The sixteen men in these little portraits all worked for Francis Crawshay (1811-1878), a reluctant industrialist, who maintained unusually close personal relationships with his employees. In the mid-1830s, Francis was in charge of the Hirwaun Ironworks, acquired by his father, the great ironmaster William Crawshay II, in 1819, and of the family’s recently enlarged tinplate works at Treforest, near Pontypridd.
The group includes both skilled and unskilled workers as well as managers, and all are depicted as standing figures in a landscape, in working clothes and with the tools of their trade. Although the wealthy sometimes commissioned portraits of their domestic servants, no other such images of industrial workers are known.
The pictures are believed to be by William Jones Chapman (c.1808-after 1871), a travelling portrait and sporting painter who worked mostly in Wales and the border counties. The group passed by descent in the Crawshay family, and may originally have been even larger.
Attributed to William Jones Chapman (c.1808-after 1871), sixteen portraits of employees of Francis Crawshay (1811-1878) at the Hirwaun Iron Works and the Treforest Tinplate works, about 1835-40.
Given by Miss Sylvia Crawshay, 2012