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Shorelines – Artists On The South Coast, Exhibition, St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire

'Newhaven Harbour' by Eric Ravilious (colour lithograph, 1937). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©V&A CIRC.39-1937
‘Newhaven Harbour’ by Eric Ravilious (colour lithograph, 1937, V&A CIRC.39-1937). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

On Saturday, 19th September, another major art exhibition, Shorelines: Artists On The South Coast, opens at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire. Shorelines is an exciting exploration of how artists from the 18th century to the present have drawn inspiration from the cliffs, beaches and harbours of the Channel coast. The exhibition runs until Saturday, 9th January, 2016. This important exhibition reflects the great diversity of subject and approach embodied in different artists’ treatment of the south coast. The event is sponsored by Rathbones and there will be a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

'Beachy Head, attack on convoy' by Norman Wilkinson (oil painting, 1942-44) Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©NMM BHC1599 National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Copyright Norman Wilkinson Estate
‘Beachy Head, attack on convoy’ by Norman Wilkinson (oil painting, 1942-44,NMM BHC1599) Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Copyright Norman Wilkinson Estate

Showcasing works by some of the most important names in British art over the last few centuries including John Constable (1776-1837), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) and Paul Nash (1889-1946), it also reveals paintings by lesser known but equally intriguing artists such as William Frederick Mitchell (1845-1914), Frederick Golden Short (1863-1936), George Morland (1763-1804), John Platt (1886-1967) and Leslie Ward (1851-1922).

'Brighthelsmstone' by J.M.W. Turner (watercolour, c.1800-1851). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©V&A 135-1878
‘Brighthelmstone’ by J.M.W. Turner (watercolour, c.1800-1851, V&A 135-1878). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As an island nation Britain has literally been defined by its coast, its identity bound-up with a seafaring heritage and maritime history. The south coast has often been a first line of defence against the threat of invasion, but has also been a gateway for trade and a popular destination for those seeking fun, sun and sea air.

'Convoy arriving off St. Anthonys Lighthouse, Falmouth'' by John Platt. (Oil on canvas, 1942). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition. ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. This is an interpretation of an Atlantic convoy arriving at Falmouth, Cornwall, during 1942. Falmouth saw considerable activity between 1942 and 1943, since there was a naval base on Beacon Hill, and the Battle of the Atlantic was underway. Saint Anthony's Head Lighthouse, situated at the eastern side of the entrance to Falmouth Harbour, warns ships of the Black Rock in the centre of the channel into Falmouth Harbour and of the Manacles, the rocks south of the harbour entrance.
‘Convoy arriving off St. Anthony’s Lighthouse, Falmouth” by John Platt. (Oil on canvas, 1942, NMM BHC1664). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. This is an interpretation of an Atlantic convoy arriving at Falmouth, Cornwall, during 1942. Falmouth saw considerable activity between 1942 and 1943, since there was a naval base on Beacon Hill, and the Battle of the Atlantic was underway. Saint Anthony’s Head Lighthouse, situated at the eastern side of the entrance to Falmouth Harbour, warns ships of the Black Rock in the centre of the channel into Falmouth Harbour and of the Manacles, the rocks south of the harbour entrance.

Over the centuries each of these characteristics has had a particular appeal to Britain’s artists. This exhibition looks at the contrasting approaches taken by resident and visiting artists who drew inspiration from the shoreline.

'John Penn Mail Packet' by William Frederick Mitchell. (Watercolour, 1867). Mitchell lived at Ryde on the Isle of Wight where he painted highly competent and accurate ship portraits in watercolour. Many of these are now in the Museum's collection. His commissions, mainly for naval officers, were handled by an agent based in a bookshop called 'Griffins' close to the main gates of Portsmouth dockyard. The Channel Mail Packet 'John Penn' was built in London in 1867 and is shown leaving Dover on her way to France. ©NMM PZ6961 National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
‘John Penn Mail Packet’ by William Frederick Mitchell. (Watercolour, 1867, NMM PZ6961). display at Shorelines exhibition. Mitchell lived at Ryde on the Isle of Wight where he painted highly competent and accurate ship portraits in watercolour. On display at Shorelines exhibition. Many of these are now in the Museum’s collection. His commissions, mainly for naval officers, were handled by an agent based in a bookshop called ‘Griffins’ close to the main gates of Portsmouth dockyard. The Channel Mail Packet ‘John Penn’ was built in London in 1867 and is shown leaving Dover on her way to France. ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Early marine painters, such as Charles Brooking (c.1723-1759), depicted the naval and merchant fleets, which were busy establishing Britain’s global empire. The fashion for the picturesque, popularised by William Gilpin (1724-1804), also encouraged artists, such as J.M.W. Turner, to visit the south coast, while Pre-Raphaelite landscape painter John Brett (1831-1902) revealed the grandeur of the Cornish coast.

At Redbridge we crossed the river, which flows into Southampton-bay, over a long wooden bridge and causeway, sometimes covered by the tide. Ships of considerable burden come-up as far as this bride, where they take in timber from New Forest, and other commodities….Before us lay Southampton-Bay, a spreading into a noble surface of water. The town runs out like a peninsula on the left and, with its old walls and towers, makes a picturesque appearance. On the right forming the other side of the bay, appear the skirts of New Forest, and opening in front is filled with a distant view of the Isle of Wight.

(William Gilpin, 1798, Southampton: 1540-1856: Visitors’ Descriptions compiled by Robert Douch, 1978, p.22)

'Lymington River, view of Hurst Castle from Keyhaven, Southampton' by Frederick Golden Short. (Oil on canvas, 1901). ©Southampton City Art Gallery
‘Lymington River, view of Hurst Castle from Keyhaven, Southampton’ by Frederick Golden Short. (Oil on canvas, 1901). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Southampton City Art Gallery

On October 2nd, 1816, Constable married Maria Bicknell (1788-1828) following a seven year secret courtship. The couple spent their six week honeymoon with their friend John Fisher (1748-1825), at his vicarage in Osmington, Dorset. En route to Southampton, Constable and his new wife stopped at Southampton on October 12th where he sketched Netley Abbey. He also pencil sketched a view (1816) of Southampton, taken looking westwards along the shore, across to Hythe in the distance, showing the Town Quay and Anchorage from the platform.

'Cape Liner, Balmoral Castle, taking in cargo at Southampton Docks' by Leslie Ward. On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
‘Cape Liner, Balmoral Castle, taking in cargo at Southampton Docks’ by Leslie Ward. (Lithograph, 1913). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
'Under the stern. A Poole shipyard' by Leslie Moffat Ward. (1919). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
‘Under the stern. A Poole shipyard’ by Leslie Moffat Ward. (1919). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
'Brighton beach, with colliers' by John Constable (oil painting, 1824, V&A591-1888). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
‘Brighton beach, with colliers’ by John Constable (oil painting, 1824, V&A591-1888). Exhibited at Shorelines exhibition ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From the 19th century tourists arrived on the coast for its health benefits and relaxation; these new leisure activities were reflected in views of Brighton by John Constable and Spencer Gore (1878-1914), while the Dorset beaches were captured by Edward Ardizzone (1900-79), Eustace Nash  (1886-1969) and Percival Arthur Wise (1885-1968).

'Dorset Shell Guide cover' by Paul Nash. (1936). ©Shell Art Collection
‘Dorset Shell Guide cover’ by Paul Nash. (1936). ©Shell Art Collection
'Rye Harbour' by Eric Ravilious. (Pencil and watercolour, 1938.) On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Lightbox - Ingram collection
‘Rye Harbour’ by Eric Ravilious. (Pencil and watercolour, 1938.) On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Lightbox – Ingram collection
'80 mph gales over the crowns, Botallack, Cornwall, December' by Kurt Jackson. (mixed media on paper). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Kurt Jackson
’80 mph gales over the crowns, Botallack, Cornwall, December’ by Kurt Jackson. (mixed media on paper). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Kurt Jackson

During the 20th century artists wrestled with the influence of abstraction and surrealism to create personal visions of the coast including Paul Nash’s work at Dymchurch and Swanage; Ben Nicholson’s (1894-1982) Cornish still life paintings and John Tunnard’s (1900-1971) assemblages, all still alive in Jeremy Gardiner’s (1957- ) more recent works of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

'The Wreckers' by George Morland. (Oil on canvas, 1791). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Southampton Art Gallery
‘The Wreckers’ by George Morland. (Oil on canvas, 1791). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Southampton Art Gallery

The south coast’s changing moods are demonstrated at the exhibition with the terror of storms captured in wreck paintings by George Morland and Richard Eurich (1903-1992), contrasted by the serene calm of Sussex ports portrayed by Eric Ravilious. Its function as a defence frontier is depicted by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), who drew Henry VIII’s (1491-1547) Hurst Castle during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), and John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) and Christopher R.W. Nevinson’s (1889-1946) paintings of the docks at Portsmouth and Southampton in World War One. World War Two brought Eric Ravilious, Richard Eurich and Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971)  to portray defences, air battles and convoys under attack.

'Dazzling arrival' by Laetitia Yhap. On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
‘Dazzling arrival’ by Laetitia Yhap. On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Private collection.
  • St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery will be open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. Tickets, which include entry into the museum, cost £6 for adults, £5 for senior citizens and students, £3 for children aged 5-15 years and £12 for a family of two adults and up to four children (including a voluntary gift aid donation); under fives are admitted free of charge.
'Durdle Door sunrise' by Jeremy Gardiner. (Acrylic and jesmonite on birch panel). ©Jeremy Gardiner
‘Durdle Door sunrise’ by Jeremy Gardiner. (Acrylic and jesmonite on birch panel). On display at Shorelines exhibition. ©Jeremy Gardiner
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