The People of Gibraltar
1774 - George Carter - 'Left its Slime and no More'

In 1774, the English artist George Carter set off on a trip to the continent. He was by all accounts, already an experienced traveller and could speak several languages including French and Italian. As a companion he took with him a fellow artist, the American John Singleton Copley. ( see LINK ) Although the relationship between the two at the start of the trip was a friendly one it very soon became apparent that they were incompatible as travelling companions. 

Carter's diary is full of references to his irritation. Copley, he wrote,  argued about everything, hated the French, their food, their  wine - even the quality of the wood they used to keep themselves warm. He was argumentative and rude with a  tendency towards  hypochondria. The dislike was obviously mutual. In a letter to his mother Copley  wrote that Carter was ' a sort of snail which crawls over a man in his sleep, and left its slime and no more.'

A decade later the Great Siege of Gibraltar ( see LINK ) came to an end.  From a British point of view the success of this particular battle was a badly needed boost to moral after their recent and disastrous loss of the American colonies. At least one consequence of this was a surfeit of paintings and engravings depicting the Siege - in particular the dramatic scenes showing  the destruction of the  'floating batteries'. ( see LINK

Untitled but dedicated to the main protagonists ( 1783 - William Hamilton - Archibald Robertson  )

Untitled but dedicated to the main protagonists of the Great Siege ( 1784 -  James Fittler - Richard Patton )

'The Scene before Gibraltar on the Morning of the 14th September  1782'   (  1789 - W. Jeffreys - John Emes  )

Inspired by these attempts or perhaps because he had already decided that he too wanted to pay homage to the victorious garrison, George Carter set off to Gibraltar in order  to make live portrait studies of all the principal officers, as well as discussing the event with some of those who had actually taken part, including Sir Roger Curtis, ( see LINK ) commander of the marines in Gibraltar at the time. 

Sir Roger Curtis gallantly exerting himself  . . .  ( 1802 - J. Statford )

Labelled drawing of the main protagonists  ( 1784 - George Carter )

Major General Sir William Green - the man mainly responsible for the formidable defences of Gibraltar during the Greta Siege  ( S.C. Smith -  Copy of an original by George Carter ) 

That same year he painted a small study in gouache of the overall design of what he intended to the final painting. For unknown reasons General Eliott was given a pink jacket. It is quite obvious from this preliminary work that Carter intended a painting that would be - from as design point of view at any rate - almost exactly the same as Copley's.

Study - Gouache on millboard - 419mm x 559mm - held by the National  Portrait Gallery    ( 1785 - George Carter )

Unidentified British officers planning the Sortie - another well known event that took place during the Great Siege ( see LINK ) ( 1785 - George Carter)

The finished painting, together with the key to the portraits of the various people who appear on it was intended by Carter to be one of the definitive records of the event. He was out of luck. About six years later In 1791 John Singleton Copley finally exhibited the work commissioned by the London City Council. A larger and rather more imposing picture, it was also extraordinarily similar in its overall design. It would also prove to be by far the most popular painting depicting the Great Siege.

'The Siege of Gibraltar'   ( 1785 - George Carter )

'The Great Siege and Relief of Gibraltar'   ( 1791 - John Singleton Copley )