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Brush strokes celebrate beauty and social history

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

  • Clockwise from top: Sunset over The Exe, Woodbury Common, from a collection by Frederick John Widgery; Shipping off a Pier, a watercolour by Thomas Bush Hardy, RBA; The River Dart at Greenway Passage, an oil by William Pitt; Winter Lane, a miniature watercolour by Rosalind Pierson; and Royal Navy Warships of the Red Squadron at Anchor, in oil by Thomas Luny

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The magnificent scenery of Cornwall and Devon has stimulated artists across the centuries and Elford Fine Art offers an inspiring choice of oils and watercolours for sale in their Christmas exhibition, open now at their gallery in Drake Road, Tavistock.

The exhibition celebrates not only the outstanding natural beauty of our region, but also its social history, with compelling snapshots of everyday life over the years.

The importance of the sea and countryside in the fabric of the South West is reflected in the gallery's wide choice of maritime, landscape and moorland paintings.

Among the highlights is an impressive collection of works by Frederick John Widgery (1861-1942), who was renowned for his evocative images of spectacular Dartmoor with its dramatic tors, tumbling streams and colourful heather-clad valleys.

A prolific artist who captured the beauty of the South West in all its moods and variety, Widgery was not only passionate about Dartmoor's unique, wild landscape, but also enjoyed painting the beaches, estuaries, coves and cliffs around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. Scenes on display include Leather Tor, Yes Tor, Newquay Beach and Woody Bay in North Devon. Closer to his home in Exeter is an oil painting of Woodbury Common, capturing the light and atmosphere of a dramatic sunset with a glimpse of the beautiful Exe Estuary on the horizon.

This canvas comes with the additional provenance of a personal, handwritten letter from Frederick John Widgery to the original owners. Signed by the artist, the letter reveals that the painting was a gift from him "as a token of my appreciation of the many kindnesses you have extended to me", which he hoped the couple would hang in their sitting room.

An oil painting by one of Britain's most eminent marine artists, Thomas Luny (1759-1837), illustrates an interesting detail of Royal Navy history. The canvas, which is dated 1824, depicts warships of the Red Squadron at anchor.

At that time, the Royal Navy was still divided into three squadrons, the Red, White and Blue. All three Ensigns were used, with the ships of each squadron flying the appropriate colour.

It was 40 years after the date of Luny's painting, in 1864, that the squadron system was abandoned and the Red Ensign was assigned to the Merchant Fleet, with the Royal Navy adopting the White Ensign.

Although Luny was born in Cornwall, he spent much of his early life in London, where he became a pupil of the maritime painter Francis Holman. On location beside the River Thames, Luny was encouraged to take meticulous notes, recording accurately the details of ships and their rigging. At the age of 18, he was exhibiting his work at The Society of Artists and found many patrons for his paintings, which included scenes of Naval battles.

Around 1807, Luny moved to Devon and settled at Teignmouth, a fashionable resort of some note in Georgian times. He painted many views of the Devonshire coastline, and was a regular exhibitor at The Royal Academy. His work is represented today in many museums and art galleries, including The National Maritime Museum.

Antique paintings such as these, which have been handed down through generations, represent craftsmanship and quality at their very best. Their value has stood the test of time and they are a joy to own, enhancing contemporary interiors just as much as homes which are hundreds of years old.

Their legacy is complemented in this wide-ranging exhibition by an exciting new choice of 21st century oils and watercolours, among them the latest collection of exquisitely detailed watercolours by Rosalind Pierson, the new President of The Royal Miniature Society.

It has been an eventful year for Rosalind, who has not only just assumed her new role, but also won the prestigious RMS Gold Memorial Bowl, the highest accolade in the world for miniature painting. Her new works for sale in Elford Fine Art's Christmas exhibition feature golden scenes of autumn and sparkling wintry Dartmoor views, with the glow of evening light and freshly fallen snow still crisp underfoot.

Elford Fine Art's Christmas exhibition is open now at The Gallery, 3, Drake Road, Tavistock and continues every weekday and Saturday (10.30am to 430pm) until December 21.

Telephone 07712 137272 or visit elfordfineart.co.uk for more details.

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