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A Refuge for Genius
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In Monet’s Footsteps
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Lesser-known, Home-grown
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SISLEY by the Thames
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David Roberts (1796–1864)
Born in Edinburgh, he was apprenticed to a house painter and decorator at the age of 10. He became a painter of stage scenery and worked at theatres in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but was also producing oil paintings in his spare time and he eventually found success with these at the Fine Arts Institute in 1821. Roberts was offered a job as a scene painter in London and although much in demand by various theatres he spent more and more time painting and started making trips to the near continent. By 1829 he was a full-time artist, encouraged by Turner, and in the 1830s he made extended trips to Spain, Tangier and then to Egypt and the Holy Land. It is for these exotic subjects that he is, perhaps, best-known although in later life he was commissioned to paint a series of Thames scenes and it was while working on these that he died suddenly of apoplexy.

E. A. Goodall (1819–1908)
A gifted topographic artist who went to the Crimea in the 1850s and produced a series of watercolours for the Illustrated London News. He was from an artistic family with his father being a respected engraver and his brother, Thomas Frederick, was a Royal Academician, and he himself was a member of the Old Watercolour Society and Royal Watercolour Society.

George Chambers (1830–1900)
He was the son of the rather more famous marine artist also called George Chambers. He was accomplished in the same genre and exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy, British Institution and Society of British Artists.

George Vicat Cole (1833–1893)
He was the son of the landscape painter, George Cole and was taught by his father and accompanied him on many painting expeditions in his formative years. He found early success and had work accepted by the Royal Academy at the age of twenty. He was later to become an Academician and his idyllic landscapes of Sussex and Surrey were enduringly popular with Victorian audiences. Later the Thames became a favourite subject and he often painted from his steam launch ‘The Blanche’, where he also entertained other established artists of the day such as Lord Leighton and John Everett Millais, the group earning the name ‘the Calithrumpkins’. His monumental work, The Pool of London, painted in 1888 is now housed at Tate Britain and an equally impressive work, The Palace of Westminster, 1892 is at the Guldhall Art Gallery.

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836–1893)
He was born in Leeds and spent most of his life in the north of England. Although he was self-taught he soon started exhibiting in Leeds and found early success with his rain-washed scenes of urban and coastal life. He is perhaps best known for his atmospheric moonlit scenes of city streets and commercial docks with elements of gritty social realism. He shared an enthusiasm for this subject matter with Whistler, with whom he was acquainted and who once commented, “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures”. Although a successful and popular artist in his lifetime, he was constantly dogged by financial problems and painted prolifically to pay the bills, until his early death at the age of 57 from cancer.

John Crowther (1837–1902)
Another skilled topographic watercolourist who specialised in London scenes. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1876 and 1898 and found a ready market for his work inspite of competition from the new medium of photography.

Henry Edward Tidmarsh (1854–1939)
Another talented topographic watercolourist whose illustrative work was widely published, Tidmarsh was also capable of producing paintings of a more ‘impressionist’ nature and was undoubtedly influenced by Monet and Whistler.

William Alister Macdonald (1861–1956)
He was the son of a Scottish Free Church Minister and he moved to London in the 1880s where he became well-known for atmospheric Thames-side scenes rendered in watercolour which he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. After the turn of the century he started to make painting trips around Europe and later ventured much further to the South Pacific. It was on the Ile de Moorea in French Oceana that he died at the age of 96, a world away from the grimey warehouses and working barges of the River Thames.
Pictures
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