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This lost British Impressionist watercolour was discovered behind a painting 1

a watercolour of a valley lined with trees and with rocks in the foreground

Hilly Landscape with trees and rocks by A M Foweraker. Courtesy Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

A delicate example of British Impressionsim is discovered hidden behind a painting at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter

Exploring how the light played upon the landscape and the flickering of lamps amidst dusky environments were just two of the phenomena that fascinated British Impressionist painter Albert Moulton Foweraker (1873–1942).

So when conservators at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) uncovered an exquisite watercolour by the Devonian artist in which the light played gracefully on the features of a wooded valley, they were justly excited.

The work was found hidden beneath Foweraker’s painting, Palma, Majorca, during the conservation of paintings for A Sense of Place (June 18 to 15 March 2020), the next exhibition of RAMM’s Fine Art collection.

The exhibition draws on a wide selection of works from the 18th to the 20th century and explores how artists have sought to capture the essential characteristics that define places as varied as Cairo and Florence. Foweraker’s study, hidden behind one of his many Mediterranean scenes, offered a tantalising glimpse into British Impressionism.

a watercoloour of a Spanish or Mediterranean street scene

Palma Majorca by A M Foweraker. Courtesy Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

“It is thrilling to be the first to set eyes on this painting for 100 years,” says curator Michele Green. “The painting is exquisite. It has all the characteristics of Foweraker’s Impressionistic style and demonstrates his skill in depicting the effects of light upon the landscape.

“The foreground is dominated by a cluster of rocks set against a wooded hillside. In the distance the eye is drawn to a craggy hillside illuminated and seemingly ablaze with the orange glow of the sun’s light.”

Although renowned by a small band of admirers for his delicate and often glittering evocations of British and European landscapes, Foweraker was a scientist at heart and was awarded a degree in applied science in 1893. He later qualified as a milling engineer and worked both as an engineer and journalist in Exeter and would even occasionally work as a science demonstrator at Exeter Technical College.

But following an accident in which he lost three of his fingers he took up art professionally in 1898 and as a prolific local artist he painted many landscapes of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. In 1902 he was admitted to the Royal Society of British Artists and moved to West Cornwall and the village of Lelant near Carbis Bay.

Becoming a teacher of watercolour at Algernon Talmadge’s Cornish School of Landscape and Sea Painting based in St Ives, his paintings were seen regularly in London and regional galleries – exhibiting 50 works alone between 1902 and 1912 at the Royal Society of British Artists.

a painted scene of a Spanish town on a hillside

Foweraker, Albert Moulton; Afterglow, the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada, Granada, Spain. Courtesy Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Via Art UK

In the 1920s he moved to Swanage where he captured the coastline in a series of beautiful and enigmatic canvasses until his death in 1942 aged 68.

He also made frequent trips to Spain and visited North Africa and the South of France and produced many Impressionistic paintings inspired by these travels, one of which hid a charming study in landscape and luminosity.

Exeter’s Fine Art Collection: A Sense of Place, runs from June 18 2019 to March 15 2020. See the museum website for more details. 

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Fully refurbished after a multi-million pound redevelopment, the new displays showcase the collections and collectors that have helped RAMM to become one of Britain’s finest regional museums. They tell the story of Exeter and Devon from the prehistoric to the present but, more than a local museum, its internationally important…

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