Sunset, Versailles, 1930

by Alexander Jamieson


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DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 30.0 x 25.0 in./ 76.20 x 63.50 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower left
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

This delicate painting sits firmly in the Impressionist School, and is a beautiful example of the typical Impressionist plein-air and wet-in-wet techniques. The work is by Alexander Jamieson, an acclaimed painter who rubbed shoulders with great names such as Monet and Manet.

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Catalogue No: 4441 Categories: ,

In a review of Jamieson’s memorial exhibition in 1938, Jan Gordon identified a stylistic distinction between those paintings executed prior to the Great War, and those made afterwards. Those before she categorised as “substance”, reflecting the influence of Manet; those afterwards she categorised as “shadow”, reflecting the increased importance to the artist in that period of capturing the effects of light and atmosphere and the greater influence of Monet and Constable. Sunset, Versailles, seems to bridge the gap between these two categories; whilst the brushstrokes are bold, energetic and full of body, the way in which Jamieson captured the unique light of the ‘golden hour’ is quite exquisite and evocative of Constable’s work.

It was not only Jamieson’s stylistic concerns that changed after the war. To augment a meagre income, the artist and his wife decided to teach, at home and abroad, and gave sketching classes every summer. The destinations of these summer painting trips are largely unrecorded, other than by the evidence of the exhibited paintings themselves, but it seems that the couple revisited with their students a number of the French and Belgian harbours, towns and gardens on which Alexander’s reputation had been built prior to the war.

In his foreword to Jamieson’s memorial exhibition, Sir John Lavery wrote, “He dipped his brush in light and air … Many a time … I have been struck by his wonderful perception and clear judgement, his keen sense of colour and composition, allied with masterly technique, which enabled him to convey his impression in the simplest language.”

This could have been written in reference to Sunset, Versailles itself; from a few paces this work perfectly embodies the forms and atmosphere of a French sunset on a summer’s evening, but up close is a masterful cacophony of surprisingly few brushstrokes – an example of the ‘simple language’ to which Lavery refers.


Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Jamieson was born in Glasgow and studied at Glasgow School of Art before winning a scholarship to study in Paris. It was there, in 1898, that he came into contact with the work of the French Impressionists, whose bravura brushwork and preoccupation with the effects of light and atmosphere were to be his chief painterly concerns for the remainder of his life. From them he learnt the ‘wet-in-wet’ technique of the ‘plein-air’ painters, which was to define his painting style for the rest of his career. The choppy and mood-inducing effects of this technique can clearly be seen in the simple beauty of this work, Sunset Versailles.


While in Paris Jamieson met the painter Gertrude (Biddy) Macdonald. They were married in 1907 and returned to live in Fitzrovia, London. By 1910 Jamieson was recognised as a key member of the Impressionist group, and was named as one of the best in ‘Studio’ magazine. He held a solo exhibition at the Carfax Gallery in 1912, and later at the ROI (Royal Institute of Oil painters) and at the RA. He also showed in Europe and is now represented in public collections including the Tate Gallery and the Louvre.


Jamieson enjoyed great success until 1914 when he enlisted in Kitchener’s “New Army” as a volunteer in, and in 1915 was commissioned into the 10th Bn York & Lancashire Regiment. He served throughout the Great War, taking part in the bloody battles of Loos, the Somme and Arras from 1915-18. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1918 and was demobilised in 1919, at the age of 45. The National Army Museum has a painting by 2/Lt Jamieson of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener inspecting the 10th Battalion at their tented training camp at Halton, Buckinghamshire, in 1915. After the war, he settled with Biddy in the village of Weston Turville in the Vale of Aylesbury, a few miles from his old camp. He continued to paint and exhibit while living there, receiving considerable acclaim for much of his work.



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