John Downman was one of the most popular watercolour portraitists of the late 18th century, and this charming depiction of Robert Sterne Tighe and His Daughter Catherine (1790) is part of Worcester City’s museum collection.
Robert-Sterne Tighe was an Irish, pro-Catholic pamphleteer from Mitchelstown, remembered for running as a candidate for the Catholic Party in 1812, as well as being ‘very fond of making speeches’!
This painting shows us a more private moment in the life of a public man. Downman’s delicate use of watercolour, pencil and chalk captures a proud, affectionate moment of a father in his Chippendale armchair with his only daughter, named after his wife Catherine, nestled in the crook of his arm.
Although some of the colours have changed with time, the tenderness of the father-daughter relationship permeates this originally oval portrait, Catherine’s cheeks still shining rosily after 200 years. Sadly, this work can rarely be displayed in order to limit the damage that watercolours suffer from exposure to light.