J. Callingham (late 19th / early 20th c.), British
“Rocks at Ilfracombe”, Sept. 1915
oil on panel, 7 1/8 in. x 9 3/8 in.
(framed dimensions: 8 7/8 in. x 11 1/8 in. )
Signed lower right: “J. Callingham 1915”
Inscribed on reverse: “Rocks at Ilfracombe. Sept 1915 J. Callingham”
This sweet little painting captures a beautiful sunset in early fall off the coast of Ilfracombe in the southwest of England looking out on the Bristol Channel. A steamship enters the channel while two sailing vessels, possibly fishermen, ply the waters nearby. The scene is a peaceful one in a turbulent time. World War I was in its 2nd year and German submarines had wreaked havoc on shipping approaching England, including the sinking of RMS Lusitania just across the channel from Ilfracombe off the Irish coast on May 7, 1915. On August 30, Germany had agreed to stop sinking ships without warning, and in September stated that they would only attack ships that were "definitely British”. On this beautiful evening in Ilfracombe all of that seems distant. The painting is very well done with delightfully rich color notes in varying hues of red and blue.
I could find very little information on the life of this artist. There have been a number of J. Callingham paintings that have come up for auction with this same signature, both oils and watercolors, all marine paintings, some with a combination of steam and sailing vessels as seen here. There is information out there that the artist lived in Surbiton, Surrey, a southwest suburb of London, but I’m not sure this is the same individual.
The painting is in very good condition overall. The support, a solid wooden panel, has warped slightly over its 104-year lifespan. This should be apparent in some of the photographs. The panel is stable, no cracks or splits, and the slight warping does not detract at all from the painting’s presentation and enjoyment. The paint surface is very good; there are some minute areas of paint craquelure in the sky due to the wooden support. These are completely stable and almost irrelevant. Under blacklight I see very little, if any, suggestion of inpainting. The simple gold frame is in good condition and suits this charming painting.
J. Callingham painting, "Rocks at Ilfracombe", 1915