Joshua Cristall 1767–1847
T01851 Beach Scene, Hastings c.1808
Inscribed ‘J. Cristall 1807–’ b.r. and ‘East Cliff Hastings’ on verso b.r.
Water colour, 7 3/16 x 11 13/16(18.3 x 30).
Purchased at Christie’s (Grant-in-Aid) 1974.
Coll:... ; Francis Llewellyn Jenks, sold Christie’s 30 January 1974 (56, repr.), bt. Colnaghi for the Tate Gallery.
This watercolour is painted on two pieces of laid paper joined with a small overlap in the centre. Although dated ‘1807’ on the front, both sheets are clearly water- marked ‘1808’. No maker’s name is visible. Cristall is most unlikely to have obtained paper watermarked ‘1808’ before the year itself and if he did, only at the very end of 1807 (information from Mr J. N. Balston of W. & R. Balston Ltd). Cristall’s ‘1807’ is therefore unlikely to refer to the execution of the watercolour itself. Possibly it was made in or after 1808 from a sketch dating from 1807, when Cristall is known to have been at Hastings, though the work gives the impression of having been executed on the spot and, indeed, seems to be on two pages from a sketchbook. It is also possible that Cristall made the watercolour on a subsequent visit and misdated it some years afterwards. He exhibited Hastings subjects at the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1810 and these may have derived from a visit to the place in 1809. However the signature and date on T01851appear to be an integral part of the design, the fishing net being pulled back just far enough in the bottom right- hand corner to accommodate the inscriptions.
Cristall’s goddaughter Mrs M’Ketchnie, apparently referring to his visit to Hastings in 1807, said that ‘a sojourn at Hastings’ was ‘prescribed to him for an attack of nervous debility’ (reported by J. L. Roget in A History of the ‘Old Water- Colour’ Society, 1891, 1, p.302) and according to the Farington Diary Cristall was still suffering the following year: on 11 May 1808 Ward ‘spoke of Chrystal, the Artist, who He sd. had been in a state of despondence which His medical attendant thought wd. endanger His life. This was owing to want of success (encouragement) in consequence several Artists put down their names for 5 guineas each to make up a sum for Him.—In consequence of Crystall’s drawings made last summer being much admired, Ward sd. a Host of artists are preparing to go to Hastings.’ On 21 May ‘West gave His opinion “that Artists ought to represent their own country as it is, and not represent that of which they could only have an idea”. He said that several of those artists who have been of late distinguished for their water colour drawings, have obtained their popularity by it. “—Glover,—Chrystal,—& Heaphy, —are of this class,—while, Ward observed, Havil & Varley run more into the ideal.”—’. For one of Cristall’s that runs into the ideal, see the following watercolour.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.