Shropshire Star

Collection of renowned Birmingham artist's paintings to be sold in Shropshire

A collection of work by one of Birmingham's most celebrated artists is set to go under the hammer at a Shropshire auction house beginning next month.


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A collection of 34 oil and watercolour paintings by William John Wainwright is expected to fetch around £8,000 when they are sold by Shrewsbury-based Halls Fine Art.

The paintings, valued at between £200 and £1,000 each, will be sold in the company’s June and October auctions. They have been consigned by the executors of the estate of a late Midlands art collector.

Abigail Molenaar, Halls Fine Art’s paintings and prints specialist, said: “This collection is rather special as it showcases the full range of Wainwright’s talents. It’s his figurative paintings that I like best.

“Wainwright’s paintings evoke a romanticised past full of knights errant, courtly love and the age of chivalry. There is an escapism element to his work that I find appealing.

“The Birmingham vendor had lovingly built up the collection over many years, purchasing paintings from all over the UK and bringing them back to the artist’s hometown and they formed a collection that fully represents the artist’s oeuvre."

The collection is notable for its diversity, featuring watercolours, oil paintings and portraits of notable Midlands figures, such as ‘The Showman’ Pat Collins, MP (1859-1943).

Three paintings included in the fine art, antiques and jewellery auction in June 12 are ‘Lady Arranging Flowers’ valued at up to £300, ‘The Beadsman’, which was exhibited at The Royal Birmingham Society, valued at up to £400 and ‘A Troubadour’ valued at up to £400.

Wainwright (1855-1931) was born in Birmingham and educated at Sedgley Park College, near Wolverhampton before being apprenticed as a stained glass designer at John Hardman & Co at the age of 14.

The company nurtured his artistic potential and, in 1880, supported him to study painting in Antwerp under Verlat, before he moved to Paris in 1881 for three years.

Returning to Britain, Wainwright lived in London for a time while looking for new painting grounds. Encouraged by fellow artists Walter Langley, Edwin Harris and Charles Napier Hemy, he settled on Newlyn.

Although he enjoyed living and working in Newlyn, the brightness of the sunlight affected his eyesight, causing him to lose the sight in one eye. He abandoned plein air painting and the Newlyn School style to focus figure painting in his studio.

In 1886, he returned to live in Birmingham, where, four years later, he married Bertha Mary Powell, with whom he had eight children. He was a founding member of the Birmingham Art Circle.

The first two opportunities to view and bid for the Wainwright paintings will be at Halls Fine Art auctions on June 12 and June 26.