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Sir Ernest George

The Lychgate, West Wickham Church

The Painting

A watercolour measuring 12" x 8½". Signed Ernest George. Inscribed verso ‘West Wickham Ch[urch] June 4 1864’.

About the Artist

Sir Ernest George RA, RE, PRIBA (1839-1922) was born in Southwark, London, and educated at Clapham, Brighton and Reading. He entered the Royal Academy School in 1858 and was awarded the Gold Medal in 1859. In 1861 he opened his own architectural practice. He won the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1896, and became President of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1908. He was knighted in 1911, elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1910 and Royal Academician in 1917. He exhibited at the Fine Art Society (760), Royal Academy (43), Royal Society of British Artists (19), Royal Hibernian Academy (14), and Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (3).

Sir H. Von Herkomer RA considered George to be ‘one of the finest architectural water-colourists of his generation.’ Fellow architect and former pupil Sir Edward Guy Dawber (1861-1938) noted: ‘beyond everything else Ernest George was an artist, with perhaps more of a bias towards the picturesque in architecture than the monumental, but as a draughtsman and water-colour painter he was absolutely unrivalled... Many of his water-colour drawings will rank with those of our greatest architectural artists. His work was so free, so delicate and yet forcible. His drawings show a delightful freedom and yet absolute accuracy of perspective, a power of selection and composition which always appeals.’

Professor Hilary J. Grainger has recently published a landmark new book on the architecture of Sir Ernest George, the first major study to be devoted to him.

The Subject

The Lychgate, Church of St John the Baptist, West Wickham. A lychgate is a roof over the entrance to a churchyard, beneath which bearers paused when bringing a body for internment. The lychgate at the Church of St John the Baptist, West Wickham – near Bromley in Greater London – dates from the 15th century. This watercolour is dated verso 1864, a particularly early work for Ernest George, painted only 3 years after he opened his own practice.