Wednesday 7 June 2023

The Forgotten Artist

 What's this then? One of Turner's Venetian paintings? No, actually it's by James Holland, an artist I must admit I had never heard of until I noticed his biography, James Holland: The Forgotten Artist by Steve Bond, advertised in a book catalogue. 'Forgotten' seems to be about right, but in his day Holland was regarded as one of the leading lights of the English School of watercolorists, and had a high reputation as an accomplished and versatile painter of architecture, landscapes, flowers and marine subjects, in both oil and watercolour. 
  Holland was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, one of the Six Towns (Arnold Bennett made it five) of the Potteries. Starting out painting on pottery and porcelain, Holland came to London at the age of 20 and set up as a painter and teacher, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the Society of Painters in Watercolour until 1857, when he ceased to exhibit (some 13 years before his death). Much of his life was devoted to travel in search of suitable subjects, in Normandy, Portugal, Rotterdam, Milan, Geneva, North Wales and, of course, Venice. His Venetian paintings best showed what he could do with light and colour, and are still much sought after (the one above hangs in the Tate). 
  The painting above is, like most of Holland's work, quite 'finished', more so perhaps than a similar Turner would be. However, some of his surviving works are less finished, and the more attractive for it – to me, at least – as in the two sketches below, both painted in Rouen...

Many of Holland's pictures are on display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. I must pay a visit some day. 

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