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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
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.
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).
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 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.
- 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.