William Pretyman, Taboga Island Sanitorium off Panama -1912 watercolour painting

An original 1912 watercolour painting, William Pretyman Taboga Island Sanitorium off Panama.

A fascinating painting in brilliantly tropical tones. Artist William Pretyman documented landscapes in Panama and the surrounding area during the building of the Panama Canal. Inscribed and dated on the verso: "The beach at Tobago Island Sanitarium off the Panama coast: here is a U.S. hospital for convalescent Canal employees. Jany 4.12". Watercolour with bodycolour, in a luminous colour palette. On watercolour board. To give the painting context, it is accompanied by two archival photographic prints as shown. The photographs depict other watercolours by Pretyman of Panama: "Pacific End of the Panama Canal" and "Another Day's Work Done, Culebra Cut".

In good condition for its age.
18.7cm x 26.1cm.

This watercolour forms part of a collection of paintings we have by William Pretyman depicting scenes in Panama, Florida and Jamaica.

William Pretyman (1849-1920) was a British-born artist and designer who spent much of his working life in America, and documented the Panama landscape around the construction of the Panama Canal. Born in Aylesbury to Reverend John and Amelia Pretyman, he travelled widely in his youth, meeting his future wife, the American Jenny Remington, in Egypt. He represented the British government in Borneo 1878-80, and reportedly “single-handedly established order” in North Borneo, an area known for head hunters and previously unexplored by the West.

By 1881 he was living in America, first in Albany, New York and then, from 1887, in Chicago, where Jenny’s family had connections with high society. He set up studio at the Bay State Building, and his own home exemplified the Aesthetic movement, furnished with decorative designs (influenced by William Morris) and curios from his travels. Pretyman was designer of a number of significant interiors in the Midwest during the 1880s and 1890s, including private residences, public spaces and church interiors. His design talents can be seen in commissions for the Glessner House parlour and Society for Savings banking room. In 1891 he was named Director of Color at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The Pretymans moved south to North Carolina in the mid-1890s, and kept a beachfront home and studio “The Wreck” in Nantucket (which was stayed in by artist Walter Crane). When they returned to live in England in 1901 they kept the studio in Nantucket, and Pretyman continued to travel and paint up until 1914 and the outbreak of war. In 1911-12 he travelled to Panama to record the landscape during the construction of the Panama Canal. These works went on to be shown at the first private exhibition of the Newport Art Association (now the Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island). The Boston Herald reported:

“Mr Pretyman in addition to the insight of a painter has the training of a world traveler and is apparently a true cosmopolitan and finds himself equally at home in England, Nassau, in mid-ocean or in Panama.”

In 1913, Dudensing Galleries in New York City exhibited the Panama Canal watercolours, and the New York Times noted:

“The topographical character has been so sumptuously preserved by the painter, while he has also succeeded in giving his sketches the spontaneity of work done on the spot. The brilliant tropical color is reproduced without garishness, and the series forms a most interesting record of the aspect of the canal before it was filled by water.”

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Product code: JD-253

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