Exhibition catalogue text

Catalogue entry from British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection


74 Farm Buildings c.1810-15

Watercolour over pencil on wove paper 13.1 x 16.6 (5 1/8 x 6 1/2)


Henry Edridge was apprenticed at an early age to the miniature painter and mezzotint engraver, William Pether (c.1738-1821), and it was as a miniaturist working on ivory that he launched his career. He later evolved his own successful formula for making small-scale portrait drawings on paper, where the sitter (or sitters) would be presented full-length in a landscape, and drawn chiefly in pencil, with slight touches of colour reserved mainly for the faces and landscape. From 1802 he was frequently in demand as a portraitist at Winsdor Castle - and many years later Paul Opp? himself was to catalogue the drawings by Edridge of royal sitters in the Royal Collection (see Opp? 1950, pp.45-8). It was as a portrait draughtsman that Edridge earned both his contemporary reputation and his living, by 1806 being able to increase the price he charged for a full-length drawing from 15 to 20 guineas (Farington, Diary, 30 March 1806, vol.7, p.2706).

Edridge's watercolour landscapes are less well known and relatively rare. They seem mostly to date from the early years of the nineteenth century when he was to be found sketching in the vicinity of Fetcham in Surrey and especially at Bushey in Hertfordshire - these being the two country retreats of the physician, collector and amateur draughtsman Dr Monro whom Edridge had come to know through his friendship with the topographer Thomas Hearne (1744-1806). Depicting cottages, farms or country lanes, and executed in a palette of russets, browns and yellow-greens, these watercolours (especially the more finished examples) are often confused with the early landscapes of William Henry Hunt (1790-1864), who was also a member of the Monro circle. Edridge's broader sketches like this one are especially delicate and free.

Edridge also produced an impressive range of pencil drawings, both landscapes and architectural subjects. Here he used the short, cursive pencil strokes which so typify the drawing style of the 'Monro School' (see no.50). This style is used by him especially effectively for the remarkable sequence of drawings made on two tours of northern France in 1817 and 1819, examples of which are in the British Museum.

Anne Lyles

Published in:
Anne Lyles and Robin Hamlyn, and others, British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection with a Selection of Drawings and Oil Sketches, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.182 no.74, reproduced in colour p.183