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British artist illustrates partners of popular Scottish trading company

"Taipans on the 48th Floor" by John Wonnacott
"Taipans on the 48th Floor" by John Wonnacott
Chambers Fine Art

A collection of detailed portraits and landscape paintings by one of Great Britain’s leading artists is one of the major highlights of the New York art scene this month. In his latest show The Jardine Matheson Commission and City Views, John Wonnacott focuses on the Scottish Keswick family and their partnership with Jardine Matheson & Co., a trading company based in the Far East founded by Scottish businessmen William Jardine and James Matheson in 1832. Nearly 200 years later, the tradition of family and partnership lives on with the Keswicks (cousins of the Jardines) taking over Jardine Matheson & Co. and making it one of the most successful trading companies of East Asia.

In one work titled Taipans on the 48th Floor Wonnacott illustrates Simon Keswick, Lord Rodney Leach, Sir Henry Keswick, and fellow business man Robert Kwok sitting together in an office in Hong Kong with circular windows overlooking the harbor. The reflections of light shining through the windows are seen on the ceiling and on the paintings hanging on the walls. Taipans on the 48th Floor was loosely based on George Chinnery’s 1842 painting On Dents Veranda that also featured a group of businessmen sitting in a living room with the light shining through an open window.

Wonnacott has also painted portraits of each of these men individually. Robert Kwok at the Jardine House illustrates Mr. Kwok sitting in front of a circular window offering a clear view of the harbor. On the right side of him, a painting of a green parrot is clearly visible, and also appears in Taipans on the 48th Floor. Similarly, Sir Henry Keswick at Lombard Street, features Sir Henry closely studying a journal or catalog as he sits in his office overlooking the city street. Wonnacott also offers landscape paintings overlooking the city such as The Hong Kong Club from the Mandarin, and There was a Green Hill from Jardine House.

At Chambers Fine Art, 522 W.19th St., through Jul. 5. The gallery is open Tues.—Sat. from 10 a.m.—6 p.m.