Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S.

British Women Artists

An interview with Karen Taylor by The Open Art Fair.

Karen Taylor, specialist in British art of all periods, primarily works on paper, has always had an interest in women artists. Karen started her career in Sotheby's British Drawings department, and witnessed the disparity between the number of women and men artists in the watercolours catalogued.

Read the full interview at The Open Art Fair website.

L. Knight. Branch. KT-07

Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
Study of the branch of a tree

Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)

The Bologne Packet

The Bologne Packet

This unpublished and exceptionally well-preserved drawing of the deck of the Boulogne packet boat shows some interesting characters passing the time during the crossing, two reading books, and attests to Rowlandson’s facility with pen and wash. The ladies wear the lampshade hats, voluminous skirts and elaborate fichus fashionable in the late 1780s. He made several other drawings of the deck of a packet, evidently a good place to sketch.

Henry Angelo’s Reminiscences records a summer visit in 1787 to France organised by J.R. Smith, ‘a party having been made between him, Rowlandson, Westmacott (father of the present eminent artist), and Chasemore… to go to Paris, a large party were previously invited- Peter Pindar (Doctor Wolcott), Morland, Rowlandson myself, & c.- to finish what Burgundy was left in his house, as a prendre congé. This was in the month of July…’.Rowlandson would have been a useful member of the party as he spoke excellent French, unlike Smith. 

The younger of the two seated men reading may possibly be John Raphael Smith (1751-1812) on his way to Paris two years before the French Revolution. It is tempting to suggest that there is also a possibility that the sleeping figure in the foreground may be Rowlandson’s friend George Morland, wearing the same clothes as those in which he is shown in Rowlandson’s portraits of him in the British Museum (868,0328.335 and 1868,0328.337). 

Jean-Georges Wille the Paris print dealer and artist mentions Smith's visit in his memoirs (although not Rowlandson in person), 

" Recently, Mr Smith the celebrated London engraver, came to see me with several other Englishmen who were his interpreters, because Mr Smith does not speak French..… he also immediately asked me for dinner in his rooms with the other Englishmen, whose number was seven. " (Mémoires et Journals de J.G. Wille I, pp. 417-8).

Whether or not Rowlandson was part of the Smith party, he evidently travelled to Boulogne in 1787. Another Rowlandson drawing of Samer, Near Boulogne from the 1787 trip carries the same inscription ‘drawn on the spot in 1787’ (private U.S. collection) and was included in The Art of Thomas Rowlandson, 1990, The Frick Collection, New York, The Frick Art Museum Pittsburgh and Baltimore Museum of Art, pl. 37, ill.) 

From 1781 until he sold his stock in 1802, J.R. Smith was a prime mover in London's publishing world, issuing his own prints as well as editions after his work and after other artists.  He hired more than thirty printmakers to produce plates or who worked as apprentices and pupils. From 1776 until 1806 the latter group included William and James Ward, Charles H. Hodges, Thomas Girtin, J. M. W. Turner, S. W. Reynolds, William Hilton, and Peter De Wint. Smith distributed prints throughout the provinces and in such European centres as St Petersburg, Milan, and Paris.

This drawing has an illustrious provenance.  It appears to have been purchased from the eminent 5th Avenue dealers Scott & Fowles by Mrs John D. Rockefeller Jr. Abby Green Aldrich (1874-1948) married John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1874-1960) in 1901. The couple had six children, the youngest of whom, David, (1915-2017) inherited this drawing in 1963. The drawing would seem to have been first kept at the 10 West 54th Street and subsequently at the Rockefeller mansion at Kykuit in the Pocantico Hills overlooking the Hudson river. 

Inscribed l.r.: Boulogne Packett sketch’d from Nature Augst. 1787, by T Rowlandson, pen and grey ink and watercolour over traces of pencil on laid pape, laid down on the original mount on laid paper with a Strasburg Lily and inscribed verso in a later hand: From Mr Eyre (?) collection

20.1 x 29 mm.; 8 1/16 x 11 3/8 inches
Framed size 45 x 53cm.; 17 ¾ x 20 ¾ inches

Provenance
Mr Eyre(?);
Scott & Fowles, 667 Fifth Avenue, New York;
Mrs John D. Rockefeller, Jr, 10 West 54th Street, New York;
John D. Rockefeller Jr, Kykuit Distribution, 16 May 16, 1963;
David Rockefeller, DR 21.130;
Private collection, USA, until 2020

Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)

Study of the branch of a tree

L. Knight. Branch. KT-07

KT386

Signed and dated l.r.: Laura Knight/1958, graphite and black chalk on paper partially watermarked J WHATMAN, framed in a black painted frame

25.5 x 36 cm.; 10 x 14 inches
Framed size 43.5 x 56 cm.; 17 1/8 x 22 inches

£2750

The apparent Japanese influence on this drawing can also be seen in an oil of a tree with a landscape entitled ‘A Misty Sunrise’ painted in 1956 and in the collection of the Royal Academy (03/1161). Knight had a lifelong interest in trees and landscape.

This drawing may have been done in the Malvern Hills where the artist and her husband Harold spent some time in the summer of 1958.

William James Müller (1812-1845)

Marsh Street, Bristol

William James Müller
framed

KT384

Watercolour over pencil with touches of gum arabic
16.7 x 11.1 cm.;6 5/8 x 4 3/8 inches

£1200

Provenance
Rev. James Bulwer (1794-1879), by descent;
The Palser Gallery, St James’s, London;
Unidentified auction, 24 March 1981, lot 53;
Christopher and Rosemary Warren until 2020

Exhibited
The Palser Gallery, 27 King Street, St James’s, no. 51

St Stephen’s church can be seen clearly from Marsh Street in the centre of Bristol.

The Rev. James Bulwer (1794-1879) was a pupil of John Sell Cotman and the owner of a fine collection of British watercolours.

Reginald Barrett (1861-1917)

Gateway to the fort, Gwalior

Reginald Barrett
Reginald Barrett

KT387 

Signed, inscribed and dated l.l.: Reginald Barrett./Gwalior./1911, watercolour over traces of pencil, in a gilt frame 

23.4 x 15.8 cm.; 9 ¼ x 6 ¼ inches 

Frame size 38 x 29 cm.; 14 7/8 x 11 ½ inches 

£1800

Provenance
Hartnoll and Eyre;
Private collection, U.K. until 2020 

Barrett was a painter of landscapes and architectural subjects. He had been articled to the architect Norman Shaw and then studied in Paris under Lefèbvre and Bouguereau. He worked as an illustrator for The Graphic and The Daily Graphic. 

He was an inveterate traveller in the Middle East and Italy and was commissioned by Queen Victoria to paint her favourite view in Florence. From 1885 he exhibited at the Royal Academy, New Watercolour Society and New Gallery, becoming AWRS in 1901 and RWS in 1913. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  

Barrett’s one-man shows A Collection of Watercolour Drawings Illustrating India and Egypt was held at the Fine Art Society in 1894 and Watercolours of India at the Leicester Galleries, London in 1912. 

The fort at Gwalior was the favourite building of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India. 

Edith Martineau, A.R.W.S. (1842-1909)

The path through the trees

Edith Martineau

Signed l.l.: Edith Martineau., watercolour over traces of pencil with scratching out and gum arabic
29 x 23.5 cm; 11 3/8 x 9 ¼ inches

This may be a view of Hampstead Heath looking towards Harrow on the Hill.

Edith Martineau, together with her sister Gertrude, was one of a small group of female artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelites.

The daughter of Dr James Martineau, a Unitarian minister and theologian, the artist was born in Liverpool. After studying at the Liverpool School of Art and Leigh's Academy, she became one of the first women to be admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1862, regularly exhibiting there and at the Royal Watercolour Society (where she was elected an associate member in 1862), the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Water-colour Society. Her work was also exhibited at the Palace of Fine Arts in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She died in Hampstead.

Martineau worked in watercolour primarily and is known for her delicately painted and meticulous landscapes which owe much to the Pre-Raphaelites, and genre paintings. Examples of her work can be found in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and other institutions.

Henry Perlee Parker (1785-1873)

A young fisherman, Cullercoats, 1847

Henry Perlee Parker
framed

KT382

Inscribed and dated l.r.: At Cullercoats/Augt. 27.1847, watercolour over pencil
27.8 x 18.5 cm.; 10 7/8 x 7 ¼ inches

£2250

Provenance
P. Polak, St James’s;
Christopher and Rosemary Warren, Bristol, until 2020

Parker's specialised in portrait and genre paintings and in the 1820s he became one of the best-known artists in Newcastle, his work popularised through mezzotints. He helped establish the Northern Academy for the Arts.

Parker showed at the Royal Academy and the British Institution and coastal pictures with fisherfolk and smugglers were subjects which he liked to paint.

He usually drew watercolour sketches from nature and used them to work up his oil compositions. The present drawing would appear to be one of these.

He taught on and off throughout his life, moving to become drawing master at the Wesleyan Proprietary Grammar School in Sheffield and later moved to London. Little is known about his years in the capital.
An exhibition of Parker's work was held at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in 1969.

Cullercoats was a small fishing village up the coast from the mouth of the Tyne. From the 1820s artists from Newcastle drew and painted the fishermen and the local area. It remained popular with artists and is perhaps most commonly associated with the great American watercolourist Winslow Homer (1836-1910).

Harry John Johnson (1826-1884)

Sunset at Seaford

Henry John Johnson
framed

KT381

Signed with monogram l.r., inscribed with title l.l., watercolour with bodycolour and
16 x 25 cm; 6 ¼ x 9 ¾ inches
Framed size 35.5 x 42 cm.; 14 x 16 ½ inches

SOLD

Provenance
Martin Hardie (1875-1952);
Christopher and Rosemary Warren, Bristol until 2020

Johnson was born in Birmingham where he studied under Samuel Restell Lines. He was then a pupil of William James Müller in London, accompanying him on Sir Charles Fellowes’ expedition to Lycia in 1843.

On Johnson’s return to London he became a founder member of the Clipstone Street Academy, along with Müller, participating in its life drawing and painting sessions with a variety of models from the streets. Johnson made sketching trips with David Cox to North Wales from 1844.

The artist was elected an associate member of the R.I. in 1868 and a full member two years later. His work can be found in many museum collections, including the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Martin Hardie (1875-1952) was the author of the three-volume bible of British watercolourists Water-Colour Painting in Britain and a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. He was also an authority on print making on which he published extensively as well as a practising artist in both watercolour and etching.

David Cox (1783-1859)

Collecting water

David Cox
framed

Watercolour over pencil with scratching out
18.2 x 22.8 cm.; 7 ¼ x 9 1/8 inches

£2200

Provenance
Quentin and Molly Bridge until 2020

Exhibited
Martyn Gregory, British Watercolours & Drawings, 2020, no. 8

This charming early drawing by Cox dates to circa 1815. A woman and a child can be seen collecting water in a bucket from a stream near a wooden bridge by a cottage. The child appears to be wearing a black Welsh hat.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)

A bridge over a river in a town, with shipping moored

A bridge over a river in a town

With signature l.r.: T. Rowlandson, pen and grey ink and watercolour
15.5 x 22 cm; 6 1/8 x 8 5/8 inches

£3800

This drawing probably dates from the 1790s when Rowlandson drew many views of towns all over Britain. The view is currently unidentified.