As with his Bibliophile interests Hibberts art collecting and dealing was on a massive scale.
His interests in the earliest forms of printing which led to his acquiring the earliest printed bibles also led him to collect prints. This collecting was also on an industrial scale which led him in 1809 to consign about 10,000 etchings to Mr T. Philipe for auction starting on the 17 April 1809 and the following 14 days.
Amongst the star lots were 388 Lots of Sir Peter Paul Rubens prints, (days 10, 11, 12, 13,) as described in Basan’s Catalogue, along with many duplicates and latter impressions.
Whilst Rembrandt was well represented with 306 lots over 3 days, arranged according to Daulby’s Catalogue.
Some of the star lots were purchased by Lord Fitzwilliam and form part of the Fitzwilliam collection at Cambridge University. At the time of writing (July 2010) there is an Exhibition titled “Prized Possessions” Lord Fitzwilliam’s album of prints after Adam Elsheimer... showing at the Fitzwilliam Cambridge. Of the 35 prints in the exhibition 34 came from the collection of George Hibbert and are all impressed with his collectors Mark, (bottom Right).
Catalogue of a Superb Assemblage of Prints, formed by a Gentleman of Distinguished taste and Judgment... Mr. T. Philipe 17 April 1809.
Lord Fitzwilliam’s album of prints after Adam Elsheimer. Elenor Ling. Cambridge, 2010.
As with books and prints this was also undertaken or a huge scale but unlike Prints and Books Hibbert actively traded paintings.
In 1798 George Hibbert purchased many of the paintings from the Duc d’Orleans collection that had been recently bought to England. See Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, 1829, vol 1. This sale was organized by Michael Bryant on behalf of the owners however he had no ability or mandate to negotiate prices.
In 1800 and 1801 George Hibbert was active again with the art dealer Michael Bryant and friend and colleague Sir Simon-Haughton Clarke in purchasing many of the choicest paintings from the collection of M. Robit in Paris.
However in 1802 much of these collection had to be sold at a considerable loss. The sale raised the enormous sum of £18,454/16/- However by comparing the catalogues of the various acquisitions against the sale catalogue the massive losses become evident.
1802 was the year that the West India Docks opened and also saw the price of sugar at it’s lowest point for many years.
Parts of the Hibbert art collection was auctioned in the years 1802, 1829, 1833, 1860, 1868, 1902,…two of the Hibbert Leonardo da Vinci drawings are also now in the Fitzwilliam at Cambridge.
In the 1829 Auction, Turner purchased his painting entitled ‘A view of Abingdon’ lot 24 £120/15/- which Hibbert had purchased from Turner.
Hibberts as patrons of the arts
Many of the painters of the day were dependent on the various Hibberts for patronage. Sir Joshua Reynolds was a friend and taught painting to Jane Harry the brilliant illegitimate daughter of Thomas Hibbert (The Eldest) of Jamaica 1710-1780. Gainsborough painted Thomas Hibbert (The Elder) 1744-1819 and his wife of Chalfont Park. The Portrait of ‘Mrs. Thomas Hibbert’ (Sophia Boldero) was purchased by Baron Alphonse de Rothschild for 10,000 Guineas in 1885 and now hangs in the Neue Pinakothek Munich. His Portrait by Gainsborough is in a private collection in the U.K. George Hibbert was a major collector of Gainsborough sketches, some of which have been published. Turner along with John Girtin painted a number of water colours of Chalfont, Turner saying of Girtin “If Girtin had lived then I would have starved”. The Turner and Girtin water colours of Chalfont were shown at The Tate Gallery in 2002. Gainsborough’s Blue boy inspired John Russell R.A. to do the portrait of Thomas Hibbert of Chalfont entirely in blue pastels. The Russell portrait was then engraved by John Raphael Smith and published in 1797 in two versions. John Hoppner painted George and Elizabeth Hibbert at the time of their marriage and again a few years later, Sir Thomas Lawrence was commissioned by the West India Docks to paint a life size George Hibbert in 1811 for the sum of 300 Guineas. P-J Redoute and John Andrews were engaged to draw and paint George Hibberts botanical splendors.
Documents relating to the Artistic collections of George Hibbert:
- Extracts from Memoirs of Painting, by Buchanan vol. 1 detailing the Duc d’Orlean’s collection.
- A Catalogue of the Orleans’ Italian Pictures, which will be exhibited for sale by Private Contract, on Wednesday, the 26th December, 1798, and following days, at Mr. Bryan’s Gallery.
- Catalogue of a Superb Assemblage of Prints and Books of Prints, formed by George Hibbert, sold by auction under the direction of Mr. T. Phillipe, 1809 This was the disposal of approximately 10,000 etchings including 305 Rembrandts and 730 Rubens.
- Christie’s Auction Catalogue, 14th May 1802 This was the disposal of the joint art collections of George Hibbert and Sir Simon Horton Clarke. Including many works from the Duc d’Orlean’s collection.
- Catalogues of the disposal of the George Hibbert collections in 1829, 1833, 1860, 1868, 1902