The current exhibition at Penrith and Eden Museum is a sequel to one held at the museum in Winter 2017-18 – ‘New Subjects. Modern Art Works From the Collection’. It comprises oil paintings, watercolours, and sketches. Some of these can be viewed on the ArtUK website, but this display is an opportunity to view some of them directly.
While they are small in number the range is remarkable. They include a work by the later Baroque Italian painter Gaetano Gandolfi, ‘Lady Contemplating A Skull’ and a large study of a pair of adjutant Storks by the Victorian cartoonist and illustrator who specialised in studies of animals striking almost human poses – Ernest Griset.
Another large study of a pair of birds is the ‘Greenland Falcons’ (gyrfalcons) drawn from life, by J. G.
Goodchild, local geologist and archaeologist. The Dutch School is represented by the study of a peasant squirming in discomfort from the attention of a surgeon whose brazier and iron instrument has been used to remedy a sore on his arm.
Another is by a follower of Willem van de Velde ‘Fishing Vessels on a Choppy Sea; it hangs next to Augustus Glendening’s sombre ‘Westminster by Moonlight’. There is a genre work ‘The Gypsy Mother’ thought to be by Sir David Wilkie showing a red-cloaked woman suckling an infant.
An early Edwardian portrait of Mabel Robinson is considered to be by the Penrith artist Edward G. Hobley. She has been identified as a school teacher of Maulds Meaburn. The painting has a hint of the Pre-Raphaelite school, the reddish colour of the sitter’s hair, the vibrant colour of her coat, the high colour of the cut lemons – fruits symbolising youth fertility and abundance, but being bitter suggesting the need for caution and mature judgement.
Hobley is further represented by his oil on silk portrait and drawings of his wife and children, a moonlit Pennine landscape, his sketchbooks, a large watercolour of Brougham Bridge, and ‘Haystack’, a framed oil sketch believed to have been made at Glebe Farm, Tirril.
A case contains his ‘Man with Horses and Bonfire’ (a note records it as a View behind Penrith Beacon) and, alongside, his daughter Olga’s inherited talent is evident in her ‘Spring Flowers’. There are links with Temple Sowerby, first with the view of Acorn Bank by the Yorkshire artist and prolific ‘Dalesman’ illustrator Fred Lawson who illustrated the works of his friend, the building’s owner Mrs Dorothy McGrigor Phillipp (as a writer known as Dorothy Una Ratcliffe). Another friend of this lady became famous for his paintings of dogs, wildlife and Lakeland scenes – Reuben Ward Binks. He is represented by the large watercolour painting ‘Canada Geese over Chesapeake Bay’.
The sketchbook of Thomas Bland, the amateur sculptor and painter, and creator of the ‘Image Garden’ of sculpture at Reagill is shown. This contains numerous sketches of the locality and the sculptures, and the contents have been reproduced in a binder which can be browsed in the gallery.
Another large subject by an unknown artist shows Yanwath Hall. Probably mid-Victorian, it has been said to be by Mary Lowther, but cannot be, on stylistic or date grounds, by the artist lady of the same name, wife of James Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale, and painting in the eighteenth century. Finally, in another case, a watercolour by W. Hetherington dated 1886 and featuring a policeman on the road by Plumpton vicarage probably recalls the burglary at Netherby Hall and the subsequent murder of P.C. James Byrnes perpetrated by the ladder gang of Rudge, Martin, and Baker at the village in 1885.
While in the Museum note the three important Jacob Thompson of Penrith large oils ‘The Height of Ambition’ and ‘The Downfall of Pride’ as well as the more recently acquired ‘Druids Cutting The Mistletoe – Long Meg in the Distance’ commissioned from the artist by Colonel Samuel Lacy; also Glaswegian artist Emma Watson’s market scene in Penrith, dated 1896.
More paintings, and sculpture, again, featured on the ArtUK website https://artuk.org/visit/collection/eden-district-council-1967 are on permanent display in the Town Hall (staircase walls) and in Mansion House (the latter can be viewed by appointment with the Curators of the Museum, Dr. Sydney Chapman or Rebecca Short.