A collection of over 150 oil paintings owned by Gonville & Caius can be viewed on the Art UK archive - an online catalogue dedicated to opening images of art in Britain to public view. Artworks including a striking painting of Professor Stephen Hawking, a Fellow of Caius for over 52 years before his death in 2018, a portrait by Joshua Reynolds and some rare and impressive portraits of Tudor women are among the highlights of the College's wide-ranging collection.
Art UK, a charity previously known as the Public Catalogue Foundation, was founded to enable the public to see images of all the approximately 210,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the United Kingdom. Originally made accessible through a series of catalogues, the images are now on a website, allowing them to be easily searched and categorised. Every painting in the UK's national collections is included, ranging from art in national and local museums and council collections and paintings in universities to bishops' palaces of the Church of England, hospitals and properties owned by the National Trust. More recently, the archive has expanded to cover some private institutions such as the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Works by some 40,000 painters held in over 3,000 collections are now on the website.
The Caius collection was launched with an accompanying essay by Dr James Fox, a History of Art Fellow and the College's Keeper of Portraits, who acknowledges that "portraits of old men wearing robes" are a dominant theme. "If truth be told, even I as the College's Keeper of Portraits sometimes find them hard to tell apart," Dr Fox admits, but adds: "Nevertheless, there are some real treats to be found. We own fine pictures by Peter Lely, John Opie, Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney, all of whom were important figures in the history of British art. We also own an evocative portrait of the young(ish) Stephen Hawking that tends to get our visitors excited. But though the majority of our sitters are male, we are also lucky to own some superb Tudor portraits of women."
Most remarkable among these is a painting of Joyce (or Jocosa) Frankland: a woman who, Dr Fox notes, "was as generous as she was unfortunate. Frankland didn’t only outlive two husbands but also her only son, who was killed in a riding accident in 1581. That tragedy flung her into the pits of despair, until the Dean of St Paul’s offered her some advice. ‘Comfort yourself good Mrs Frankland, and I will tell you how you shall have 20 good sons to comfort you in these your sorrows… If you would found certain fellowships and scholarships to be bestowed upon studious young men.. they would be in love towards you as dear children’."
Frankland followed the advice, and went on to make hugely generous donations to Caius, as well as to other colleges in Cambridge and Oxford, becoming one of the great female philanthropists of the sixteenth century. Her portrait hangs in pride of place above High Table in the College Dining Hall, together with pictures of her parents, Robert and Joan Trappes.
Choosing his three favourite works, Dr Fox picks William Orpen’s magnetic portrait of Sir Hugh Kerr Anderson; an anonymous seventeenth-century portrait of the great Caian scientist William Harvey, and Paul Gopal-Chowdhury’s austere portrait of Michael Oakeshott, the great political philosopher.
View the Caius paintings on the ArtUK archive.