George Byam

1734 - 1779


Subject of Thomas Gainsborough's George Byam with his wife Louisa and their daughter Selina c. 1762, reworked by 1766, now owned by the Andrew Brownsword Arts Foundation and as of 2006 'on long-term loan to the Holburne Museum, Bath.'

  1. 'The image shows George Byam (1734-1779) with his wife Louisa (died 1779) and their daughter Selina (1760-1846). Byam was a member of a family long established in Antigua; in the early 1760s they were among the wealthiest sugar plantation owners on that island, their 366 acres worked by 132 slaves. Byam himself spent almost all his adult life in Antigua, where he was born and died; and it has been observed that Gainsborough's portrait is in effect "a portrait of a plantation owner on holiday" (Bath, 2001 p. 6). He appears to have come to Britain shortly before the outbreak of war with France in 1758 and to have married Louisa Bathurst soon after his arrival. She was the eighth daughter of Peter Bathurst (1687-1748) by his second wife, Lady Selina Shirley. Her father had been a long-serving MP in the interest of his brother, Lord Bathurst. Byam married into a family of consequence (Bath 2001, p. 18).' The painting was probably done at Bath (Sloman 2002, p. 233, note 53). The portrait did not initially include Selina, according to technical examination. Selina was the eldest and only surviving of their four daughters and one son (George, d. 1774); she married the Rev. William Hony of Liskeard Cornwall, and the picture passed by descent through their son Archdeacon William Hony to his grandson Henry C. Hony; presented by him to Marlborough College 1955; Marlborough College sale, Christie's, London 10/06/1999 lot 9; sold by private treaty to The Andrew Brownsword Arts Foundation.


  1. SM [Dr Simon MacDonald], 'Thomas Gainsborough....'George Byam with his wife Louisa and their daughter Selina', in Citizens and Kings, portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830 Royal Academy of the Arts (2007), p. 321. We are grateful to Peter Sawbridge of the Royal Academy for permission to reproduce excerpts from the catalogue entry and to Dr Simon MacDonald of McGill University, Montreal and previously of University College London for drawing our attention to the exhibition catalogue and to this entry.

Further Information

Louisa Bathurst
Selina; Elizabeth; and others

Relationships (1)

Grandson → Grandfather