Research by Anne Matthews
Acc No 93
Artist Thomas Greenhalgh
Artist dates 1848-1906
Size 40 x 27 in (101.6 x 68.7 cm)
Date painted Unknown
Donor Mrs L M Flanagan,
Inner Promenade, Lytham St Annes
Date donated 24 October 1949
Thomas Greenhalgh is a recognised landscape artist of the Victorian period. Although working mainly in watercolours, his style has been described as that of the ‘English Water School’, he was also skilful in oils. He exhibited widely around the country, including the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery and the Royal Hibernian Academy. There are three of his paintings in the National Collection at the Atkinson Art Gallery, Manchester - In the South Aisle Chartres, Interior of St Marks Venice and The Jubilee Procession Southport.
Born in 1848 in Heywood, Lancashire, where his father was a blacksmith, Thomas was the youngest of seven children. By the age of 14 his occupation was already recorded on the census as 'painter', although where he received his training, if any, remains unclear. After his marriage he moved to Southport where he lived until his death in 1906. Here, Thomas immediately associated himself with the local artists, becoming a member of the Southport Art Association and a regular exhibitor at the Southport Spring Exhibition, an annual loan exhibition (1878-1967) run by the Atkinson Art Gallery to spotlight the work of nationally recognised contemporary artists. His work is also included in the Gallery’s permanent collection. A newspaper review of his first exhibits, in 1880, which included the The Lower Falls at Ponty-y-Pair and Upper Falls, remarked on his ‘fine treatment of the foliage in the latter reminding us of the style of Boisserie’.
He travelled widely, not just in Britain, which included a time with the Cornwall Artists - From Newlyn to Penzance exhibited in 1890 at the Atkinson Gallery, Manchester - but also to cities in Europe. He seems to have had a passion for churches and painted several views, both interior and exterior. To date over 60 works have been identified online and many of his paintings are available both as prints and posters. Examples of the breadth of his work: View of St Peter’s Basilica from across the Tiber, The Rialto Bridge, Bruges, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament from the River Thames, Tees at Barnard Castle, Richmond Castle from the Swale and the much praised Tropical House, Kew Gardens. His Coaling, "SS City of Rome", in the Mersey forms part of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection.
The subject of this painting, Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral situated on a slight ridge overlooking the River Somme in the historic city of Amiens, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Paris. It is the largest of the three great Gothic cathedrals built in France during the 13th century, the others being Reims and Chartres.
Bishop Evrard de Fouilly initiated work in 1220, to replace a smaller church that had burned down, under the direction of the architect, Robert de Luzarches, followed by Thomas de Cormont until 1258 and his son Renaud until 1288.
Greenhalgh has captured in fine detail the distinctive, elaborately decorated west front of the cathedral, built in a single campaign from 1220 until 1236, which is dominated by three vast deep-set arched portals capped with a gallery of twenty-two over life-size kings. These stretch across the entire façade beneath the immense rose window (diameter 13 metres). The south and higher north towers were finished in 1366 and 1406 respectively. An impetus for building the cathedral was the installation of the reputed head of John the Baptist, a relic from the Fourth Crusade. Although thought to be lost, a 19th century replica still provides a focus for prayer in the north aisle.
Despite heavy fighting around Amiens during World Wars I and II, the cathedral escaped serious damage and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.
The exquisite detail in this painting epitomises Greenhalgh’s love of architecture and detailed draughtsmanship, obvious in so many of his works and for which he was commended in his obituary. However, in this instance his depiction of the rose window does appear to be at a slight variance to the overall view of the cathedral. Typical of his style, he has given the scene not only a sense of proportion but also of movement by incorporating groups of figures enjoying the bustle of the market stalls that were a familiar sight around churches across Europe from medieval times. Here again his attention to detail remains paramount, picking out aprons, caps, and flowers. Yet, while the painting conveys human activity it does not detract from the magnificence of the building, due in part to his limited use of colour, another regular feature of his work. No doubt some of the stalls would be selling the popular macaroon biscuits whose origins can be traced back to the 18th century. The Amiens regional variation consists of almonds, fruit, and honey.
Census 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1901, 1911
Southport Visiter, 12 February 1880
Southport Visiter, 22 February 1906
Death register 1966
Index of Wills and Administrations 1858-1966
Manchester Guardian, 4 July 1936
Lytham St Annes Express, 30 June 1944
Barretts Directory for Fylde, 1938 and 1952