Pencil, watercolour, ink and bodycolour, 24 cm x 30 cm.
Inscribed in pencil verso on preserved piece of old backing board: "Brentwood Station - about 1920. Certified that this is the work of my Father, R.G.D. Alexander[,] by his daughter [signed] Clare Mann". Provenance: with Chris Beetles, St. James's, London. Price: £245.
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In this evocative watercolour, a train arrives, smoking and steaming, at a suburban railway station beneath a dark blue sky barely distinguishable from night. A handful of passengers looks on indifferently as smoke thickens the sulphur-yellow air, forming haloes around the gas lamps that cast their glow on the platforms and impart a glint to the steel rails of the tracks. There are echoes here of the urban subjects of the French Impressionists and also Turner's "Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway". Though coming the best part of a century after Turner's painting, Alexander's composition reveals a similar interest in the atmospheric possibilities of a steam train as a means of revealing the effects of light filtered through murky air and smoke.
Robert Graham Dryden Alexander (1875-1945) lived in Brentwood, Essex, for many years, and would have known his local station well. His address is recorded as Priest's Cottage, Shenfield (a district of Brentwood) at least from 1911 until his death in 1945. He exhibited regularly at both the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Academy.
The verso is inscribed by the artist's daughter Clare Helen Alexander, who married Sir Edward John Mann, 2nd Bt., in 1951. Robert Graham Dryden Alexander's youngest daughter was the artist Jean Dryden Alexander (1911-1994).
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Dictionary of British Art Vol. V British Artists 1880-1940
Catalogue of the 143rd Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1911
Robert G.D. Alexander