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Correspondence from Thomas Lister Parker, William Henry Betty and John Opie, RA, relating to the exhibition of portraits of Master Betty by Opie and

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 27 of 137 in this group

Reference code

RAA/SEC/2/27

Title

Correspondence from Thomas Lister Parker, William Henry Betty and John Opie, RA, relating to the exhibition of portraits of Master Betty by Opie and

Date

Mar 1805 - Apr 1805

Level

Sub-series

Extent & medium

17 pieces

Previous reference codes

Two letters B 29, 1043, 1197, member's file (John Opie)

Historical Background

Council minutes 4 - 17 April 1805 provide the background to the correspondence. The child actor William Henry West Betty first appeared on stage at the age of 11. He specialised in Shakespearean roles and was seen in London for the first time on 1 December 1804. His popularity earned him the sobriquet of the Young Roscius. There are frequent references to him in the diaries of Joseph Farington. The correspondence relates to the right of Opie and Northcote to exhibit two large portraits of Master Betty in the exhibition of 1805. At the meeting of Council of 4 April 1805, following W. H. Betty's demand that Opie's portrait be removed from the exhibition, John Hoppner moved that the proprietor of a work could not in all cases claim a right to withdraw the same when the exhibition of the work had been insisted upon by a member of the RA. The motion was carried. Opie then attended the meeting of 17 April 1805 to explain his statement in a letter of [17] April 1805 that he had high legal authority to back his claim to go on exhibiting the work. However, Mr Heath stated at the same meeting that T. L. Parker had obtained a legal opinion that an injunction could be obtained to prevent the Academy from exhibiting the picture.

Arrangement

The letters were mixed in three separate bundles. Not all the items are dated, and several letters were written on the same day. The correspondence has therefore been placed in approximate chronological order.