The Rise of Victorian Paintings Part 1 –

spencer watson The Rise of Victorian Paintings Part 1

George Spencer Watson, R.A., R.W.S., R.O.I. (1869-1934) 'Four Loves I found, a Woman, a Child, a Horse and a Hound' signed and dated 'G. Spencer Watson/1922' (lower left) and inscribed 'G. Spencer Watson/20 Holland Park Rd/W14' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 56 x 77 in. (142.2 x 195.6 cm.)

For may people the mere mention of the Victorian era conjures up images of terribly uninspiring chocolate box worthy narrative scenes, and utterly awful reproduction “brown” furniture. Regardless of the fact that there is far more to the Victorian era than the clichés that have come to characterise the period, Victorian art continues to struggle to shake it’s bad image. The good news is that the market for what has been an unfashionable collecting category has improved significantly over the last few years, as has the image of the entire period. There is, however, still a long way to go before the work of the many fantastic Victorian artists who have languished in obscurity for so many years are given the recognition they deserve. An upside of this situation is that there is an opportunity for investors to take advantage of an undervalued sector of the market, and for collectors/connoisseurs to potentially immortalise themselves in the art world by becoming patrons of the period.

A number of factors, which I shall discuss later on, have contributed to a revival of interest in the art of the Victorian era – a period of art that had essentially become a casualty of the popularity of modernism. In fact, Victorian paintings have been assigned so little value in the past that, as collector of Victorian paintings “Kip” Forbes famously quipped in the 1960’s, one could assemble one of the world’s greatest collections of Victorian art for the price of a minor Monet. Which he did. Forbes was a major figure in the revival of Victorian paintings who I will profile in greater detail in a future post.

The increasing popularity of Victorian art was particularly evident at the Victorian and British Impressionist Art including Drawings and Watercolours auction held by Christie’s on the 16th of December 2009. A total of five new world auction records were set for classical Victorian works by some of the periods best known names such as William Powell Frith, Edward Reginald Frampton and Harold Knight. What is particularly exciting about many of the Victorian painting sales of the last few years is that many brilliant but relatively unknown artists are beginning to be recognised. One such artist is George Spencer Watson R.A whose painting “Four Loves I found, a Woman, a Child, a Horse and a Hound” achieved 151,250 pounds at the above mentioned auction against an estimate of 100,000-150,000 – a new world auction record for the artist. Two other paintings by Watson were also auctioned both of which sold for more than twice the high estimate. The entire 16th December sale wasn’t a massive success with only 63% of the lots sold but this is a reflection of the fact that there are a large number of second and third rate Victorian paintings on the market and a small number of connoisseur collectors who only want the very best works.

To be continued………..

 The Rise of Victorian Paintings Part 1**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

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