January 23, 2012
Turner and His Contemporaries, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria, U.K.
12/1/12 – 14/4/12
The full title of this exhibition is Turner and His Contemporaries: The Hickman-Bacon Watercolour Collection and it’s draw is almost as much about the collecting abilities of Sir Hickman-Bacon as it is about the work being exhibited. Well that’s not really true but Sir Hickman-Bacon (1855 – 1945) amassed a truly extraordinary collection of British watercolours in the early part of the 20th century. It remains the largest collection still held in private hands and the most the wealthy landowner ever paid for a watercolour was £315 for a Turner. In fact most of his acquisitions were had for much less; while completed Turners were selling for £1000+, Hickman-Bacon often paid around £10 for sketches and the like.
Boat and Red Buoy in Rough Seas
The largest room will in fact be devoted to J. M. W. Turner, demonstrating Hickman-Bacon’s attraction to Turner’s work at the time and also perhaps the ease with which it was possible to buy cheap Turner work before the First World War.
It’s not just about Turner though and the entire exhibition is a demonstration of the best of British watercolour from that period. John Sell Cotman, John Robert Cozens and Peter DeWint are among those whose work will be shown and perhaps above all others Tom Girtin. Girtin died when he was only 27 but was regarded by his contemporaries as the most talented of them all. Turner said of him: “Had Tom Girtin lived, I should have starved.”
Thomas Girtin - View on the Wharfe
Hickman-Bacon was an interesting collector in that he rarely displayed his acquisitions, even privately. Most of the time the work was kept stored away in dark places, meaning it dodged the exposure to daylight which can mar many of the great art works. It’s a fantastically preserved collection for that reason and if Kendal seems like a long way to go, it will be worth it when you get there.
April 14, 2011
In a number of our posts, and most latterly in our biography of Paul Sandby, we have made reference to The Royal Academy of Arts so we thought it would be useful to provide a bit of background to this independent and privately funded institution.
The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 by a group of leading artists and architects under the patronage of King George III. The first Academy was housed in Pall Mall up until 1771 when it moved to Somerset House. It was here until 1837 when the British government took over the rooms for office space and it was therefore forced to share premises with the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The Academy moved to it’s current location of Burlington House in 1868.
Despite being under Royal Patronage, the Academy did not receive any state subsidies and was very much under the control of the 34 founder Members who essentially established it as a school to train artists in drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture. Amongst the famous watercolourists who trained at the Royal Academy are William Blake and J.M.W. Turner.
One of the other founding principles of the Royal Academy was to provide a venue for exhibitions that would be open to the public and give an opportunity for artists to sell their work to finance their training. Now known as the ‘Summer Exhibition’ , it is held every year (and has been without interruption since 1769) from May to August and has become an important feature of the art world, both nationally and internationally, attracting around 10,000 pieces of work.
Sir Joshua Reynolds - First President of the Royal Academy
Today, the Academy continues to aspire, in the words of its eighteenth century founders, ‘to promote the arts of design’. All of the Academicians are still practising painters, sculptors, engravers, printmakers, draughtsmen and architects and are elected by their peers. The current President of the Academy is the architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and he is only the 25th President in a period of spanning nearly 250 years. Current Members include Norman Foster, Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor.
Categories: Exhibitions, Watercolour Facts.
March 23, 2011
John Sell Cotman was a watercolourist and etcher who was born in Norwich, England in May 1782.
He left Norwich at the tender age of 16 to study in London, where he became a member of Dr Monro’s circle and met the painters J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Girtin (both of whom we have previously featured on this website).
Despite having very little formal training in art, by 1800 he was already exhibiting watercolours at the annual Royal Academy exhibition and between 1800 and 1805, he produced some of his best work. In fact his paintings from this period, including the celebrated ‘Greta Bridge’ (circa 1805) are considered to be amongst the finest English landscape paintings of the time as they include some great examples of the classic English watercolour technique and show remarkable boldness and sureness of hand.
Unfortunately his work did not bring him much success at the time, so in 1806 he returned to Norwich, where he became one of the the most important representatives of the Norwich School. His work not only depicted the local scenery but also that of France, where he made several trips to and his style of painting in his later years became much more flamboyant. It is thought that he mixed flour or rice paste with his watercolours to produce an effect similar to that of oil painting. In fact, during his career, he did also use the medium of oil to paint in, but this area of his work has definitely been overshadowed by his great achievement as a watercolourist.
In 1834 he moved back to London where he became professor of drawing at King’s College which he was delighted with as he was struggling to make a living at this time just through his paintings and he had found himself in debt.
He held this position at King’s College until his death in July 1842 and for most of the twentieth century, John Sell Cotman even surpassed Turner’s popularity as being the most widely admired English watercolourist.
Categories: European Artists.
January 7, 2011
Whilst Joseph Mallord William Turner (or J.M.W. Turner for short) is perhaps more renowned nowadays for his oil paintings, he is also regarded as one of the founders of English watercolour landscape painting. His entire life was devoted to art; he had the rare honour of his work being exhibited when he was still a teenager and unlike many other artists of his time, he was successful throughout his whole career.
He was born in London on April 23rd 1775. His mother died when he was still very young and Turner received very little education apart from the study of art. At the age of thirteen he was making drawings at home and selling them from his father’s barber shop window. He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art schools in 1789 at the tender age of fourteen and as we have already mentioned, one of his watercolour’s was exhibited in the Summer Exhibition of 1790 after only one year’s study.
By the time he had reached eighteen years of age, he had built up such a fine reputation that he had his own studio and print sellers were keen to buy his work to reproduce.
Though all of his early works were watercolour landscapes, he was painting in oils by 1796 and in 1802, when he was just twenty seven, he became a full member of the Royal Academy.
Strange Sun After Rain
Having been trained academically, Turner seemed to spend the rest of his life developing a painting technique all of his own. Instead of merely recording factually what he saw, he relentlessly studied nature and light and translated scenes into an expression of his own romantic feelings.
As he grew older, Turner became quite an eccentric and allowed no one to watch him while he painted. He continued to hold exhibitions, but was reluctant to sell his paintings; if he was persuaded to sell one, he was known to track it down and repurchase it! Upon his death in 1851 he left nearly 30,000 pieces of work to his country.
Turner’s reputation is as one of the most important British painters of all time and he remains a towering figure of British art, 150 + years after his death and his work is more popular than ever now.
Blue Rigi: Lake of Lucerne
Categories: European Artists.