19th-Century English School

Portrait Of Steel Merchant John Sanderson

19th-Century English School

Portrait Of Steel Merchant John Sanderson

This early 19th-century English oil painting depicts John Sanderson (1777-1852), a steel merchant from Sheffield.

By the end of the 19th century, Sheffield was one of the world’s leading industrial cities and its reputation was built on steel. During the 1840s, it produced around 90% of British steel and around half of such in Europe. Its hills were abundant with coal and other raw materials, while its confluence of rivers provided ample power.

Sanderson Brothers & Co, led by Thomas, John, James and Edward, were integral to this success. And here, in this portrait from around 1838, we see John Sanderson. The brothers were based at Darnall Steelworks and Don Valley Glassworks. Both sites are now scheduled monuments.

John was born in 1777 to Charles and Sarah and spent much of his life at New Hall Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield. Little is known about this busy entrepreneur aside from occasional newspaper reports. In 1836, he was mentioned in a local paper following his connection with Sheffield & Rotherham Bank where he was a director. Interestingly, Thomas Creswick, possibly the father of the artist by the same name, was also a director.

Sanderson Brothers & Co. operated at their Darnall works until the 1930s. In the 1960s they merged with Kayser Ellison to form Sanderson Kayser Ltd. This portrait of John remains a lasting legacy to a company, and indeed a city, that’s rarely given the credit it quite clearly deserves.

Held in a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 26” x 31” / 66cm x 79cm
Year of creation: c. 1838
Labels & Inscriptions: Inscribed on reverse.
Provenance: Private collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined (c.1970). Frame with some light wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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