Denys Brook-Hart, author of “British 19th Century Marine Painting,” discusses the artist William Webb in the chapter entitled, “Some More Undervalued or Little-Known Artists.” He writes that until he personally conducted several years of research on Webb, details about the artist were extremely limited. Then, he adds, “the word got around and the cost of his pictures increased some eight or ten times.”
Brook-Hart calls Webb’s talent “outstanding.” The author himself notes that he illustrated three of his works because “his work is so excellent.” That is as many as he illustrated of one of his great favorites, the “genius” J.M.W. Turner. Webb, Brook-Hart continues, developed a style that was reminiscent of Turner, yet distinctively his own. “There is a sheer humanity which glows through each of his pictures,” he writes, “so that one feels that he truly enjoyed the execution of the painting…” The author was so taken by his research on Webb that he organized his own major exhibition of the artist’s paintings, which further popularized his work.
One more quote from Brook-Hart: “So far, I have not met an intelligent viewer of pictures who is not attracted to William Webb’s paintings, invariably at first sight.” That is precisely what happened to me, and I hope I can share that feeling with you.
William Webb (1862-1903) was a prolific painter, but one who struggled in his Manchester City studio throughout his relatively short life. He exhibited locally many times at the Manchester City Art Gallery and Liverpool’s prestigious Walker Art Gallery, plus three times at London’s Royal Academy. Among many other references, Webb is listed in the French “Dictionary of Painters…,” by E. Benezit. The artist travelled all around the British Isles to paint, but a great number show scenes off the coast of the Isle of Man.
This particular shore scene is believed to be off the Isle of Man fishing port of Castletown. It depicts two fishing boats on the sandy shores, with figures and dinghies nearby. The fishermen and the two women in one of the dinghies in the foreground give scale and local character to the scene. The artist’s short brush strokes help convey the atmosphere of life at this quiet backwater. It is signed “W. Webb” and indistinctly dated on the lower right.
There is something about his work that makes the viewer lose himself in the painting. Perhaps it is through the harmonization of his colors, the nature of his brushstrokes and the amazing gift he had for composition and style. For those of us who romanticize the sea and the shipping life within it, his works can bring this quality to us like few other painters of his day. It is no wonder that his paintings as so sought after. Prices for his paintings have ranged upwards of $30,000.
The work is housed in a later frame than the painting, but one that suits the subject matter well. The painting is in excellent condition. I have had it professionally cleaned and the frame lightly restored, so it is all ready to hang.
It measures 28-3/4 inches wide by 21 inches high, including the frame.
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