‘Sydney Jones watercolours’
5 January – 17 April 2010
Works on Paper Gallery
This exhibition brings together a selection of seventeen early English watercolour paintings from the University of Liverpool’s collection. It is a rare opportunity to see watercolours that for conservation reasons can only be displayed for short periods of time.
Visitors can see watercolours by Thomas Gainsborough, Paul Sandby, Thomas Girtin, John Varley, Peter de Wint, David Cox, JMW Turner, and John Linnell. The exhibition explores the development of watercolour painting in Britain in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In the past watercolours were viewed as studies for prints or larger oil paintings made in a studio, but artists such as Sandby painted real outdoor views raising the status of watercolour pictures to works of art in their own right.
Delicate topographical views of the English countryside culminate with De Wint’s impressive view of river life in Cookham on Thames. Cox used watercolour paint with expressive, almost impressionist brushstrokes as seen in his view of gloomy skies over bathing huts in The Beach at Rhyl. His depiction of a grey English day seems sedate when compared with the natural disaster looming in Turner’s St Michael’s Mount as storm clouds threaten a ship at sea, painted with contrasted areas of light and dark for dramatic effect.
The watercolours were collected by Sir Charles Sydney Jones (1872-1947) who was passionate about education and the arts. He was partner in the shipping line Mssrs Alfred Holt & Co, Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1938-1942 and at the University of Liverpool he was Treasurer 1918-1930, President of the Council 1930-36, and Pro-Chancellor 1936-42. Sydney Jones was a generous benefactor who left the University all the houses on the north side of Abercromby Square, his home in Princes Park, funds and endowments.
Sydney Jones was an avid art collector, whose approach was to collect examples by a large number of artists by purchasing only one or a handful of superior pictures by each artist. The result is a small but fine group of watercolours by significant British artists. He spoke about ‘satisfying the hunger of the soul for beautiful things’.
Image: St Michael’s Mount, c.1836, by Joseph Mallord William Turner