‘An Old Southern Port, 1901’ by Benjamin Williams Leader
Oil on canvas
Size: 44.0 x 72.0 inches
Signed and dated (lower left); inscribed (verso)
Bank holidays were first introduced by a man named Sir John Lubbock who was a scientific writer, banker and politician, and the first Baron of Avebury. (He is also reported to have studied ants and tried to teach his poodle how to read!)
In 1871, he drafted the Bank Holiday Bill. When it became law, he created the first official bank holiday. Initially, it was just banks and financial buildings that would close, which is where the name comes from. But as time went on, businesses, shops, schools, and the government all joined in.
For many these are days to be enjoyed, escape the usual schedule and step out of our houses to enjoy new views. Hopefully, a few of you may be venturing to see us here in Worcestershire, where one of England’s most outstanding late Victorian landscape and coastal painters Benjamin Williams Leader was born. Worcester City Art Gallery, fittingly, has one of the best collections in the world of his work.
An almost exact contemporary of the Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926), Leader’s painting style is interesting to compare with the French master. Early on in his career, Leader’s landscapes demonstrated studied detail, a style common to most of his Victorian contemporaries. But from around 1880, he started experimenting, with some paintings produced in a broader, looser style. Some art historians have quoted this as the moment British artists started painting with a more ‘modern’ approach in parallel to the French Impressionists. Akin to Monet he painted out of doors, if only at the initial stages of work on his pictures, as in this particular oil ‘An Old Southern Port’ which is currently in our Broadway gallery along with another stunning oil ‘The Restlessness of Eve, 1898’.
The Royal Academy elected him an associate in 1883, and an academician in 1898. He also exhibited abroad, winning the gold medal and the legion of honor in Paris in 1889. Today Leader’s works can also be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery in London as well as several others throughout the country.
‘The Silent Restfulness of Eve, 1898’ by Benjamin Williams Leader