Thursday, March 15, 2007

William Powell Frith Returns Home

Speaking of English railways...

William Powell Frith's Railway Station (1862), shown here, is one of several of that artist's masterworks about to go on display in Harrogate, where Frith spent several years of his childhood. "William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age" moves from the Guildhall Art Gallery in London to the Mercer Gallery on 24 March.

Highlights of the exhibition include Ramsgate Sands: Life at the Seaside (1852-54), purchased by Queen Victoria for the Royal Collection, and The Derby Day (1856-58), now part of Tate Britain's permanent collection.

In writing this post I discovered that the Royal Collection has an illustrated set of web pages detailing Queen Victoria's art acquisitions...272 in all, ranging from exquisite lockets, bracelets, and pendants to maps, books, photos, paintings, and fans (including, apparently, one that had belonged to Marie Antoinette). Definitely worth a detailed browse.

I'm also pleased to see that the city of Harrogate has honored Frith by placing a heritage plaque on his childhood home. From the 13 March issue of the Yorkshire Post:

"Heritage plaque unveiled to honour Victorian artist"
By Brian Dooks

"A heritage plaque marking the former home of Victorian painter William Powell Frith was unveiled in Harrogate yesterday two weeks before a new exhibition of his work opens in the town.

"William Powell Frith (1819-1909): Painting the Victorian Age" is at the Mercer Gallery in Swan Road from March 24 to July 15 and features previously unseen works.

"The commemorative plaque has been placed on the site of the Dragon Lodgings at 35 Regent Parade where Frith, who was born at Aldfield, near Ripon, lived with his mother and father from 1826-1835. In the late Victorian and Edwardian period the Dragon Hotel was demolished and the land developed for housing. However, the Dragon Lodging – the manager's house where Frith's parents lived – remains and has been restored as three apartments.

"The plaque was unveiled by Harrogate Civic Society representative David Rhodes and the head of museums and arts at Harrogate Council, Ceryl Evans. It is a reminder of Frith's life before he set off to London on March 4,1835, saying he intended "to make my fortune." After the ceremony, guests walked to the nearby Christ's Church where Ms Evans gave an introduction to Frith's early life in Harrogate.

"Frith's father, Thomas, was one of the first wardens at Christ Church. Mr Rhodes, who organised the positioning of plaques at Aldfield and Regent Parade, believes the arrival of the first exhibition of Frith's works for over 55 years at the Mercer Gallery is the perfect time to remember his northern roots.

"Frith is considered to be the most important and influential artist to depict life in the Victorian age. He enjoyed huge success and popularity. On six occasions rails had to be put up in front of his pictures in the Royal Academy to hold back admiring crowds. The Mercer exhibition brings together Frith's three great panoramas – Life at the Seaside, a view of Ramsgate Sands lent by the queen, The Derby Day from the Tate collection, and The Railway Station from the Royal Holloway College at London University.

"The Mercer Art Gallery, run by Harrogate Council, already owns eleven of Frith's works, including Many Happy Returns of the Day and the recently acquired portrait of Annie Gambart, who was the child bride of Victorian art dealer Ernest Gambart. The exhibition charts Frith's career from his childhood copies of Dutch prints to his first success with scenes drawn from historical and literary sources that included his friend Charles Dickens, through to social panoramas and his moralising series The Race for Wealth and The Road to Ruin."

--- end of Yorkshire Post article ---


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