Louise Rayner Artist

Chester Exhibition Spring 2007

Saturday 14 April until Sunday 17 June

Watercolours of Victorian Chester

Louise Rayner: Watercolours of Victorian Chester is a new exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum, running from Saturday 14 April until Sunday 17 June. It celebrates the work of Chesterís favourite artist, showing the museumís unrivalled collection of 24 pictures, which form the largest public collection of her work.

The much-loved watercolours of Louise Rayner (1832-1929) present a uniquely charming vision of Victorian Chester, said Peter Boughton, the museumís Keeper of Art and Architecture. She delighted in the textures of crumbling plaster, weather-beaten timber, peeling posters and rough cobbles. Her views of Chesterís picturesque streets are brought vividly to life with ordinary people going about their everyday lives in the sunlit city.

She painted major public buildings such as the Castle and the Town Hall, famous half-timbered houses like Bishop Lloydís Palace and the Bear and Billet, and long-vanished corners of the historic city such as St Werburghís Mount and Harvieís Almshouses. Louise Rayner has become Chesterís favourite artist, and is admired as much today as in her lifetime.

On display for the first time will be Louise Raynerís watercolour of The King Charles Tower, Chester, which was bequeathed to the museum last year by Ian Staines of Aldford. His daughter Juliet Staines said: I am thrilled that my fatherís bequest to the Grosvenor Museum will enable others to share his affection for Louise Raynerís work.

Louise Rayner was born at Matlock Bath, Derbyshire in 1832, and spent her early childhood there and in Derby. Her father Samuel Rayner (1806-79) was an accomplished painter of architectural watercolours, and her mother, brother and four sisters were also artists. The family moved to London in 1842 and Louise took up watercolours seriously when she was fifteen, being taught by her parents and their artist friends. She began to exhibit oil paintings of interiors at the Royal Academy in 1852, and in 1860 her first watercolours of street scenes were shown at the Society of Women Artists and the Society of British Artists. The family moved to Brighton in 1858 but returned to London in the mid-1860s.

Louise Rayner is first recorded at Chester in 1869. She lived at 2 Ash Grove off the Wrexham Road, boarding with Robert Shearing (who owned a chemistís in Watergate Street) and his wife Mary Anne. From Chester she sent work to exhibitions in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham as well as London. In the 1870s and í80s Louise spent a couple of months each summer in different British towns and cities. In the 1890s her sister Margaret came to lodge with her at Chester, where they taught watercolour drawing. They moved to Tunbridge Wells about 1910, and Louise sold her last drawing in 1918 at the age of 86. After Margaretís death in 1920 Louise moved to St Leonardís-on-Sea, where she died in 1924.

The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday Saturday 10.30-17:00 and Sunday 13:00-16:00, admission free.

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