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I’ve been to some exciting art events lately and I’m thrilled to bits with my exploits. I feel like a real modern woman, fluttering from art exhibition to art exhibition, from train station to train station!

First I went to Halifax to an exhibition on the History of watercolours. I really liked it too! I travelled with Mr St Paer, who’s the Administrative Assistant. While he was instructed by Sir Michael himself to travel and inspect the exhibition, I was going in my own time, happily and voluntarily. The reason Mr St Paer had to go to Halifax is that most of the pictures in the exhibition have been lent by Sir Michael to Archdeacon Norris, the organiser. Of course these were complemented by other works lent by Halifax residents through the local Arts and Crafts Society. The Archdeacon’s illustrious great grandfather, a Dr Monro, was also a painter, so some of those works come from his personal collection. The pictures were arranged by Conway Blatchford who is the Art Master of the Municipal Technical College, where the exhibition is held at.

My favourites are no doubt the Cozens ones, to which, as Mr St Paer assured me, Sir Michael himself is very much in favour of. Apparently he owns a couple already and he’s planning to exhibit some of them around the University buildings.

Some of the ‘more discerning’ visitors voiced opinions about the insignificance of the medium and the exhibited art, but I was very impressed. One young lady (impressive burgundy stockings and dainty shoes) was especially vocal about her expectations standing right in front of every piece, so that it was a miracle that I saw any of it at all. Very annoying. Anyway, looking at these delicate things, I felt I could see the ropes behind art – you see the grain of paper, the marks of the drying pigment of the page and sometimes even the faint pencil lines sketching the central shapes. It was worth the long train trip and made me look forward to an even longer one just one week later.

Last Saturday evening I left for Newcastle. I stopped at my auntie Elizabeth and endured her opinions about my daughter Isabella living alone in London in return for her sherry and cake, well-stuffed mattress, well-stoked fires, and magically appearing hot water in the morning before the breakfast gong. Such creature comforts certainly put me into a good mood as I was walking to the Laing Art Gallery not far from her townhouse. This exhibition, which was brought to Newcastle by the city’s very own Contemporary Art Society, has already been on display in Leeds. It’s a daring, modern show, with the likes of Wilson Steer and Walter Sickert and lesser-known artists William Strang and Enraght Moony. There were good drawings by Rothenstein – I mentioned him some time ago on these pages.

There was a beautiful painting by Elliott Seabrooke, called ‘The Rainbow’. I know most people would find this choice of subject sentimental, but I really liked the vantage point and the vast expanse of landscape that he is able to show under the arch. I think Seabrooke captured the essence of the ephemeral beauty of something made of nothing but light and air. I do believe it actually is a loan from Sir Michael Sadler. I presume he purchased it when it was exhibited at the New English Art Club‘s winter exhibition last year, but I don’t rightly know. I do hope he will have it hung somewhere around the university as is his wont!

Altogether, I was pleased with the works. Funny, how I travelled so far to see something that I could have visited while in Leeds, but I was so terribly sick and then I got so terribly busy. Besides, I like train travel, me. My mother always thought I had a gypsy soul, and then somehow I got stuck in Leeds where I was born and raised. Let Newcastle be my Paris, then!

Have a look at my clippings from the Yorkshire Post:

Some details and resources about the paintings and painters mentioned by Lavender:

Cozens was a drawing master in a London charity school and a private tutor at Eton and London. He loved systems and rules and wrote several manuals on landscapes, foliage and other compositions. He devised a system whereby different kinds of ladnscape could be achieved through the ink blot – loose sketching with a brush loaded with ink, suggesting different motifs. As most of his works is such imagined landscape it is hard to keep track of sales, lists, provenance and exhibitions. It is unsure which one Lavender had a chance to see in Halifax. Sadler indeed was a collector of the Russian-born Cozen’s works. In 1923 and 1924, Sadler presented three Cozens drawings to the Leeds City Art Gallery (Italian Landscape with Lake and Castle; Lonely Tower; Italian Landscape with Fort). In 1931 he donated Landscape with Hills beyond a Hollow and Landscape with a Pool in a Hollow to the Leeds City Art Gallery and A Mountain Gorge and Study of a Tree to the Whitworth Art Gallery. In 1933 he donated Landscape with a Tree to the Cooper Art Gallery in Barnsley, which was followed by a further three drawings. The Leeds University Collection received four landscapes by Cozens in Sir Michael Sadler‘s 1923 gift. These are A Landscape with Wooded Hill, A Landscape with High Hill, A Mountain Pool and A Lake Scene. All of them are listed as hanging in various parts of University buildings at some point, so Lavender was probably familiar with Cozens’s works or was about to know them better. (Details from the Catalogue of the Sadler Gift, an exhibition organised by The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, at the University of Leeds, in October 2011.

Dr Monro is perhaps lesser known than his protege, J. M. W. Turner. Born in London, Joseph Mallord William Turner entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1790, first in watercolours, afterwards in oils.  Between c.1794 and 1797, Turner worked for Dr.Thomas Monro (the Archdeacon Norris’s great-grandfather, 1759-1833), a connoisseur and amateur artist who encouraged young artists to copy from his large collection of drawings, which included works by Gainsborough, J.R.Cozens, Thomas Hearne and Paul Sandby. Farington records in his diary that Turner earned three shillings and sixpence a night, and his supper.

The Rainbow

Elliott Seabrooke, The Rainbow, 1910, oil on canvas. (c) Estate of the artist

Elliott Seabrooke’s ‘The Rainbow’ was presented to the University Leeds in 1923 by Sir Michael Sadler, as part of the a large gift of artworks from his collection. It is now in the permanent collection of the University of Leeds at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and was exhibited in the exhibition ‘The Sadler Gift’ in 2011. It is presently not on display, but available for researchers and education purposes by appointment.

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, ‘The Sadler Gift 1923 – Exhibition Catalogue, University of Leeds, 2011, p. 98