Harry Napper, Goats on a Rural Farm - Early 20th-century watercolour painting


An original early 20th-century watercolour painting, Harry Napper Goats on a Rural Farm.

A dappled, sunlit scene of goats grazing in a pasture near a rural farmstead. Watermark on wove paper upper right : "J. Whatman".

This striking watercolour by prolific and influential English textile designer Harry Napper (1860-1930) shows the keen eye for pattern and form that made Napper a luminary of the late Victorian design world. Napper's decision to paint this watercolour in an impressive large size perhaps reflects his work in wallpaper design and awareness of the impact of scale.

Signed lower right.
Some age toning along top and bottom edges as shown, caused by historic glue remnants along perimeter of the paper on the back. Minor creasing to the far corners of the large sheet.
48cm x 65.5cm.

This watercolour forms part of a small collection of works by Harry Napper that we have for sale, executed during World War One. Despite their quiet focus on the serene simplicity of rural life, Napper uses the pastoral subjects to display a technical mastery over the patterned interplays of light on natural surfaces, with all encompassing trees and pastures brimming with optical abstraction and cool, earthy colour.

Harry Napper (1860-1930) was an English textile and wallpaper designer, best known for his Continental inspired Art Nouveau designs. Napper is little documented before the mid-1890s. It is thought he was working briefly in the studio of the well known designer Christopher Dresser in the early 1890s, before he transferred over to the prestigious design firm Silver Studio in 1893.

The Silver Studio was started in 1880 in Hammersmith by Arthur Silver, and quickly became one of the most fashionable pattern design studios in the country, responding uniquely to such modern movements as Aestheticism, Art Nouveau and early twentieth century abstraction. They supplied wallpaper and textile works to the leading interior design suppliers of the day, including Liberty & Co, Alexander Morton, and Warner & Sons.

Harry Napper stepped in as the firm’s manager upon Silver’s death in 1896 and stayed on until 1898, after which he went on to have a successful freelance career, while still maintaining his ties with the Silver Studio.

Little is known about Napper’s role as a watercolourist, although he certainly had a keen eye and a deft hand, as is evidenced by the works in this collection. It appears he did exhibit some of these works in small galleries during the early years of the twentieth century; a 1903 article in The Athenaeum notes that his watercolours were on display at a Mr. Baillie’s Gallery in Prince’s Terrance, remarking that they ‘have the merit of being broad, simple and direct in treatment.’

Napper was one in a long line of designers who also dabbled in watercolours; both Sidney Mawson and his colleague at the Silver Studio, John Ellingworth Kay, were also known to have exhibited their works. The images in this collection reach as far forward as theJF-417 years of WWI, so it is evident this was a passion that Napper pursued for the rest of his life.

His designs can currently be in found in archives at the V&A, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University. 


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Product code: JF-417

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