Latest news from The Athelstan Museum, home of Malmesbury’s own TurnerThe Athelstan Museum has acquired an ink and wash drawing of Market Day at Malmesbury Market Cross which could be by the famous English artist and caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson.
The acquisition comes nearly two years after the team acquired a genuine masterpiece, a watercolour over pencil of Malmesbury Abbey, painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1827.
The latest find came when a new volunteer at the Athelstan Museum, Jonathan Tucker heard that the drawing of Malmesbury Market Cross by ‘a follower of Thomas Rowlandson’ was coming up for auction and decided to investigate further.
Jonathan, who was an art dealer for many years, was able to show members of the museum council detailed photographs of the drawing and obtained favourable feedback on the work of art from his former contacts in the art market world.
Based on this information, a maximum price was set on the drawing by the council and Jonathan kindly bid for the work on behalf of the museum.
Jonathan, who lives in Charlton, had been a volunteer at the Athelstan Museum for less than a week when he first heard about the drawing coming up for auction.
He said: “I was delighted to bid for this drawing and be of some help to the museum using my experience as an art dealer to acquire a local piece of history for Malmesbury.”
The ink and wash work of art, which measures 15.5cm x 23.5cm (6” x 9¼”), is mounted under glass and does need some restoration work on the frame, so the museum plans to get the drawing remounted and reglazed to museum quality conservation standards.
“It is a lovely ink drawing, in reasonable condition and with some colour highlights,” said Deborah Clogg, head of collections at the Athelstan Museum.
“It shows the Cross area with a market in progress. In Rowlandson’s style, the picture is full of life with people, animals, stalls and the general hubbub of a busy market day. “The Museum would like to undertake further research on its provenance. Some believe the drawing may be by Thomas Rowlandson himself, but there is currently insufficient evidence for this attribution.”
Thomas Rowlandson, born in London in 1756, was an English artist and caricaturist noted for his political satire and social observation. Like other caricaturists of his age, Rowlandson’s caricatures are often robust or bawdy. His caricatures included those of people in power such as the Duchess of Devonshire, William Pitt the Younger and Napoleon Bonaparte. Rowlandson died in 1827 at the age of 71 at his lodgings in London after a prolonged illness.
Sharon Nolan, chair of the Athelstan Museum confirmed: “Once the necessary restoration work and the research on its provenance has been undertaken, the beautiful ink and wash picture will be put on show in the Museum. I would like to thank our new volunteer, Jonathan, for enabling the Museum to acquire this wonderful drawing and we would love to welcome more new volunteers to our team at the Museum.”
Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Art Fund and local Wiltshire donors the Athelstan Museum was able to purchase an original Turner watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey and secure the iconic picture for future generations. The Turner now has pride of place at the top of the stairs in the newly renovated mezzanine floor of the museum. For more information visit https://www.athelstanmuseum.org.uk