Offered is a lovely watercolor on paper with gouache highlights of Trafalgar Square. The artist is Frederick William Nelson Whitehead (1853-1938), who was a prominent British painter and etcher active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He studied at the Leamington School of Art under John Burgess and later at the Académie Julian in Paris under both Lefebvre and Boulanger. Whitehead traveled extensively in France at this time, including trips to Barbizon and Gretz. During these travels he became a proponent of working en plain air, or out of doors, and carried on with this tradition throughout his career.
After returning to England in 1870, Whitehead settled for a time in Dorset and there met Thomas Hardy, with whom he became lifelong friends. Whitehead began exhibiting at this time as well and became known for his British scenes, especially views of Warwickshire, Wessex, and Dorset. He was greatly influenced by Constable and liked to explore the changes in light and atmosphere in his works. In 1881, Whitehead exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy. He was subsequently was made an Associate Member of the Royal Academy and also became a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. Whitehead exhibited extensively with both organizations, as well as with prominent galleries in London, and his work is held today in numerous public and private collections, including the Leamington Art Museum. For more information about the artist, Wikipedia offers an excellent page of details.
This work is signed and dated 1924 lower right and is in fine condition beyond some faint age toning. The famous Nelson Monument in Trafalgar Square is shown prominently, with the church of St. Martin-in-the Fields seen beyond. The building undergoing renovation in left foreground is Malaysia House which, interestingly enough, was used in the 1987 James Bond movie "The Living Daylights" as the location of Bond's office. Trafalgar Square's streets were resurfaced in the 1920's and perhaps the work seen being done on Malaysia House was part of that project. I can find no record of it, however, so this watercolor provides a valuable glimpse into Trafalgar Square's 20th century history. A photo of present-day Trafalgar Square from roughly the same vantage point as Whitehead's is included. It's interesting to see how the artist arranged the elements to fit his composition.
The framing dates to the 1980's and consists of a single mat under plexiglass and simple silver metal frame. The work would likely benefit from a more elaborate framing job but the current one is certainly serviceable. The painting itself measures 13" x 9.5" sight size and 20.25" x 16.25" framed. The work was acquired directly from the artist's great-niece.
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