Louise Rayner Victorian Watercolours

24 January 2017

An exhibition celebrating the work of Chester’s favourite artist has opened at the city’s Grosvenor Museum.  ‘Louise Rayner: Victorian Watercolours’ displays the largest public collection of her work and runs until 17 April.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “The much-loved watercolours of Louise Rayner (1832-1924) present a uniquely charming vision of Victorian Chester. She delighted in the textures of crumbling plaster, weather-beaten timber, peeling posters and rough cobbles. Her views of Chester’s picturesque streets are brought vividly to life with ordinary people going about their everyday lives in the sunlit city.
“Louise Rayner painted major public buildings such as the Castle and the Town Hall, famous half-timbered houses such as Bishop Lloyd’s Palace and the Bear and Billet, and long-vanished corners of the historic city such as St Werburgh’s Mount and Harvie’s Almshouses.  Louise Rayner has become Chester’s favourite artists, and is admired as much today as in her lifetime.” Louise Rayner was born in Derbyshire in 1832. Her father Samuel Rayner (1806-79) was an accomplished painter of architectural watercolours, and her mother, brother and four sisters were also artists.  She was taught by her parents and their artist friends, and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852. 
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 chemist’s shop in Watergate Street) and his wife Mary Anne.  From Chester she sent work to exhibitions in London and elsewhere, and in the 1870s and ’80s spent a couple of months each summer in different British towns and cities.  In the 1890s her sister Margaret (1837-1920) came to lodge with her at Chester, where they taught watercolour drawing. They left Chester around 1910, and Louise died at St Leonards-on-Sea in 1924.
The exhibition includes four watercolours by Louise Rayner’s father Samuel and sister Margaret. They are very accomplished works and provide a fascinating context for Louise Rayner’s better-known pictures. The conservation of these pictures was generously funded by the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust.
Events for adults:
  • Every day. Guided Walking Tours of Chester with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides.
  • Tuesdays 24 January onwards. Watercolour Painting sessions at Funky Aardvark.
  • Thursday 16 February. Louise Rayner Exhibition Tour.
  • Wednesday 22 & Saturday 25 March. Exploring Louise Rayner’s Chester: Guided Walk with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides.   
Events for families:
  • Thursday 23 February.  Waxy Works.
  • Wednesday 5 April. The Victorian Chemist’s Shop.
  • Saturday 8 April. Slow Art Day.
  • Wednesday 12 April. Chester through the Eyes of a Tourist. 
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday – Saturday 10.30am - 5pm and Sunday 1pm - 4pm, admission free, donations welcome.  

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