RARE: George Wallis – 'Sutton Coldfield in the Park', Birmingham, pencil sketch (1857)
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"Sutton Coldfield in the Park", George Wallis – pencil and chalk on paper, 1857 (code AF12-321002)
A rare, and nationally important, sketch by George Wallis (1811-1891). This study of Birmingham's Sutton Park is inscribed bottom right and dated 1857. He was headmaster of the Birmingham School of Design from 1851-1858.
Wallis was a pioneering artist educator who influenced William Morris, John Clare, John Ruskin and others to depict nature in art that could help re-connected landless people to the outdoors after Enclosure.
Morris told Wallis's son after his death in 1891: "[Your father] sowed the seeds from which, later on, many thousands have culled the flowers."
Wallis's woodland landscape is designed to draw the reader into its thee dimensional elements. The scene features a gently sloping footpath over Sutton Park Brook for the viewer to consider walking. The shallow valley is punctuated by the brook, the small brick bridge and its arch, all teasingly worth exploring. Before entering the brook, the observer is sucked to the centre of the scene, where white light (in chalk) draws in the curious walker/viewer who has stepped down from bridge to brook. Finally, the tree line runs diagonally across the paper to give the scene contrasting values of action and stillness. Finally, the viewer must decide whether to go back to the path, or trespass towards the mid right mound, the brook, the middle ground of the old, bracken-coppice.
George Wallis FSA (1811–1891) was an artistic genius who helped blend art and design to refine some of the 19th century’s most important scientific innovations. He used nature in his early years to identify connections to improving aesthetics in production and manufacture of goods ranging from rifles to wallpaper. This link between art and "production" was connected to his wider mission to make art more readily available to public, either by new printing techniques or teaching as many people (not just college students) as possible how to paint and draw.
He received several medals from Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and Louis-Napoleon of France for his work. He taught drawing and painting even as a child, and continued to help others all his life, both formally and informally. His principle interest was the blending of art education with industrial art, especially in fabric, publishing and pottery designs. The purpose of his work was to find a way of retaining the beauty and joy of a unique design whatever the number of repetitions. He said:“It is the complete fact of the work itself with which we have to deal, not whether a man pottered for a month over a piece of work with a hammer and chisel or struck it out at a blow with a die and press."
He was at odds with John Ruskin for most of his life, who rejected ideas of machine reproductions having artistic merit.
He was senior keeper of art at South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria & Albert Museum) for 30 years, and a headmaster at numerous English design schools. He taught the connexion between the principles of decorative art, design and people’s daily lives, pre-dating a similar ethos pioneered by Steve Jobs, and Apple, in the 1980s. He wrote numerous essays and lectures on industrial art and design. Most of these focused on 'the power' of sketching quickly from nature for inspiration when engaged in applying principles of utility and art in design.
Wallis was commissioned by British and US governments to investigate design in the manufacture of internationally important products, including rifles and tools.
He was sent by government to the 1853 New York International Exhibition to study the development of art and manufacturing in America.
His drawing, painting and etching are held in collections of Victoria & Albert Museum, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, and Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
In 1919, a retrospective exhibition of Wallis's work was held. William Morris told Wallis's son in his speech at the opening that his father was one of the key figures of the English school art movement. He said: "Your father has led a long and useful life. He sowed the seeds from which, later on, many thousands have culled the flowers".
Also included with this purchase is information about The Stephen Neale Art Collection, from which the watercolour is taken, a certificate of authenticity, and a biograpy of George Wallis.
THE PERFECT GIFT FOR SOMEONE SPECIAL
Signed: Bottom right
Inscribed:Bottom right in pencil, 'Sutton Park', and dated 1857
Height: 36cm (14″)Width: 27cm (10″)
Condition: Dirty marks, bumps and small tears to the edges