John Wainwright

Flower-piece

1867

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 662 x 559 mm
frame: 745 x 645 x 60 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Mrs Bessie Gornall 1982
Reference
T03378

Display caption

Little is known of Wainwright except that there are many similar works signed and dated by him from 1845 to 1873. As in the case of his model Jan van Os (1744-1808), who was well known in England, these arrangements are artificial creations combining the flowers of different seasons, displayed in a precious vessel too small to hold them comfortably. In the Dutch tradition such pieces were often representations of the horticultural collections of wealthy patrons, but Wainwright seems to have embraced this highly traditional style for purely decorative reasons. At the same time his pictures are 'modern' in the sense that the flowers tend to be recognizable Victorian specimens.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

T03378 FLOWER-PIECE 1867

Oil on canvas 26 1/16 × 22 (662 × 559)
Inscribed ‘John Wainwright 1867’ on stone ledge towards b.l.
Bequeathed by Mrs Bessie Gornall 1982

Prov: ...; Mrs Bessie Gornall

Very little is known about John Wainwright. He exhibited flower pictures and other still life subjects at the British Institution and the Society of British Artists in 1861, giving his address as 6 Hemmings Row, London. A picture of ‘Partridges’ was submitted to the British Institution from an address in Teignmouth in 1865 and a flower-piece to the Society of British Artists from Skerton, Lancaster in 1869. Paintings by him seen on the market in recent years have all been flower-pieces similar in character to T03378, bearing dates between 1859 and 1869. Otherwise his life and work appear to be unrecorded.

The central urn in T03378 with its bacchic figures reappears in a flower-piece by Wainwright dated 1869, the pair to which, also dated 1869, includes a figurated urn similar to the one seen at the top left of T03378 (the pair: sold Sotheby's New York 20 April 1983 lot 71). Another version of the second of these 1869 pictures, also dated that year and called ‘Summer’, was with Frost and Reed, Bristol in 1979 together with its companion ‘Winter’. Wainwright seems to have played many variations on the same theme, itself derived from the eighteenth-century Dutch still-life masters.


Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

Explore