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"The Golden Age of Watercolours : The Hickman Bacon Collection
2001-09-19 until 2002-01-02
Dulwich Picture Gallery
UK United Kingdom
Since its creation in the early years of the last century, Sir Hickman Bacons collection of British landscape drawings and watercolours has been recognized as the best private holding of such works anywhere. This will be the first chance for the public to see the collection as a whole.
Sir Hickman Bacon had unusual tastes for his time. The collection is especially strong in the type of late, ethereal Turner watercolour that only became widely popular with the advent of abstract painting in the 1940s and 50s. The works by Girtin demonstrate how this brilliantly gifted artist expanded the visual, spatial, emotional and technical dimensions of landscape art during his short career, whilst the drawings by Turner demonstrate how far into the future he advanced the realm of his technique by building upon what he had learned from Girtin and others.
One of the glories of the collection is its group of watercolours by John Sell Cotman. When Sir Hickman Bacon was purchasing Cotmans long before the First World War, the artist had only just emerged from total obscurity. His popularity really began after a show in the Tate in 1922. The collection shows the artistís particular inventiveness as regards both form and colour, as well as his mastery of a range of watercolour techniques. The large group of drawings by Cox and De Wint shows the growing freedom of expression that watercolour permitted as the nineteenth century progressed, a freedom that anticipates French Impressionism, while the watercolours by Francia, Bonington and Boys make clear the direct links that were to exist between English and French landscape art, in addition to the growing interest in French subject matter.
It is entirely to the credit of its present owner that that he has kept the collection together, both as a tribute to the man who founded it, and as a demonstration of that collectorís commitment to purchasing works of art not in response to prevailing fashions, but out of a love of beauty.