Friday, April 17, 2015

Mr. Fawkes's New Gallery

In light of the recent movie about J. M. W. Turner, it seems appropriate to return to the great artist of the Regency. Indeed, the Regency would be greatly diminished had Turner not existed; its sensibility and style would be irrevocably altered.

But we approach Turner this time from the point of view of  one of his most ardent supporters, Walter Fawkes.

I can do no better than to quote Wikipedia for the basics of Fawke's biography:

Walter Ramsden Hawkesworth Fawkes (2 March 1769 – 24 October 1825) was a Yorkshire landowner, writer and Member of Parliament (MP) for Yorkshire from 1806 to 1807.

Fawkes is be best remembered, however, as the intimate friend and one of the earliest patrons of J.M.W. Turner, the artist. Turner had a welcome and a home at Farnley Hall, Fawkes's Wharfedale residence, whenever he chose to go, and used to spend months at a time there. Mr. Ruskin has borne eloquent testimony to the influence of Fawkes, Farnley, and Wharfedale on the genius of Turner, and the Turner collection still existing at Farnley Hall contains about two hundred of the artist's choicest works.
JMW Turner and Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall by John R Wildman
In 1819 Walter Fawkes decided to display his collection of Turner's work along with the paintings of other British artists. He set up a gallery in his home in Devonshire Place and Turner prepared a drawing of the room.
Every major magazine of the time reviewed the exhibition when it opened in the spring of 1819. And they were delighted.

From The New Monthly Magazine, June 1, 1819 

The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres had a little trouble getting to the exhibit, and felt it important enough to catalogue their efforts:
 March 27, 1819
 April 24, 1819
 May 1, 1819

A year later The Repository of Arts reported again on the exhibit, but made no secret of its disappointment in the limited access available.
From Ackermann's Repository of Arts, June 1820

Given the criticism that Turner's work sometimes garnered, we are fortunate that far-sighted, intelligent people such as Walter Fawkes recognized greatness when they saw it.

Mr. Fawkes's Gallery must have been a wonderful thing to visit; a delight for a spring nearly two hundred years past.

'Til next time,