BRITISH WOMEN ARTISTS: Louise Rayner

Broad Street, Bristol Watercolour 
Louise J. Rayner (1832 - 1924)

It was the Victorian age. The city was Bristol. The new age commerce was getting the hold of the people’s activities. 

In the middle of the day, in Victorian England, in the city of Bristol there stood a girl of fifteen. She had work to do. She had pencils and a notebook in her hands. What was she doing in the middle of a sunny day? She was taking the sketches of the road and buildings and the people who were running across the broad road of Bristol.

The girl was a painter. A watercolour painter of the nineteenth century of Britain. Her name was Louise Ingram Rayner (1832 –1924). If you are born into a family which is full of artists, you would certainly become an artist. So did Louise. She was surrounded by artist parents and artist siblings.

Let us skip other details about the artist. Let us move directly to the art itself. Look at this painting Broad Street, Bristol. 

Painting Analysed: This painting Broad Street, Bristol painted by Louise Rayner is a broad daylight representation of the street of a busy city. Yes, the city of Bristol was a busy city during the Victorian period. The street is broad and the building is tall and gothic. What catches our eyes the most is the fall of sunlight on the street. Keeping the focal point of the entire painting at the upper-middle portion, the buildings are divided into equal spaces, on the left and right sides.

As the whole painting is a vertical scheme of things, the ground-area gets lesser space than the walls and the windows of the buildings painted. But the movement in the street is shown as matching the time of the day. The porters in the middle are pulling the drums. Perhaps the drums were carrying the wine. This scene reminds us the best of the times wherein Charles Dickens had split such a wine-drum on the street of Paris. But we are in Bristol. The Broad Street of Bristol.

Let us now look at another painting. Let us now move to the city of Edinburgh. Here our artist girl of fifteen had become a young lady. She is standing before the legendary house named John Knox's House. She had decided to paint the busy street wherein the famous house is located since the fifteenth century.

John Knox's House, Edinburgh Watercolour 
Louise J. Rayner (1832 - 1924)

Painting Analised:  The painting of John Knox's House, Edinburgh is again a watercolour. The colours known as body-colours in those days are also used in this painting. The perspective is similar to the above painting of Broad Street, Bristol. The difference here is that the street is full of people. It seems it was the busiest time of the day in the city of nineteenth-century Edinburgh. 

The painting is filled with the brightness of the sunlight. The painting is perspiring with the movement of the running people. Men, women and children are in the street for their purposes. But the most striking element is the depiction of the old buildings. Louise Rayner was quite honest to the scene. She had painted the condition of the buildings, too. We can assume that these buildings are about to fall. They look so old and not maintained properly. But the artist had painted them as they looked. 

The space of the entire painting is occupied by the sunlit buildings. Almost three-fourths of the total area. The rest is occupied by the people and the carts, loaded and empty. The focal point is, strangely enough, on the far right side of the painting. We can see that our eyes are directed to move on the road and reach under the big monumental gate. It must be the entry-gate for that big complex.

The artist had been honest to show the clothes which are hung for drying in the sunlight. This is quite an authenticate essay of the area known as Knox's House, Edinburgh. The Knox's House is still there. But it is quite altered in its construction and its looks.

Durham Cathedral from Framwellgate bridge Louise Rayner

Now our artist young Lady has gone to Durham, the city of Cathedrals. She would paint the Durham Cathedral, as it is seen from the under-side of the Framwellgate bridge. The lady artist is standing on the bank of River Wear, on the opposite side of the Cathedral. 

Painting Analised: Here the Cathedral is at a distance. The artist Lady had used subdued colours for painting the building of the Cathedral. But the Framwllgate Bridge is in the near vicinity. So the bridge had got details. Louise must be sitting near the bridge. She would have got all of her weapons with her: the watercolours, the papers, the paint-brushes and other materials. As the sun is above the head, she must have arranged a Victorian-age parasol, perhaps, to avoid much sunlight on her painting. 

Like all other paintings, the artist Louise Rayner had used the force of sunlight here in her painting. The light coming from the other side of the River. We can see the wonderfully-painted brightness under the bridge. The people who are standing at the bank and walking even in the water flow make the entire scene so lively. 

The focal point is far, on the upper-right side where The cathedral building is ended. The entire painting (31 x 52cm) is covered with different objects: the water, the bridge over the river, the buildings on the banks, and finally the Cathedral of Durham. Each and every part of the painting is given the proper amount of space. The sky is painted with brightness and light colours. It makes the whole painting embedded with perspective and volume. 

The artist Louise Rayner had painted above three scenes in the nineteenth century. The buildings and the surrounding areas were witnessing the Victorian era, the period of growing commercial activities and rapid urbanisation. It would be very surprising to see how the same buildings and the same areas are looking today. The present-day pictures of the scenes painted in the above three paintings are given below. Look at them and enjoy them. [Above three images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons. The images below are taken from Wikimedia Commons, and proper attribution is given with the same]

 

Broad Street, Bristol


John Knox's House, 
High Street, Edinburgh
 

 

Durham Cathedral, 
seen from a train on the East Coast Main Line.

  

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