A selection of  Victorian and Edwardian works from the collections of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

Victorian Romanticism

The start of the 19th century saw a shift from the pomp and grandeur of previous years to more complex emotional artistic expressions. Francis Danby who painted this painting 'Dead Calm-Sunset at the Blight of Exmouth (1855) was an Irish painter of the Romantic era whose dramatic and imaginative landscapes rebelled against the rational thinking of the Enlightenment. Instead his works invoke intense emotion and feeling which both he and other Romantic painters felt was the truest form of aesthetic experience.

Idyllic pastoral countryside scenes such as these romanticised the countryside contrasting sharply with the reality of harsh working conditions at a time of great agricultural upheaval.

Born in Exeter in 1775 James Leakey gained a reputation as a portrait and miniature painter. In 1821 he went to live in London, whilst there he exhibited five pictures at the Royal Academy.

Leakey is known to have had to support a large family of relations. He made £800 a year which was a large sum for an artist of the day. It is said that he only worked on his landscapes in between his travels between one portrait or miniature commission to the next.

Victorian History Painting 
History painting is defined by its subject matter, rather than artistic style.  Typically these paintings depict a moment of action in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such is found in portraiture.  History paintings often show moments in religious narratives, scenes from mythology and allegorical scenes. This painting is by Frank Moss Bennett and is entitled 'Conscience', oil on canvas, 1909.  The work depicts two central figures one in a torn shirt and trousers, hands bound and rope tied round his neck.  He is being restrained by a soldier who is pointing to a large stone sculpture in the trees.  The word 'Conscience' can just be read on the base of the plinth. 

Lucy Kemp Welch's work at the turn of the century gained great attention. She rose quickly which was unusual in an art world dominated by men. She was elected the first president of the Society of Animal Painters. Her work is characterised by swift broad brush strokes which describe the subtle play of light upon mass with the suggestion of details. She was regarded by many as one of the best painters of the horse that the century had seen. It is indicative of the time that the most common reaction by critics to her work was surprise that a woman had such talent.

By 1901 Forbes had lived and worked in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn for some seventeen years and was committed to painting carefully observed scenes of everyday work and leisure.

The location has been identified as Primrose Cottage, Newlyn, and the sitters as the Hichens family and two others. Through an otherwise everyday breakfast scene, Forbes has evoked the affection in which the Queen Victoria was held, even in the remotest communities. She had died on the 21st January, 1901 but in an age before television, radio and the internet many outside of the larger towns and cities would not have known until at least the following day. For these people, newspapers were the only source of national news other than word-of-mouth.

Victorian Portraiture
Portrait of John Veitch, English School, oil on canvas, 1909. Portraiture was a side line for most Victorian painters.  The Royal Academy and the views of Joshua Reynolds its first president dominated the painting scene.   Influenced by the work of the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael they believed that the role of the artist was to make their subject and work appear as idealised as possible.  This view became outdated when Queen Victoria came to the throne.  The rise of the wealthy middle classes changed the art market and accuracy and attention to detail became important.  The role of art was to reflect the world not to idealise it.

Thomas Grey (1788-1848)

Grey was a railway pioneer and visionary. In his book of 1820 'Observations on a General Iron Railway' he argued that horse drawn transport would be replaced by steam traction. He also developed detailed plans for a rail network that would connect the main towns of England and Wales.

Walter Percy Sladen (1849-1900)

Was a biologist who specialised in echinoderms, or starfish and sea urchins.

In 1881 Sladen was approached by the organisers of the voyage of the HMS Challenger exhibition of 1872-1876. He was asked to study and prepare the starfish specimens which had been found. Over 10 years he produced 1,000 pages of text 118 illustrations and thousands of prepared specimens.

Mrs Sladen gifted the Percy Sladen collection to Royal Albert Memorial Museum and also funded the creation of the exhibition gallery as well as giving a sum to help employ a curator for the collection.

The 1870s saw the emergence of Impressionism.  This sought to capture effect or the impression made by  a subject on the eye of the painter.  There was only a small handful of British Impressionists, however the work of the French Impressionists was widely available in England. Impressionism played a major role in undermining the dominance of Classicism in the Victorian period.  'The Bison Hunters' by Nathaniel Hughes John Baird, oil on canvas, about 1905 is an example of an Impressionist work in RAMM's collection.

Albert Moulton Foweraker (1873-1942)
Foweraker worked as an engineer and journalist in Exeter before taking up art as his full time profession in 1898. In 1902 he was admitted as a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. He exhibited regularly in London and between 1902 and 1912 he showed over 50 works at The Royal Society of British Watercolour Artists. He often travelled to Spain, France and North Africa and exhibited many paintings of these countries.

Julius Olsson R. A. (1864-1942)
Oil on canvas

During his lifetime Olsson was renowned for his paintings of the open sea. Human figures and boats are largely absent from his work which conveys mood and atmosphere over all else.

Edwardian Art (1901-1914)
This period was characterised by its own architectural style, fashion and life style.  Artists were influenced particularly by the development of the automobile, electricity and a greater awareness of human rights.  In 1910 Roger Fry organised an exhibition of Manet and the Post Impressionists at the Grafton Galleries, London bringing their art to the public. 'The Park Bench' by Malcom Drummond (1880-1945), oil on canvas, about 1910 is representative of the work of the Camden Town artists.  Small in scale, showing everyday surroundings and the daily pursuits of lower middle and working class people. His work was based on truthful observation of urban life.
Edwardian Portraiture (1901-1914) 
The Edwardian period is strongly associated with opulence and luxuriance.  An idyll of long summer days playing tennis and cricket, before the outbreak of the First World War.  The reality was very different, it was a time of militancy with the suffragettes, trade unionists and the Irish Home Rulers.  However, this turbulence was not reflected in the art of the period which was for the main part staid and academic with only the artists of the Camden Town Group pushing boundaries. 'Portrait of Richard Carter, Father of the Artist' by Sydney Carter (1874-1945), oil on canvas, about 1900-1910 is very traditional. It provides both a likeness and a revelation about the character of the sitter.  However, his other work shows his versatility; he painted pictures of fairies and goblins reminiscent of Arthur Rackham as well as paintings in the Pre-Raphaelite style.  It was landscapes and portraits for which he won many awards. 

This work is by Harold Gilman, who was a member of the Camden Town Group. The work highlights the groups pushing of boundaries. The Camden Town Group, were a group of English Post-Impressionist artists who met on a weekly basis at the studio of the painter Walter Sickert in Camden Town, London. This work is a departure from portraiture of the time with its lively textured paint and bright pure contrasting colours. His use of thick Impasto paint and high keyed colours mark Gilman's use of Post-Impressionist techniques and shows an influence of Matisse as seen in the works boldness of colour and interest in pattern.

Many of Newberry's portraits are of working people and were informed by his Socialist sympathies and the writing of Thomas Carlyle. His work depicts both the dignity and the hardship of a labourer's life and seeks to encourage the viewer to be sympathetic. Works such as these were Newberry's major pieces for exhibition. A Devonian, Mrs Cleeve was also exhibited as Memories.

Frederick James Halnon (1881-1958) was a sculptor and teacher of modelling. He studied at Goldsmith's Institute from the age of 11. He was a pupil of Edward Alfred Briscoe Dury, RA. Dury was an English architectural sculptor and figure in the New Sculpture Movement. He later became modelling master at the University of London (Goldsmith's College). He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938.

Born in Taunton, Somerset Joseph Milner Kite was the son of a local chemist. He studied for a time in London at the studio of William P Frith, before leaving in 1881 to go to Antwerp. He later continued his studies in Paris under the French academic painter Bouguereau and Jean Paul Laurens at the Academie Julian. Kite is known for his portraits, figure studies, landscapes and still life carried out in oil or watercolour. He exhibited widely and is known to have worked at many different artist colonies including: St Ives, Pont Aven, Concarneau, Grez sur Loing, Morocco, Spain and USA.

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