WASHERWOMEN BENEATH A SHRINE, NEAR THE PALAZZO ANDREA DORIA, GENOA
Titled & dated m.r. Genova 1869, signed with monogram l.r.
Watercolour with bodycolour & pencil on paper
45 x 28.5cm
Anonymous Sale, Sotheby's, London, 30.01.1991, Lot 99;
Anonymous Sale, Christie's, 07.07.2010, Lot 409;
Private Collection, South East U.K.
Royal Watercolour Society, Summer 1869, Genoa, near the Palazzo of Andrea di Doria
Steve Bond, James Holland: The Forgotten Artist, Leek (1999), p.76
Although this work bears the date of 1869, the scene and view itself was seen by Holland almost two decades earlier, in September of 1851. A sketch taken at that date, from which the present work was worked up into an exhibition piece, can be found in the Tate Britain, London (T08949, see final image for a side-by-side comparison). The view has likely since changed dramatically, as the topography around the Palazzo Andrea Doria was radically altered with the arrival of the railways to Genoa (the Central station is a stone's throw from the Palazzo).
Holland visited Genoa in September of 1851, having come through Geneva (as was his usual continental route), and exhibited several of the views he painted there in the following years at the Royal Watercolour Society and British Institution. The present work was one of Holland's final paintings, exhibited the year before his death.
James Holland came from a family of pottery designers and painters in Burslem, Staffordshire, and his earliest works were flower pieces related to this practice. James worked from the age of 12 for his family's employer, William Davenport.
He came to London in 1819, earning a living as a drawing instructor whilst continuing to paint pottery to supplement his income. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824. In 1831 he travelled to France, falling under the influence of the (by then) recently deceased R.P. Bonington, whose influence can be felt particularly in Holland's work over the next decade.
In 1835, having been elected an Associate of the Old Watercolour Society, Holland made his first trip to Venice, which was to be the site of some of his finest works. He made subsequent trips to Venice; but also visited Portugal, Normandy, Paris, Holland, Genoa, and Innsbruck among other locations.
He briefly resigned from the OWS to seek membership of the R.A. for his oil paintings, but swiftly resumed membership after this failed. He was also for a time a member of the Society of British Artists and exhibited at the British Institution. Many of his works were commissioned for illustrated annuals of his day, with the views from his trips published back in England to much acclaim. He was a prolific artist, popular in his lifetime and even more so afterwards, with no fewer than 47 public institutions in the U.K. holding works by him