Henry Muhrman

Kew Bridge

c.1898

Artist
Henry Muhrman 1854–1916
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 610 x 927 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1914
Reference
N02996

Not on display

Summary

Kew Bridge is an oil painting on canvas by the American artist Henry Muhrman. Painted in a reduced palette of murky browns, an otherwise dark, atmospheric tone is lifted by a lighter patch of paint at the top right of the picture. A bridge fills the width of the canvas, its stone façade presented at a slight angle. Two of the bridge’s supporting arches form the backdrop for the barges and carts that are depicted in front of it, working on and alongside the river Thames. The more prominent arch on the right is presented in its entirety, while the arch to the left is only partly in view, disappearing out of the picture and obscured by the presence of a working barge in front of it. A pale balustrade traverses the topmost edge of the bridge, with glimmers of light seeping through the gaps between its columns of stone. At the top right of the scene is a horse-drawn cart piled high with hay, which appears to be crossing the bridge from right to left. The bottom third of the composition, which is much darker in tone, is dominated by the large working barge, its paintwork edged in a deep red and its masts and chandlery crossing each other, with the stonework of the bridge visible through these dark lines.

Kew Bridge was painted by Muhrman in c.1898. At the time the artist was living near to the depicted bridge, at 26 Wolseley Gardens, Gunnersbury, London. The work is inscribed with the artist’s name (‘H. Muhrman’) at the bottom left of the composition.

Muhrman was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, of German parentage. He entered the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1876 at the age of fifteen and studied there for two years. He then travelled to Germany to study at the Munich Academy of Fine Art in order to improve his knowledge of drawing. At this time he also began studying watercolour painting. When Muhrman returned to America in 1878 he was elected a member of the New York Water Colour Society and the Society of American Artists, remaining in the country until 1883, when he moved to London, becoming one of several American painters, along with James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Frank Maura, among others, who worked mainly in Europe. Muhrman became a follower of Whistler, and like the latter artist often took his subjects from well-known London locations such as Hampstead Heath and from along the Thames near Chiswick – as can be seen in Kew Bridge as well as further afield in places such as Hastings. Muhrman’s first solo exhibition was held at the Dowdeswell Galleries, London, in 1890.

Muhrman painted his landscapes and figures in oil, watercolour and pastel. Kew Bridge is an example of his painting in oil. Artist Seated on a Sandbank 1879 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) exemplifies his work in watercolour while atmospheric pastel works such as Hampstead Heath 1891 (private collection) reveal his debt to Whistler. Although he moved to Paris in 1899, Muhrman kept a studio in London until 1900 before moving, in 1901, to Meissen, Germany, where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life.

Kew Bridge was first exhibited in International Art at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, in May 1898. It was shown again in the Autumn Exhibition of the International Society from October to November 1914. That same year Frances Howard purchased Kew Bridge from the artist through the Grosvenor Gallery, London. It also featured among the paintings shown in Thames Bridges at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, from May to June 1930.

Further reading
Henry Muhrman, Frank Mura, Bertram Priestman, exhibition catalogue, Goupil Gallery, London 1900.
A Group of Artists: Gerard Chowne, G.F. Kelley, Phillip Connard, Henry Muhrman, Alfred Hayward, A.E. Vokes, exhibition catalogue, William Marchant and Co., Goupil Gallery, London 1908.

Beth Williamson
January 2017

Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Catalogue entry

Henry Muhrman 1854-1916

N02996 Kew Bridge c.1898

Inscribed 'H. Muhrman' b.l.
Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 (61 x 92)
Presented by Francis Howard through the National Loan Exhibition Committee 1914
Prov: Francis Howard, London (purchased from the artist through the Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1914)
Exh: International Art, International Society, London, May 1898 (136, repr.); Autumn Exhibition, International Society, London, October-November 1914 (not numbered; listed among the pictures purchased for presentation to the Tate Gallery); Thames Bridges, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, May-June 1930 (66)
Repr: Studio, XIV, 1898, p.112

Painted when Muhrman was living very near Kew Bridge, at 26 Wolseley Gardens, Gunnersbury, London W4.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.547-8, reproduced p.547

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