Watercolours and Drawings: 18th to 21st Century
“This exhibition is the third to be brought to Bodelwyddan Castle from Hastings by Caroline Gee, a Sussex art dealer who has been specializing in Watercolours and Drawings for over thirty years. It will follow a similar format as her previous exhibitions, beginning with the early years of the watercolour school in Britain, moving through the early nineteenth century, the ‘Golden Age’ of British watercolour, and finishing with delightful twentieth Century examples.” Watercolour is an interesting subject for me as it is an area I would like to develop and explore. As an expert in that area Caroline Gee would be an ideal candidate for information! Caroline Gee Caroline Gee, a dealer in early English and 20th century watercolours and drawings, is particularly excited by the potential of watercolours from the first half of the 19th century by John Varley and David Cox. Both were among the earliest members of the Old Watercolour Society, the founding of which in 1804 saw watercolours starting to be considered an art form in their own right. She says: “In the late 19th century, Cox was considered to be on a par with Constable and was only marginally less expensive than Turner. So what’s on display? ” Featured works on display include some of the most prominent artists who exhibited with the Old Watercolour Society (formed 1804), among them David Cox, Peter de Wint and John Varley. The Victorian Age is mainly represented by those artists who followed in the tradition of the early landscape painters, and will include two large and splendid views of North Wales by William Evans of Bristol. In the twentieth century section there will be another group of the wildlife drawings by Eileen Soper which so delighted visitors last time.” I have to be honest, I am not very familiar with these Artists! So I am going to do a little research 🙂
A Short History of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours
“The beginnings of the RI can be traced back to 1807 with the formation of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours. The New Society was inaugurated as an alternative to an existing society (now the RWS) which had been founded in 1804 and which exhibited only the work of its own members. From the start the New Society showed the work of non-members’ alongside that of members, a policy still followed today. Both societies were started at a time when the Royal Academy was refusing to accept watercolours as a suitable medium for serious artistic expression despite its use by many highly regarded painters including Cotman, Turner, Cox, de Wint, Bonington and many others. The New Society changed its name in 1808 to the Associated Artists in Water Colours. The exhibitions attracted some of the foremost watercolourists of the time including: David Cox, Peter De Wint, William Blake, Samuel Prout, Paul Sandby and Joseph Powell. Even so financial problems caused them to fold in 1812.” (www.royalinstituteofpaintersinwatercolours.org/)
How amazing is it to look back to how, just one aspect of Art, was used? And how it has developed over the many years until now! I love how all the paintings in the picture are all bunched together across the walls.
David Cox 1783–1859
“Cox was born at Deritend, near Birmingham, the son of blacksmith. In around 1798, aged fifteen, he was apprenticed to aminiature painter named Fieldler. Following Fieldler’s suicide, Cox was apprenticed around 1800 as assistant to a theatre scene-painter named De Maria. In 1804 he took work as a scene-painter with Astley’s Theatre and moved to London. By 1808 he had abandoned scene-painting, taking water-colour lessons with John Varley. In 1805 he made the first of his many trips to Wales, with Charles Barber; his earliest dated watercolours are from this year. Throughout his lifetime he made numerous sketching tours to the home counties, North Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Devon. Cox exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1805. His pictures never sold for high prices, and his earned his living chiefly as a drawing-master. Through his first pupil, Col. the Hon. H. Windsor (the future Earl of Plymouth), who engaged him in 1808, Cox acquired several other aristocratic pupils. He wrote several books, including Ackermann’s New Drawing Book (1809); A Series of Progressive Lessons (1811); Treatise on Landscape Painting (1813); and Progressive Lessons on Landscape (1816). The ninth and last edition of his Series of Progressive Lessons was published in 1845.”
I live in a small village right next to Rhyl, So to see a painting from the 1800’s, of Rhyl Beach, is amazing. I think the sky looks quite realistic but I get a grass feel instead of sand. I can see it is sand and the longer I look I wonder if it is windy right there by the sea and so the sand is moving?
“The son of a Dutch-American father and Scottish mother, Peter De Wint drew on the British landscape for his subject matter. Whilst working as an apprentice to John Raphael-Smith, De Wint met William Hilton, who was to become a life-long friend. Stylistically, De Wint was influenced by John Varley and Thomas Girtin whose sweeping brushstrokes and subdued blocks of colour were introduced to him by his patron Dr. Monroe. During the summer months, De Wint visited his patrons at their country estates in order to sketch the landscape and work as a tutor to the children of the family. He was to teach throughout his career in order to supplement his income and this resulted in numerous pupils working in his style. “(www.bonhams.com) Although this is a very beautiful piece of work, painted by a very talented Artist, to me, it feels old and the colours feel dark and dull. Maybe Peter de Wint actually used colours the colours of what it actually looked like on that day? I do like the visual lines running and swirling through the grass and I think the tiny detail of the people and buildings is very clever.
JOHN VARLEY OWS (1778-1842)
“John Varley was a central figure for the watercolourists of the early nineteenth century. A founder member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and its most prolific exhibitor, he was also a highly significant teacher of both professionals and amateurs, and a writer of instruction manuals. He encouraged his students to paint in the open air, but also promoted the Picturesque theory of adapting nature to the requirements of composition. Of Lincolnshire descent, John Varley was born in Hackney, Middlesex, on 17 August 1778. He and his brothers ‘were said to have been born at the Blue Posts (formerly the Templars’ house), after their father had converted it to private use, although the building was still an inn in 1785’ (T F T Baker (ed), A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney, London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1995, pages 10-14).”
Whilst scanning through the Chris Beetles website, this is the painting, from Varley, that first caught my eyes. Varley has used dark and dull colours as I said about Peter de Wint’s piece, but he has added contrasting colours to the dark greens with brighter yellow tones. And the, as a further compliment, he has added a soft toned sky which I think makes the trees and land stand out very well. WILLIAM EVANS
“William Evans of Eton (1798-1877) was a late-Georgian and early-Victorian landscape artist of real distinction, who painted exclusively in watercolour. Further qualification is needed, however, to explain why he was remarkable. Numerous watercolour artists augmented their income by teaching privately, including his own teachers William Collins and Peter de Wint, as well as his rival at the Old Watercolour Society, JD Harding. But as a Drawing Master teaching at Eton, then the premier public school, he stood above most of his peers, occupying an office which had been held by that innovative teacher Alexander Cozens in the previous century. He came second in a painting dynasty which through four generations lasted over 120 years.
He was the ardent supporter of institutions, both of his own school and of the Old Watercolour Society, where he never quite achieved official recognition. His signature, William Evans of Eton, was developed after 1845 when another member with the same name joined the Society. Throughout his life he remained loyal to watercolour painting, finding that the medium was capable of everything he wished to express, and considering those who experimented in oil renegades. His quarrels became bitter and absolute, and few of his artistic friendships remained intact. It was a period when the inventive quality of the British School of watercolour painting gradually ossified, and critics such as Ruskin damned the annual formula exhibition pictures which were sure of their market. By the 1850s William was himself producing ambitious, large pictures which lack the freshness of those painted in the 1830s and 1840s; but he reacted with a rush of inspiration to the south of France in a group of pictures painted in 1867-8, which have since been lost. As ill health inhibited his output, he became more and more involved with the administration 0f the Old Watercolour Society and was one of those who insured it retained its elite exclusive character, keeping out the more progressive ideas emerging in the mid-century.”
It feels like there is a lot of white area in this painting, in everything there is white space. It feels a little hollow to me. I do love the circles that make up the trees on the left.
“the enchanting world of the Famous Five illustrator – Eileen Soper“ “Eileen Soper sought success at an early age, and was considered a child prodigy when she was the youngest artist ever to exhibit her work at The Royal Academy in London – at the ripe age of just 15. She was fantastically well received. But Eileen was not new to art at that age – she had experienced a lifetime of top tutoring from her father, George Soper, also a well-accomplished artist.
Eva, Eileen’s elder sister by less than two years, was a skilled potter, producing many designs for Royal Worcester – whilst Eileen and their father were more focused on etching and painting. Eileen produced around 180 different etchings, two of which were bought by Queen Mary. Her set of etchings of a specific group of children are particularly popular. The same set of children appear numerous times, enjoying different games and activities, and all these drawings were produced during the 1920’s, but they are still hugely well-liked today.”
The Famous Five & Eileen Soper
The Famous Five are among Enid Blyton’s best-loved creations and countless children have gone adventuring with them since the publication of Five on a Treasure Islandin 1942, the first of twenty-one full-length adventures and numerous short stories. Enid Blyton’s original books were charmingly illustrated by Eileen Soper but there have been numerous interpretations and adaptations of the Famous Five over the years including continuation novels written by French author Claude Voilier, cinema films, stage plays, two television series and, more recently, a Disney cartoon series featuring the children of the Famous Five.
THE BOAT SWING
This illustration also moves me, the child really is sad about her broken doll and Eileen Soper has illustrated that very well. I really like her use of sketchy line work and again although this is not a moving picture it still gives the viewer a feel that the image is alive. Round Up That’s all I have time for today but I hope I have given a good insight to the exhibition now showing at Bodelwyddan castle! There are always exciting pieces being shown so be sure to keep an eye out for new exhibitions! keep a look out either by facebook, twitter or via their website!