Saturday, May 14, 2005


East Anglian Pierhead painting at Time and Tide Museum


24h Museum
By Catherine Rose
May 11, 2005

The Ianthe leaving the harbour at Malta, artist unknown,
oil, 1854. The Ianthe was built at Great Yarmouth in 1846.

On May 9 2005, for the first time in over 25 years, an exhibition of East Anglia’s finest Pierhead paintings went on display at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth.

View from the Pier is the second temporary exhibition to be held at Time and Tide, one of the four finalists for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year, and will run until July 3. It brings together selected paintings, mainly ship portraits, from the region’s museums and private collections increasing links with the local community.

Lowestoft Maritime Museum has loaned significant works and the world famous Museum of Knots in Ipswich has loaned ship models and sailors’ craft work.

Two days in, and the exhibition is already enjoying a great response. "It’s been fantastic," James Steward, Maritime Development Officer Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Services said, “with many visitors arriving on the opening day, including a large delegation from the local Women’s Institute who reminisced about the romantic time spent on the Pierhead at Great Yarmouth during their courting days!“

The exhibition features Yarmouth merchant ships produced in the Mediterranean in the mid 19th century and fishing vessels from the heyday of the East Anglian herring fishery around the end of the 19th century.

Sailing barge Fred Everard racing by Reuban Chappell,
oil on canvas c. 1930.

East Anglian artists played a significant part in the development of Pierhead paintings so the exhibition should prove a hit with the locals. “Exhibitions such as this create a sense of identity and place,” said James. “This is precisely what people want from their museums.”

Pierhead paintings date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the earliest examples appearing in the 18th century. The artists were often considered ‘naïve’ because the paintings did not conform to the traditions of fine art. Rather, these paintings are from the genre of popular, or folk art and were produced by self-taught artists for sale to the owners and skippers of the illustrated ships.

One of these artists was Reuben Chappell (1870 – 1940) who, by the age of 20, supported himself entirely through ship portraiture. He was a prolific artist and a great salesman, selling nearly 1,000 portraits between 1919-1920 alone! During his career, it is estimated that he completed over 12,000 ship portraits.

“These unique pictures appeal to people of all ages, and you really don’t need to be an art historian to appreciate them,” said James. “There is a workmanlike lack of pretension coupled with an undisguised feeling for the sea and ships.”

With the response so far, View from the Pier looks likely to enjoy similar success to Shipshape, the museum’s first temporary exhibition.

Converter smack G & E YH 779 by Tom Swan, watercolour
with body colour and ink, 1896. The G & E was built at Great
Yarmouth in 1879 and is shown in her trawling rig with new
un-tanned sails.

“It exceeded all expectations with over 5000 visitors,” James said of Shipshape. “The museum is beginning to establish a good reputation for high quality exhibitions showing the region’s finest collections”.

The exhibition is also offering a chance for visitors, young and old, to try their hand at Pierhead Painting with art sessions being held during half term on May 31 from 10 – 5pm and June 2 from 12 –4.30pm.

And for the budding young artists, there is a chance to see their masterpieces displayed. A competition is being held for three age groups – 0-5, 6-10 and 11-14. Time and Tide’s curator will be judging the art with paintings by the winner in each group being exhibited in the gallery.

Entrees must be received by June 24 2005 and be A4 size with name, age and address on the back. Paintings can be returned if a SAE is provided and can be left with staff or sent to Laura Matthews, Time and Tide, Blackfriar's Road, Great Yarmouth NR30 3BX.

‘View from the Pier’ is funded through the Regional Objective 2 Programme – Great Yarmouth Maritime Heritage Initiative (part funded by the EU). This initiative aims to establish Time and Tide as a Centre of excellence in Maritime Heritage.


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