Sir Ernest George
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).
George’s watercolours were mostly the result of holiday tours. Sir H. Von Herkomer RA considered him ‘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. For years he went abroad to all parts of Europe to study and sketch, and found inspiration in the great cities of the world, and on these excursions he did… sketches and pictures, brilliant in execution and showing to the full his wonderful power and skill… 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 published a landmark book on the architecture of Sir Ernest George in 2011, the first major study to be devoted to him.
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A watercolour measuring 13½” x 9½”. Signed Ernest George and inscribed ‘BURGOS, 1883’. Old label verso ‘8954, Burgos (Sir E. George ARA)’.
Burgos in northern Spain is the historic capital…
…of Castile. The painting depicts the medieval entrance to the city, Arco de Santa María, built in the 14th century. Behind it rises the Cathedral of Santa María de Burgos, a World Heritage Site begun in 1221 and completed in 1567. On the left are the twin spires of the west front of the Cathedral, and on the right is the lantern tower over the transept crossing.
The Colossi of Memnon, Egypt
A watercolour measuring 13¼” x 9”. Signed Ernest George and inscribed “The Memnon, Thebes”.
Pharaoh Amenhotep III (18th Dynasty) built a mortuary temple in Thebes (now Luxor)…
All that remains of this temple are the two gigantic statues of the pharaoh, made from carved blocks of Quartzite, which guarded the outer gates. The statues are 23 meters high and weigh 1,000 tons. The northern statue depicts Amenhotep III with his mother, Mutemwia, while the southern statue is of Amenhotep with his wife, Tiy, and one of his daughters. On the sides of the statues are reliefs depicting Nile gods, joining together plants symbolising Upper and Lower Egypt. Following an earthquake in 27 BC, the statues emitted a bell-like tone that usually occurred in the morning due to rising temperatures and humidity. They were thus compared by early Greek travellers with the figure of Memnon, son of Aurora whose mother, Eos, was the goddess of dawn. The Roman emperor Septimius Severus, seeking to repair the statues in 199 AD, inadvertently silenced them forever.
The Lychgate, Church of St John the Baptist, West Wickham
A watercolour measuring 12” x 8½”. Signed Ernest George. Inscribed verso ‘West Wickham Ch[urch] June 4 1864’.
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.