Tour of the Baltic: 1904 Watercolours

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This unusual collection of works follows a female traveller's tour of the Baltic Sea coastlines of Germany, Denmark and Sweden in September 1904. Our artist has utilised loose application of wash and a muted blue-grey palette to capture the region's pale northern light and expansive, ethereal vistas where watery horizon runs into sky—a landscape of which 19th-century poet Armand de Flaux wrote: 'I especially liked the sea… So terrible in winter, so merciful in summer./ And this deep grey sky bright and pure as her,/ Mysterious palace, whose roof glitters,/ And which Odin has such a long time inhabited.'

The Baltic was at the time an area of significant fascination, having in the earlier 19th century provided an uncharted alternative to the well-trodden Grand Tour routes of southern Europe. Developments in sea trade across the region in the 19th-century and the growth of cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn and St Petersburg, newly attracted increasing numbers of travellers. The region's extensive waterways were at its heart, with impressive new constructions such as the Göta Canal, linking the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. At the same time, the Baltic also fulfilled Romantic tastes for ideas of wilderness and mystery, and popular notions of celtic and norse revivalism.

These particular paintings follow the course of our artist's trip, leaving Blackwall Docks on the Thames on 27 August on the Union Castle Line Steamer 'Braemar Castle'. Her tour takes in Hamburg and Kiel in northern Germany, passes north to Denmark, taking in Vordingborg and Elsinore, then on across the lakes and waterways of Sweden's archipelagos, past Gothenburg and on to Stockholm. She returns home from Bremen in Germany on the steamship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, arriving in Southampton on 28 September.

This was clearly a young woman of some means and accomplishment, whom it appears travelled with a female companion. Further paintings in the collection follow our artist's travels by water in Scotland, the Italian Lakes and on the French Cote d'Azur, where she frequents the luxurious villas of the Cap Martin.