Sunday, 1 March 2009

Sir Francis Cook (DNB)

Cook, Sir Francis, first baronet (1817–1901), merchant and art collector, was born at Clapham, Surrey, on 3 January 1817, the second son of the seven children of William Cook (1784–1869) of Roydon Hall, Kent, and his wife, Mary Ann (d. 1862), the daughter of John Lainson. William Cook, whose family came from Wymondham in Norfolk, had established a business as a retail linen draper in Clerkenwell which was later moved to Fish Street Hill. By 1819 he had opened a wholesale warehouse at 89 Cheapside, taking into partnership his brother James in 1822 and a Mr Gladstones in 1825. In 1834 the firm moved to 21–3 St Paul's Churchyard, becoming Cook, Son, and Gladstones, and, in 1843, Cook & Son. The concern became one of the largest of its kind in the country, both as a manufacturing and distributing house, conducting a large trade in Great Britain and the colonies in all kinds of silk, linen, woollen, and cotton goods. When William Cook died in 1869 he left a fortune of over £2 million.Francis Cook was educated at Totteridge and at Frankfurt and started work in the print department of his father's firm in 1833, becoming a partner in 1843. On the death of Francis's eldest brother, William, in 1852, the firm assumed the style of Cook, Son & Co. On his father's death Francis Cook became its head. Despite other interests, he actively superintended his business and when in England continued his almost daily attendance in the City until within ten days of his death. He encouraged the employment of commercial representatives who travelled to the localities with samples of the firm's goods, using the extended railway networks. The firm became essentially a distributing, rather than a manufacturing house, and imported increasing quantities of ready-made garments from Germany.In 1841 Cook made his first visit to Portugal, where Robert Lucas, the father of his first wife, Emily Martha (d. 1884), lived in Lisbon; he married Emily on 1 August 1841. He subsequently spent parts of each spring and autumn in Portugal, and in 1856 bought the palace of Monserrate at Cintra, a place redolent with romantic associations. He had the building completely restored and embarked on the development of its magnificent gardens. He gradually acquired vast areas of land near Cintra and renewed the prosperity of the district. In recognition of his services to the area and his benevolence to the poor, in 1864 Cook was created visconde de Monserrate by the king of Portugal.About 1860 Cook acquired Doughty House in Richmond Hill, Surrey, and began to assemble one of the most important collections of pictures formed in England during this period. Although he had acquired some pictures prior to this, the 100 paintings which formed the nucleus of his collection were purchased in 1860 from John Charles Robinson, who continued to advise him on his collection, and who provided him with many of his further acquisitions. Cook purchased works of all the major schools of European painting. He and Robinson shared an enthusiasm for Spanish art, and one of the pictures Cook received in 1860 was Christ Driving the Money-Changers from the Temple by El Greco (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which was followed in 1863 by The Old Woman Cooking Eggs (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). The collection included the Madonna and Child by Lorenzo Monaco (Toledo Museum, Ohio), works by Filippo Lippi, Sodoma, Parmigianino, Sebastiano del Piombo, and Titian, the Three Maries at the Sepulchre by Jan van Eyck (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam), and works by Dürer, Rogier van der Weyden, Berckheyde, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Metsu. The French pictures at Doughty House included the Landscape with Lightning by Francisque Millet (National Gallery, London) and the Portrait of Diane of Poitiers by Clouet. Although there were not many English paintings, Cook owned works by Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Turner. Italian maiolica, bronzes, ivories, tapestries, and antique statuary also formed part of the collection, which was vast in its scope.Cook tried to make his private collection accessible to students. On 16 January 1873 he was elected FSA. His first wife died on 12 August 1884, and on 1 October 1885 he married Tennessee Celeste (1845–1923), daughter of Reuben Buckman (Buck) Claflin of New York, who had established her own career as a writer and banker; she was a prominent advocate of women's rights, a cause with which her sister
writeSeealsoLink('../../view/article/98231/', "Victoria Claflin Woodhull")
Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first female presidential candidate in the United States, was also identified. In 1885 he established Alexandra House as a home for women students of music and other branches of the arts and as a tribute to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), at a cost of £80,000. He was created a baronet on 10 March 1886. Sir Francis died at Doughty House, Richmond Hill, on 17 February 1901, and was buried at Norwood cemetery. He had two sons and a daughter, all children of his first marriage. The main portion of his estate went to his elder son, Frederick Lucas, who succeeded to the baronetcy, part of his collection of works of art going to his younger son, Wyndham Francis.Charles Welch, rev. Helen Davies
The Times (19 Feb 1901) · The Times (13 March 1901) · Daily Telegraph (19 Feb 1901) · Thames Valley Times (20 Feb 1901) · Richmond and Twickenham Times (23 Feb 1901) · Daily News (19 Feb 1901) · Daily Graphic (19 Feb 1901) · The Standard (19 Feb 1901) · Whitehall Review (21 Feb 1901) · Country Life, 9 (1901), 227–8 · Reynold's Weekly Advertiser (24 Feb 1901) · Freelance (2 March 1901) · Burke, Gen. GB (1906) · C. Sebag-Montefiore, ‘Three lost collectors of London’, NACF Magazine, 38 (1988), 50–56 · T. Borenius, J. O. Kronig, and M. W. Brockwell, A catalogue of the paintings at Doughty House, Richmond and elsewhere in the collection of Sir Frederick Cook, ed. H. Cook, 3 vols. (1913) · J. C. Robinson, Memoranda on fifty pictures (1868) · J. C. Robinson, ‘The gallery of pictures by the old masters formed by Francis Cook of Richmond’, Art Journal, new ser., 5 (1885), 133–7 · H. E. Davies, ‘Sir John Charles Robinson (1824–1913): his role as a connoisseur and creator of public and private collections’, DPhil diss., U. Oxf., 1992 · private information (1912) · private information (2004)
NRA, priv. coll.
bust, Queen Alexandra's House, South Kensington, London · bust, Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey · bust, Montserrate, Sintra, Portugal · wood-engraving, repro. in ILN (19 March 1887)
Wealth at death
£1,600,000: probate, 9 March 1901, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
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Charles Welch, ‘Cook, Sir Francis, first baronet (1817–1901)’, rev. Helen Davies, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [, accessed
1 March 2009]
Sir Francis Cook (1817–1901): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32541

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