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Charles Edward Hern
The High Cross, College Green, Bristol

The Painting
A watercolour measuring 9” x 5½”. Signed C.E. Hern RAAS. Dated verso 1890. Provenance: sometime with Barbara Rubenstein Fine Art (label verso).

About the Artist
Charles Edward Hern (1848-1894) was born in New South Wales, Australia. He was a landscape and architectural painter. At the time of producing this watercolour he lived at 9 Hyde Park Mansions, Hyde Park, London. He exhibited in 1883-94, including at the Royal Academy (5), Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour (8), Fine Art Society (4), Dowdeswell Galleries (91), and the Dudley Gallery and New Dudley Gallery (41). He taught watercolour painting to the daughters of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.

The Subject
The High Cross, College Green, Bristol – with the Cathedral in the distance. The original High Cross in Bristol was carved in 1373 and placed in College Green in 1733. It was removed by Henry Hoare II in 1768 to Stourhead Park in Wiltshire (now National Trust), where it still stands in the gardens laid out to his designs. A replacement High Cross, in a similar style to the medieval one, was erected at the eastern end of College Green in 1851. The design was by the Bristol-born architect John Norton (1823-1904), perhaps best-known as the architect of Tyntesfield in North Somerset (also National Trust). The Cross was made of limestone ashlar, and the carving was done by Harry Hems of Exeter.

The Cross replacement project had been initiated at a public meeting on 22 September 1848, when it was decided to raise a public subscription for the purpose. An account of the laying of the foundation stone appeared in the Bristol Mercury on 10 August 1850: ‘The citizens were having restored to them, on that day an heir-loom long cherished, long neglected, and long lost, a monument of their city’s antiquity, though three generations have passed away since it was standing erect within its walls.’ The Cross was completed in 1851, but it was several years before all the statues were added. The Freemasons of the city donated a figure of Edward III in 1855, and the remaining seven statues were installed in 1889 – the year before this watercolour was painted. A year earlier, in 1888, the Cross had been moved nearer the centre of College Green, to make way for the statue of Queen Victoria erected to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of 1887.

The Cross remained in this new position until 1950, when College Green was levelled and the trees removed. The truncated Cross was placed in the east corner of Berkeley Square Gardens, Bristol, where it is now Grade II listed.

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