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Oil on paper laid to board

36 x 53.5 cm



William White Warren is, today, a little-known and rather mysterious artist. His work was first shown at the British Institution between 1865-1867, prior to which time he appears not to have exhibited at all. During this time, he lived in Peckham, South-East London, and he mainly painted local scenes and views of London. His known works are all oil 'sketches' (that is, largely on paper and unvarnished), and most of them on a small scale.


Warren's output was primarily in the 1860’s and 1870’s, when he painted his continental travels to Italy, Sardinia, Corsica and France. His first recorded solo exhibition was in 1869 at the German Gallery, New Bond Street, and included views from several of these tours. He also painted England and Ireland, including Dorset, Gravesend and Cornwall, with several of these in the Russell-Coates, Bournemouth and the Brighton &  Hove Museums. He travelled to Spain and North Africa in 1870 and exhibited 130 'sketches' the following year at a temporary gallery in 12 Compton Street. A trip to Venice and Cyprus between 1877-1878 yielded another exhibition in 1880 at the same space.                  


Warren most likely had a private income, as he is known to have been a serious collector of antiquities, decorative works of art, miniatures, engravings and paintings. These were sold over the course of a four-day auction at Christie’s in 1886, where the catalogue listed his address as 21 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall. One of his miniatures which was sold in this sale, then identified as depicting Handel, is now in the Metropolitan Museum collection in New York (Acc. No. 15.43.287)                


 During the auction, his Mediterranean views commanded prices as high as 50 guineas. Intriguingly, some of these were catalogued as collaborative pieces between Warren and the professional artists James Holland and Alfred Vickers (presumably the short-lived Alfred Gomersal Vickers). His collection also included Simeon Solomon’s Mystery of Faith. Intriguingly, the catalogue stated that the auction was to raise funds for Warren, who was in ill-health, to travel abroad for his recovery; however, records show that he was to end his days in Bath (several galleries and biographers have incorrectly stated that he died in Downham Market, Norfolk, or Bristol) having fallen on hard times.                  


Warren's reputation suffered after a court case that – quite unjustly – sought to demonstrate that the art dealer Alfred Jones had deliberately misrepresented Warren’s work as that of Constable. The then director of the National Portrait Gallery was called as a witness and he stated that the two artists’ styles were quite distinct: the damage appears to have been done sadly, with Warren too unwell to represent himself, and his reputation languished for many years as a mere imitator of Constable. Graham Reynolds later published an article on the matter in Apollo magazine (1).                  


Warren’s oil sketches were ‘rediscovered’ in the mid-20th century by Paul Wallraf, the collector, academic and connoisseur. John Gere, another such 'academic' collector, purchased Warren’s  View of the Crystal Palace from Penge in 1954, and this work is now on long-term loan to the National Gallery in London. It is likely that this was the work by Warren which Gere is known to have bought from the newly opened Hazlitt Gallery, mentioned in his obituary in The Burlington (2). Gere owned seven works by Warren, and they formed part of his fascinating collection of plein-air European oil sketches shown at the National Gallery exhibition  A Brush With Nature (1999) (3). Among Gere's circle of collector friends, another important figure to own (two) sketches by Warren was Sir Jack Baer, the Director of Hazlitt, Gooden &  Fox, who likely sold Gere that first oil sketch in 1954.                 


A large body of Warren's works was gifted to the Victoria Art Museum, Bath, and a further work to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, by the Irish art dealer Alfred Jones of Bath. Jones was responsible for many donations of diverse objects (ranging from paintings and sculpture to a significant collection of lichen!) and pictures to Museums across Britain  in the early 20th century. Other sketches by Warren can be found in numerous public collections throughout Britain, including the British Museum, London.                 




(1) Graham Reynolds, Auctioneers, Dealers, Constables &  Crooks: A Vindication of William White Warren, in Apollo, No.132 (June, 1992), pp.368 & 372           

(2) Nicholas Penny, John Gere (1921-95), in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 137, No. 1106 (May, 1995), p.320              

(3) For a brief discussion of Gere's own 'discovery' of Warren, cf. David Blayney Brown, Landscape Oil Sketches: London (Review), in The Burlington Magazine , Vol. 141, No. 1158 (Sep., 1999), pp.556-558       

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