Arthur Severn RI, Landscape with Sunset Skies - c.1904 watercolour painting


An original c.1904 watercolour painting, Arthur Severn RI Landscape with Sunset Skies.

This captivating small scale work by Joseph Arthur Palliser Severn RI (1842-1931) features the artist's characteristic treatment of sun and skies. The painting is all the more charming for an intriguing inscription on the back of the frame: 'This picture is by Arthur Severn and was given me in exchange for a song in 1904'. The inscription, possibly by the hand of a lady friend, hints at a transaction in which the painting was given as a personal gift - its compact size and visual brevity somehow perfectly suiting this purpose. And, incidentally, perhaps John Ruskin - whose theories of political economy attacked industrial capitalism and were hugely influential amongst the labour movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries - would have approved of this alternative model of economics that such a transaction represents.

Arthur Severn exhibited landscape watercolours and has been described as 'essentially a water, sun and sky painter'. He experimented with the effects of light and weather – so much so that the writer Marie Corelli championed him as a ‘second Turner’ - and, in particular, he learnt the close observation of nature under the tutelage of the influential critic John Ruskin.

The watercolour is presented in its original gilt mount and frame, with inscription and framer’s label verso. The painting has not been inspected out of the frame in order to keep the seal of the original backing paper intact.

Signed lower left. Inscribed verso on frame backing: 'This picture is by Arthur Severn and was given me in exchange for a song in 1904'.

The painting is in good condition for its age. There are some small knocks and losses to the gesso on the frame, as shown. The backing paper to the verso is worn and brittle to the edges, as shown. There a about half a dozen tiny thrips along the lower edge of the mount, which could easily be removed on opening the frame.
9cm x 22cm.

Joseph Arthur Palliser Severn RI (1842-1931) came from an illustrious family of artists; his father Joseph, brother Walter and sister Mary were also painters. His father, Joseph, was John Keats’s intimate friend and portrait painter (Keats famously died in Severn’s arms on 23 February 1821); and through his brother, Walter, and brother-in-law, Francis Seymour Haden, Arthur became acquainted with James McNeill Whistler.

Severn studied in Paris and Rome, and first began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1862, on the encouragement of Whistler. He was a founder member of the Arts Club and a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He was an active exhibitor, showing in London at the Royal Academy, RI, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Dudley Gallery, Fine Art Society and Grosvenor Gallery, as well as at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, Leicester Gallery and Manchester City Art Gallery.

In 1871 Severn married Joan Agnew, cousin of John Ruskin (1819-1900), and thereafter developed an important association with the influential critic. From 1881 Joan and Arthur joined Ruskin at his house at Brantwood on Coniston Water for the last thirty years of Ruskin’s life. Severn was involved in Ruskin’s defence at the trial of Whistler v. Ruskin, although he was personally in a difficult position as he believed Ruskin’s criticisms of Whistler to be unjust. Ruskin left Brantwood to Arthur and Joan Severn on his death in 1900.

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Product code: JL-985

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