The River & Rowing Museum is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of a watercolour by the celebrated Victorian artist Myles Birket Foster. The acquisition of ‘Henley-on-Thames’, 1882 was made possible by a generous grant from The Art Fund and other private donors, who together worked with the Museum to save this historical Henley painting for the nation.
This valuable addition to the Museum’s collection depicts a view looking north-west up the Thames to the town of Henley with the iconic bridge in the background and St Mary’s Church to the left. Through the careful depiction of Henley’s architecture, Birket Foster’s watercolour acts as an historical document which allows us to see the town as it stood in the nineteenth century. It also illustrates the relationship between the growth and development of Henley and its connection to the River Thames as the heavily laden barges show the river as a significant trade and transport route.
The painting will be complemented by other works in the Museum’s collection such as Jan Siberechts’ 1698 view of Henley from the Wargrave Road, and Frederick William Watts’ ‘View of Barges on the Thames with Henley Beyond’ from 1830, which help to tell the story of the river as an important highway. The watercolour was first exhibited in 1882 at the J. & W. Vokins Birket Foster Loan Exhibition at 14 and 16 Great Portland Street, London.
The watercolour will be displayed in the Thames Gallery, the Museum’s flagship exhibition space which tells the story of the River Thames from its source to the sea. It will help to support many of the Museum’s Thames topics and will be used as inspiration for their education programmes especially the award winning course ‘Paint me a River’. The painting will also be included in a major upcoming exhibition on leisure and recreation on the Thames in the Victorian era.
Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) was a Victorian painter, mainly in watercolour, of landscape and rustic scenes; an illustrator and engraver. He was apprenticed to Ebenezer Landells, a wood engraver but soon turned to illustration, producing work for Punch and The Illustrated London News. From 1859 he painted mostly watercolours and was elected an Associate of the O.W.S. in 1860 and Member in 1862 where he exhibited 400 works. He also exhibited works at the Royal Academy from 1859-81. Birket Foster was and remains a highly regarded artist.
Paul Mainds, Chief Executive of the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, said: “Foster was one of the most popular water-colour artist of his time and we are delighted that one of his paintings will become a new addition to our collection for the enjoyment and inspiration of the public. The watercolour illustrates the River Thames as a source of cultural inspiration and we hope that its use in our educational courses and planned future exhibitions will continue to enthuse visitors.”
Since opening in August 1998 the Museum has received numerous awards including the National Heritage/NPI Museum of the Year award, the Sandford Award For Heritage Education and the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge.
The River & Rowing Museum is part of the Thames Valley Museums Group (TVMG) Family Friendly initiative - a scheme that brings together 29 Museums across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, to promote their popular appeal to the whole family.
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