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Last year Sir Michael [Sadler] visited the Carfax Gallery in London and came back with a significantly lighter chequebook. I was extatic as it was a Chowne one-man exhibition!
Isabella is at two minds about the Carfax. I loath to think it’s sour grapes for my lovely daughter, but it may just be the case… The gallery was established back in 1899 by Rothenstein and John Fothergill (1876–1957) and it’s now in Bury Street, London. It’s not indisposed either to past masters (it held exhibitions of William Blake in 1904 and 1906) or popular contemporaries like John Singer Sargent, but nowadays it’s most renowned for more forward-looking tastes. It seems to me that now they favour Walter Sickert and his group above everyone else, so contemporary exhibitors at Carfax are usually members of the New English Art Club. It is typical of the gallery to juggle Old Master exhibitions with those of young, relatively unknown artists. They put their the first Camden Town Group exhibition on last year, and this year Paul Nash, still fresh from the Slade! But oh Isabella, you’ll have many years ahead of you before you get a one-(wo)man show in the Carfax – if ever!
I had the opportunity to see the Chowne exhibition last year when I was helping Isabella to find a respectable boarding institution and move in. The Gallery itself has a single exhibition room at the back on the ground floor, with a spiral staircase leading down to a basement, storeroom and office. The Camden Town Group exhibitions are put up in the basement. But back to the Chowne exhibition: I fell in love with the his paintings at once. They are fresh and breezy, he is a master of light and colours.
I was of course very excited when Sir Michael visited the show and he obviously liked what he saw. I happen to know that he purchased several paintings. I just typed the list for his office this afternoon! He bought four watercolours, Children Bathing, On the Sands, Study for a Moonlight Picture and Limestone Cliffs, and four oils Apples, Plums, Lamplight Portrait and Larkspurs. The one called Lamplight Portrait is of his wife, a beautiful woman!
These are all quite lovely and I can only hope Sir Michael will put at least a couple of them up somewhere on campus for everyone to see. Thankfully, he is just as compulsive about exhibiting paintings for everyone’s education as he is about collecting them in the first place.
Ever since I came home from that wonderful and adventurous trip to London, my very own (albeit humble) Grand Tour, I’m quite in love with his flower paintings. I certainly do hope that Sir Michael will at some point buy another one in addition to the Larkspurs. Oh Lavvie, a selfish old woman spending someone’s else’s money for them, that’s what you are!
Lavender’s hopes came true – although it is unknown when Sadler purchased it, he presented Chowne’s Flowers in Sunlight (1909) to the University of Leeds when he retired from his office as Vice-Chancellor in 1923.
More about this painting and the rest of the gift: The Sadler Gift 1923 (Leeds: University of Leeds, 2011), esp. p. 34.
Details about the Carfax Gallery’s history and the description (quoting Paul Nash) is taken from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/samuel-shaw-the-carfax-gallery-and-the-camden-town-group-r1104371
24 Bury Street, London today: