Edward John POYNTER (Paris 1836 - London 1919)

Lynmouth, Devon Sold

Watercolour and gouache.
Signed with monogram, dated and titled 18 EJP 66 Lynmouth at the lower right.
305 x 464 mm. (12 x 18 1/4 in.)



Though Poynter is not generally thought of as a watercolour draughtsman, it should not be forgotten that his father Ambrose was an amateur watercolour painter of some talent, and that his earliest artistic training was with the topographical watercolourist Thomas Shotter Boys. He was elected to the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colour in 1883, and used the medium of watercolour mostly for landscapes – views in Italy, Scotland and elsewhere - and informal portraits.

Most of Poynter’s few watercolour landscapes date from early in his career. These tend to be records of places he visited, and are among his most personal works, done for his own pleasure and seldom exhibited. (In later years, however, the artist consented to show some of his landscape watercolours at the Fine Art Society, the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery.) In contrast to the more atmospheric effects and diffused forms of the work of many of his contemporaries, however, his watercolour technique remained precise and controlled, with a restrained colour scheme. The present watercolour, drawn in 1886 when the artist was aged thirty, is a fine example of this.

As one contemporary critic noted, ‘It is not too much to claim that, as Sir Edward Poynter’s more ambitious work is of [a] classic order, something of the same quality has overflowed into these small but choice water-colours which are his recreation (as he himself says), from the more severe duties of his positions as chief craftsman, instructor and governor of certain national institutions. His work is not aggressive at all; it does not even attempt sober tours de force; it is merely strong, and simple, and reposeful, and, as a rule, English. But somehow it has a way of making one want to see it again, and to pore over it – just as have his crayon studies...These water-colours are less known, but in their way they have that same reticent beauty which have those well-known figure drawings...There is a peculiar mental quality in them which is at once charming and dignified, despite its suspicion of severity.’

Another contemporary writer noted of Poynter’s watercolours that his ‘love of nature and profound knowledge of plant life enable him to see and feel a keener enjoyment in landscape art than the generality of artists, and his pictures are evidently the expression of his own sincere joy in the beauty of nature...a sound knowledge of draughtsmanship and a sense of refined and beautiful colour enable him to carry out his ideas very rapidly...Sir Edward is particularly happy in catching the true atmospheric tones, and a certain serenity of outlook and restrained colour ensure the sense of repose which is characteristic of his landscapes.’

The coastal village of Lynmouth in Devon, at the northern edge of Exmoor National Park, was once described by Thomas Gainsborough as ‘the most delightful place for a landscape painter that this country can boast.’ The surrounding coastline, noted for high sea cliffs, was popular with Victorian artists, including William Henry Millais, George Price Boyce and James Collinson. In this atmospheric watercolour, a small boat is seen in the midst of the sea, dwarfed by the coastal cliffs and a rainstorm that is sweeping across the composition. The suggestion of an approaching storm is tempered by the hint of better weather evident in the sunshine breaking through the clouds in the far distance.

Another Devonshire watercolour by Poynter of the same date as the present sheet is a view of The Castle Rock at Lynton, a village adjacent to Lynmouth, which was formerly in the Ingram collection and appeared at auction in 2005.

This watercolour almost certainly belonged to the Conservative MP Alfred Baldwin (1841-1908), father of the future Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Through his wife, Louisa Macdonald, Alfred Baldwin was Poynter’s brother-in-law. The couple were married in August 1866, and the present sheet, which is dated that year, may indeed have been intended as a wedding present. Louisa Macdonald was the sister of both Agnes Poynter and Edward Burne-Jones’s wife, Georgiana, as well as Alice Kipling, the mother of Rudyard Kipling.

Probably Alfred Baldwin, M.P., Lower Park, Bewdley, Wilden House, Worcestershire and London
Chris Beetles, London, in March 2002
Christopher Cone, Whitby.

‘The Grosvenor Gallery’, The Times, 1 May 1877, p.10 (‘By Mr. Poynter, are in this room [East Gallery], a portrait of Mrs. Burne-Jones (37), and a landscape view from a window at Lynmouth (37A)’, and. in the Watercolour Room, ‘a study of sea rippled by west wind, by Poynter’): Huon Mallalieu, ‘The virgin and the vamp’, Country Life, 5 August 2015, p.85, fig.7.

Edward John POYNTER

Lynmouth, Devon


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