A masterpiece by a late Victorian painter which has been on display at Highcliffe Castle is being sold at auction at Lawrences in Crewkerne (Somerset).
“The scene depicts an old sailor on a fine summery day by the estuary near Christchurch Priory in east Dorset and it is probably the painter’s largest work,” explains Richard Kay, picture specialist at Lawrences. “The artist, Frank Richards, was born in Birmingham in 1863. He studied at the School of Art and was elected a member of the Birmingham Society of Artists in 1884, when he was just 21. Having travelled throughout Europe, Richards was captivated by the immediacy and honesty of plein air painting (ie the new method of painting the complete picture outdoors and not from sketches in the studio). Back in England, it soon became apparent that the newly established colony of artists at Newlyn was similarly inspired and so he joined Stanhope Forbes and a small group of fellow artists in Cornwall. Richards would have already known the Birmingham-born artists Edwin Harris and Walter Langley who had settled in the small village and he became a regular visitor to Cornwall between 1892 and 1897, despite his dislike of Newlyn as `a filthy and smelly and somewhat lazy place`.”
The painting measures 150 x 227cm (59 x 90 inches), plus its fine frame, so it will probably be too large for many houses. However, it would be an eye catching masterpiece in any room that could accommodate it.
Curiously, the picture is illustrated in the book `Royal Academy Pictures 1892` (where it was exhibited in the same year) from which it is apparent that the figure of the fisherman was a later addition by the artist as it does not appear in the black and white photograph of the painting issued at the time of the exhibition (see image).
Richards held a solo exhibition at Dowdeswell Gallery, London in 1894. He was a regular exhibitor in Newlyn and St Ives and contributed to the Newlyn School exhibitions at the Castle Galleries, Nottingham and Dowdeswell Gallery, London. He also exhibited a total of three pictures at the prestigious Royal Academy in London.
He worked from addresses in Lulworth, Dorset (1885), Newlyn (1892), London (1897), Wareham, Dorset (1902) and Bournemouth (1917). Frank Richards died in Bournemouth on 12 October, 1935.
The picture is now being sold by its owners, Shepton Mallet Town Council. In the auction on 14 October, the picture carries an estimate of £18,000-25,000. See www.lawrences.co.uk