GARDENS AND A PALAZZO FROM A CANAL, VENICE
Oil on paper laid to board
12 x 19cm
Private Collection, U.K.
Warren is a surprisingly little-known and mysterious artist. His work was first exhibition at the British Institution between 1865-1867. During this time, he lived in Peckham, South-East London, and he painted a number of local scenes and views of London during this time. His known works are all oil sketches, and most of them on a small scale. His 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 exhibition was in 1869 at the German Gallery, New Bond Street, and included views from several of his tours.& The present work is likely to have been exhibited on this occasion, as it was his first and last recorded show to include views of Rome. Warren also painted views of England and Ireland, including Dorset, Gravesend and Cornwall (several of these are 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, then identified as depicting Handel, is now in the Metropolitan Museum collection in New York (Acc. No. 15.43.287). During the auction, his own Mediterranean views commanded prices as high as 50 guineas. Some of these were collaborative pieces between Warren, James Holland and Alfred 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; but, records show that he was, to end his days, in Bristol (one record states that he died in Downham Market, Norfolk), and it is generally thought that he had fallen into penury.
His reputation certainly suffered after a court case that – quite unjustly – sought to demonstrate that the art dealer Alfred Jones had 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; however, the damage appears to have been done, with Warren too unwell to represent himself, and his reputation languished for many years.
Graham Reynolds later published an article on the matter in Apollo setting the record straight . In the 20th century, Warren’s oil sketches were ‘rediscovered’ 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 (it is now on long-term loan to the National Gallery, London). 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). A large body of Warren's works was gifted to the Victoria Art Museum, Bath, and a further work to the V&A by the very same dealer who had been responsible for Warren’s demise(!), Alfred Jones.
 Graham Reynolds, Auctioneers, Dealers, Constables & Crooks: A Vindication of William White Warren, Apollo, No.132 (June 1992) - pp.368, 372, No.7
 For a brief discussion of Gere's 'discovery' of Warren, see David Blayney Brown, Landscape Oil Sketches & London, The Burlington Magazine , Vol. 141, No. 1158 (September, 1999) - pp.556-558