Brighton Museum and Art Gallery

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is just round the corner from the Royal Pavilion. The painting collection is not particularly large, and the premises are shared with the town library, but this is still one of the most interesting provincial collections of Victorian paintings. The art nouveau collections are very good, and there is much art deco, a large collection of ceramics, and a changing exhibition of non-European art. There are also exhibits on the history and growth of the town. The Museum and Art Gallery was set up after an important donation to the town of Brighton by Henry Willett, a local collector.

Alas for the 19th Century paintings, which now seem to be permantly not on show, and alas for the whole museum, which has been made into a bit of a theme park. I describe the paintings, mostly put away, nevertheless.

We consider first the 19th Century paintings, and then briefly note the 18th and 20th Century British paintings. The most Pre-Raphaelite painting is a tall panel-shaped Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by W. B. Richmond, rather in the style of Burne-Jones, especially the figure of Adam and the Briar-Rose type vegetation. By Alma Tadema are two small pictures: The Secret and The Proposal. The former of these is an archetypical work by the artist - his favorite models, marble, his tigerskin, a background of blue sea through a sculpted marble window, with no opportunity for a midground; one can see how the 'girls on marble terraces' school of art was founded. By way of comparison is Roman Children at Indoor Archery, a sugary-sweet picture with 19th Century angelically clean children with Roman accoutrements, typical of the work of those jumping on the 'Greek 'n' Roman' bandwagon. There is even a leopardskin on the floor. The artist was an Italian, V. Canobianchi.

Edward Lear has a large and excellect landscape, View near Gwalior, India (1884). J. C. Hook has a Gull Catcher and his important Sailor's Wedding, rather Pre-Raphaelite in mood, with a simple group preparing a feast by a rocky inlet. The bride looks pensive, thoughtful, and her groom, in rough sailors' costume, looks at her with frank puzzlement. By Briton Riviere is Endymion (c.1870), a brightly coloured picture of the young shepherd with three beautiful dogs.

Van Hassann's School, Cairo by Frank Goodall is an indoor Orientalist painting with a nicely caught group of sandals in the foreground. Luke Fildes has a pair of pictures: Venetian Girl with Flask and Venetian Market Girl, both featuring nice exotic maidens. John Phillip has two pictures: In the Garden, Seville and Fortune Teller - despite the evocative titles, these are figure subjects featuring soft round faces belonging early in the 19th Century, or even earlier.

Thomas Faed's The Mitherless Bairn is a well known picture of social injustice, showing a small orphan boy newly arrived at a povery-stricken home - rather oversentimental for modern taste perhaps. Little Nell and her Grandfather by John Ritchie is a strange picture, a detailed nature study in the foreground, with two figures pictured in a flat and colossal manner against a distant view of St Paul's. A rare picture by Rosa Bonheur, Shepherd of the Pyrenees is well painted, if not as inspired as a Farquharson painting. Henessy has a historically unuseful Relic of the Old Chain Pier; much better is his The Woodcutter (c.1900) with the heroic worker high up a tree.

Landscapes and topographical works include various pictures of Brighton by C. H. Burleigh (1869-1952), the most impressive being The Dome as an Indian Hospital (1914), and pictures by Edward Fox. Brighton from the end of the West Pier (c.1870) by James Webb (1825-1889) and George Earl (fl. 1857-1883) is a good picture with lots of people in almost the style of Frith. Arundel Castle, Sunset (1872) by Vicat Cole is a preparatory oil for his important picture exhibited at the Royal Academy some five years later. We may also note Grand Canal, Venice (1851) by James Holland.

The 18th Century paintings include most notably a very large George IV by Thomas Lawrence, a Hogarth portrait and a George Stubbs Forest Scene, rather dark with no horses. There are also works by Opie, Zoffany, The Music Lesson by Nathaniel Dance, a portrait by Angelica Kauffman, another by Benjamin Wilson (1721-1788), and work by Northcote and by Francis Wheatley.

The 20th Century collection includes a changing display of about a score of pictures in a single gallery, with further works in the main downstairs gallery. There are several paintings and sculptures by Glyn Philpot, including his impressive Negro thinking of Heaven. George Clausen has The Student (1933), an eminently satisfactory study of a girl drawing from a sculpture, and Harry Morley (1881-1943) has a noteworthy Judgement of Paris (1928), with a modern treatment of the classical subject pictured in a conciously medieval style. It is rare to come across a picture by Gerald Moira, who did many Pre-Raphaelite style paintings well into this century - here is his decidedly un-Pre-Raph The Sketching Party (1932), showing well-to-do young people in the woods by a lake. Also noticeable is the Idyll by Lawrence Koe (1868-1913), showing a couple kissing in a cornfield in Greiffenhagen fashion; he also painted a good Venus and Tannhauser in the collection. There are two works by Frank Brangwyn, entitled Ancona and Spanish Galleon. Two other pictures of interest are a Laura Knight study of a dancer off-stage called The Ballet Shoe and a good Washer Women by Averil Burleigh. So much for the paintings. As mentioned, the collection excels in Art Nouveau and Art Deco, with medals, lamps, fabrics, furniture and statuettes - including a fine series of the semi-clad girls of French and German origin in bronze and ivory of the sort so often reproduced for table lamps. Some of the best lamps are in room containing the fashion collection. There is representative work from Liberty's, Wedgwood, and exhibition vases by Louis Marc Solon for Mintons in the extensive porcelain collection.

There is much Victorian architecture in Brighton, and several sculptures may be seen near to the Museum. Within a good walk or a bus ride is Hove, with another, smaller gallery.

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Victorian art in Britain