to John Field's wife Mary). A number of silhouettes of members of the Field family, illustrated by Jackson, were owned by a grandson of Henry Field by his second wife.

Henry showed artistic talent at an early age; the exhibits listed below were shown at the Royal Academy during a period when he was aged between twelve and seventeen. He is in the list (taken from the original Royal Academy catalogues) as an `Honorary Exhibitor', which indicates that he was never a student at the Academy Schools.

1822 No. 953 R. Gott, Esq.

No. 957 Portrait of a Gentleman

1823 No. 1036 Medallic Portrait of J. Fentiman, Esq.

1824 No. 941 Portrait of an Officer

1825 No. 940 Medallic Portrait of a Medical Gentleman

1826 No. 936 Medallic Portrait of a Scientific Gentleman

1827 No. 1043 Portrait of J. F., Esq. [possibly either the artist's father or J. Fentiman]

In his entry on Field, Graves includes a note 'Last Queen Assay Master'. In the 'official' section of the Post Office Directories, Field is listed as holding a post at the Royal Mint from at least as early as 1843. His first post was as Probationer Assayer: from c. 1848 he was Resident Assayer. In his later years, as Resident Master (Graves gave him the wrong title) he modernised some of the weighing apparatus at the mint.

On Field's one surviving trade label (a fragment) is the phrase `late of Miers and Field’, from which it is clear that Field had been, with his father, in the Miers studio at 111 Strand, London, during the 1820s. He appears to have acquired proficiency as an artist in metalwork at an early age, as the entries for `medallic portraits' listed above suggest. At 111 Strand he no doubt assisted in the frame manufactory in the engraving of seals and other metal and jewellery work, as well as, apparently, in work on silhouettes. Some of his seal impressions are illustrated. Mrs W. H. Field, widow of his grandson, owns an oak box which originally held at least a dozen metal trays of these impressions.


There were fifteen to twenty impressions on each tray. The trays were lined with blue paper, and at either end of each thin brown silk loops were attached for lifting. A pencilled inscription in Field's hand beneath each tray showed the position of each seal. I own two of these trays. A few impressions in them have been painted in gold or copper leaf. Many of the seals are Classical in design and bear inscriptions in English, Latin, or French. There are minute pencilled inscriptions (whose meaning I do not know) beside some of them.

The first of the many entries for the Field family in London directories (‘Profilist to Their Majesties', presumably referring to John Field) was sent in from 11 Strand for publication in the 1832 Post Office Trades Directory. The 1833 edition of this directory lists both father and son at 11 Strand (‘Field, J. and Field, H. W., Profilists to Her Majesty'); but according to the contemporary rate books (which are more reliable than the directories of the period), the Field family moved to the house at 2 Strand in 1833 and Henry Field paid the rates for it from this year.


We can conclude therefore, that the Fields used the address at 11 Strand (virtually the same address as 47 Craven Street; see John Field, Section Two) from 1830 until the end of 1832, and then moved to 2 Strand.

From 1834 onwards, directory entries including Henry Field's name were sent in from 2 Strand, at which address John Field died in 1848. This house had previously been 2 Charing Cross, and during the 1780s was occupied by Henry G. Vigne (see Section Two); the street numbering was altered in 1791. The entries sent in from 2 Strand are as follows:

1834-36 J. Field, and H. W. Field, Profilists.

Thos. Williams, music seller [probably a tenant]

1840-48 J. Field, Profilist

H. W. Field, Ormulu miniature frame maker.

Thos. Williams, Music-seller.

1850-65 H. W. Field, Seal engraver and jeweller

1866-75 H. W. Field, Seal engraver and jeweller

Toll Reform Office

Carriage Society of Great Britain.

After 1875 there are no further entries for this address, since the house was apparently demolished in that year to make way for the construction of what is now Northumberland Avenue. In the Post Office Directory for the years 1878-80 Field is listed as a jeweller at 88 Newman Street.

It is evident from the directory entries that in later life Henry Field specialized in the making of ormulu frames for miniatures; from 1840 he is listed as `ormulu frame-maker', and perhaps painted few silhouettes.

I have heard that at some time in later life Henry Field managed a boarding house (possibly he was the owner) at 'The Triangle' in Bournemouth. Field died at Walton Road, East Molesey, on 18 June 1882, aged seventy-two. He was described on his death certificate as `stationer'.

A few extant profiles are signed 'H. Field'. Two are illustrated; one of these bears the date (1837) after the signature.

1466, 1468

Other profiles, signed 'Field' in what appears to be the same hand, must be presumed to be by Henry Field, not by his father.

Field produced both black and bronzed work on ivory; I should like to discuss each type by comparison with John Field's work. On the black work, detail outside the main body of the profile is painted with less clarity than that seen on profiles by John Field. The painting of the shirt-frill worn by `Grandfather Harris' (the artist's grandfather on his mother's side), in one of the illustrated silhouettes, is not as skilled as that of John Field. One stylistic difference between the work of the two men is that whereas most of John Field's work (and nearly all of it painted after 1800) shows a bust-line that terminates with a pronounced dip at the back, on Henry Field's work the dip is almost always even more pronounced.

On Henry Field's bronzed silhouettes, the strokes or gilding are fewer, and less fine, than those on his father's work. Hair is not drawn with the exquisite care shown by John Field. The gold on all work appears slightly coarser in quality, and seems to have been less precisely applied on Henry Field's work than on his father's. A gathered sleeve, for instance, is shown by only a few strokes, whereas John Field would build up such a detail with careful elegance. As on the black so on bronzed examples by Henry Field the pronounced dip at the back of the bust-line is seen. On some of these examples the base colour is a very dark, almost blackish brown.

Some early silhouettes by Henry Field, produced 1823-1829 at 111 Strand, bear trade labels of [William] Miers and [John] Field (See Section Four). Most of these are either painted in black on plaster, or are bronzed on ivory. Later silhouettes on card or ivory bear the labels of John Field, used either at 11 or 2 Strand. Only one trade label of Henry Field himself is known. Mr F. Gordon Roe (Women in Profile) states that he has seen the fragment of a label on the back of a papier mâché frame: 'H. W. FIELD late of MIERS AND FIELD - ' The text breaks off, and we cannot know whether the missing portion describes the artist as frame-maker or as profilist. Since silhouettes painted by Henry Field during the 1830s bore labels with the name of John Field, who is listed in directories as a profilist until his death in 1848, it seems possible that Henry Field used his own label after his father's death, when he was working as a frame-maker and described himself as such. Since William Miers was still working in the trade at that date, the name of Miers would still have been known to the public and would have been valuable as advertisement.

The signatures of father and son naturally show differences. (Examples of Henry Field's signature are illustrated). One difference is that whereas John Field rarely crossed the 't' of Strand, his son appears always to have done so. Also, John Field, unlike his son, sometimes wrote his surname with a small f.

Ills. 54, 1463-1477