A couple of weeks ago I attended a general sales auction to buy some frames. I prefer, if I can, to frame the pictures that I find in vintage, antique or re-used frames. I find these when I am out and about, and a job lot of dusty, musty prints in frames had caught my eye at the auction house.
I bought my boot full of booty back to HQ, and made a start salvaging any glass and frames that would come in handy. If a frame is broken, but the glass is intact, I can always fit it to a different frame, and vice versa, so very little goes to waste. All it takes is some elbow grease, a bit of fixing up, and litres of Windolene (other glass cleaners are available).
In the pile was a gilt wooden frame - Victorian, quite plain. It had a bookplate print of a rose in it. The print did not float my boat. Nice enough, but not fun. The frame was a useful size though, so I stripped off the backing and tape. Behind the print was another mount, with a grubby little watercolour glued to a backing board and window mount, covered in grime.
‘Hello’ I said to the little picture. ‘And who might you be?’
The little picture had a signature and a title, so this was not much of a mystery. T.B. Hardy, Portsmouth. Well, I recognised the name, and I recognised the quality of the little picture. Thomas Bush Hardy (1842 – 1897) was Victorian marine painter and watercolourist who was very popular in his lifetime, and who exhibited widely.
He is one of the few Victorian painters who retains a following of collectors today. I can see why. My little picture of three figures walking along Portsmouth harbour in the rain is charming. The light is soft and the style impressionistic. It is drizzly, but the weak sunshine is coming through. Many of his larger scale paintings are more turbulent and dramatic, but I think I prefer the lightness of touch in my secret little painting which is just over 6 x 8 inches. Some of his pictures are held in public UK Collections – and can be seen on the ArtUK Website. His picture of Portsmouth Harbour in the New South Wales collection shows the harbour wall where these three stroll.
I have really enjoyed getting to know more about the picture and the man as I have worked on it, removing the acidic backing board, giving it a good clean, mounting it up and choosing it a new frame. I think it looks very handsome now, and hope it finds a new owner soon.