CITY MUSEUM EXHIBITION OF ONE OF THE FINEST 20th CENTURY PORTSMOUTH PAINTERS
I recently visited Portsmouth City Museum to check out their new exhibition entitled Edward King: A Life in Art, which for the first time dedicates the main exhibition space to this Portsmouth painter. The city art collection contains’s many paintings plus other archived items and photographs from the painter’s Portsmouth period after they were donated to the city and this exhibition focuses on three phases, the WW2 bombing paintings, paintings of St. James and paintings of Milton Locks & Eastney.
Edward King originally studied art (and the violin) in Leipzig. On return to England, he focused on painting, particularly in watercolour, with his illustrations beginning to appear in journals such as Punch and the Illustrated London News. By 1904 he had exhibited 54 paintings at the Royal Academy. Edward King is often considered to be amongst the most important British painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with his work known and respected by both Whistler and an inspiration for Van Gogh. Right near the start of the exhibition and in a folder on a table you can see this early work on show as well as artefacts from this period.
…Edward King: A Life in Art, which for the first time dedicates the main exhibition space to this Portsmouth painter
…takes you back to a time when the eastern part of the city was working, arable farmland a million miles from the terraced, busy streets that form Milton now
King moved to South Harting near Petersfield in 1884 where he eventually married. Sadly in 1924 Edward’s wife Amelia died of consumption and the painter suffered a breakdown and was committed to St James Hospital in 1925, where he lived until he died of a stroke in 1951. During his time at the hospital, Edward King would draw & paint as an early form of art therapy. Over the years he became a familiar figure in the Milton area, painting scenes of houseboats by Milton Locks or the hospital farm. Many of these Milton paintings depict the area as it was, a rural, quiet & idilic corner of the then rapidly growing city.
Two sections of the exhibition are dedicated to these two periods, with the middle gallery space for St James and the end gallery space home to Milton Locks. The artwork in both of these sections takes you back to a time when the eastern part of the city was working, arable farmland seemingly a million miles/years from the terraced, busy streets that form Milton now. The paintings of quiet house boats lining the edge of Langstone Harbour are a little more recognisable but show a distinctly different community that was out on the edge of the island, isolated but together. It is easy to see how these quiet locations became regular and familiar sources of inspiration to the artist.
Edward King became much more active locally after the Blitz, when Denis Daley the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth commissioned the painter to document the bomb damage to the city. King went out each day and painted a series of over 30 scenes that graphically show the war torn state of Portsmouth. The paintings from this commission form the core of the exhibition and show a city in tatters, yet despite the brutal damage the cityscapes and buildings are often shown with blue skies, expressive strokes with sunlit colours and represent much more than documentary evidence of the aftershocks of war.
King went out each day and painted a series of over 30 scenes that graphically show the war torn state of Portsmouth
Through the eyes of one of the greatest 20th century Portsmouth artists you can grasp an impressionistic yet tactile sense of the rise of a city from the rubble and the disappearing ways of life on it’s periphery…
The exhibition is a fantastic mix of beautiful artwork and a view of the recent, turbulent past of the city of Portsmouth. This collection of images captures a time of transition in both of the then two faces of Portsmouth, the urban and historic streets and the sedate fields and coast. Through the eyes of one of the greatest 20th century Portsmouth artists you can grasp an impressionistic yet tactile sense of the rise of a city from the rubble and the disappearing ways of life on it’s periphery, as the urban sprawl reached out to all edges of the island city.
The exhibition will run until the end of the year and is highly recommended. You can participate in a series of workshops during the show that touch on themes and the museum is also collecting people’s memories of the different places depicted in the artwork, so do get down to the museum and get involved. As always, Portsmouth City Museum is FREE entry, and as well as this exhibition has many other awesome permanent exhibitions on show too, you can find out more here: