Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)
Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)

Water Bearers by George Chinnery (1774-1852)

16059

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Pen and Ink drawing

Perhaps the most prominent and best-known western illustrator and painter in Asia and the Far East during the first half of the nineteenth century, was a colorful character. In 1802 he moved from Dublin to Calcutta in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to escape his debts. He made a great living in India, painting portraits of Princes and colonialists, and established himself as one of the leading artists in British India, yet he spent even more. In a continued attempt to outrun his creditors and ex-wives, in 1825 he decamped to Serampore and then to Macau, where he stayed for 27 years, becoming the only Western painter in residence in South China in the early to mid-19th century.

His drawings, in addition to their evident artistic value, are of significant historical worth as well. He vastly preferred landscapes over portraiture and spent much of his time taking his sketchbook into the Bengal and Macau country sides, finding inspiration in sketching people leading their daily lives. His work from that era vividly depicts the life and struggles of ordinary people. His distinctive style—which has its roots in the Romantic tradition—also incorporates elements of the local cultures. His work, in turn, greatly influenced the Chinese artists working for the foreign export market.

In the minimalist sketching on offer, Water Bearers, the classical elements of Chinnery’s style are evident. The bucolic scene, with its sensitive portrayal of animals, shows the intimate lives of regular people living on the Pearl River Delta, portrayed with a noble, even heroic quality. It has a romantic, wistful theme reminiscent of antiquity. The scene and mood are captured in just a few strokes, yet there is also an attention to detail, characteristic of Chinnery’s work.

Chinnery's work has garnered substantial attention. The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London house extensive collections of his work. The Peabody Essex Museum also boasts a notable collection of Chinnery's drawings. Other significant collections are held in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the UK, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the Macau Museum of Art. His work is in the Met's permanent collection.

Chinnery’s presence as a western artist in China in the early part of the 19th century, in addition to his outsized personality, was so remarkable that he has been immortalized in literature twice, Once as the always-in-debt hedonist, Aristotle Quance, in James Clavell’s novel 1965 Tai-Pan, and as corpulent painter Augustine O’Rourke in Timothy Mo’s novel An Insular Possession. While in literature his lifestyle has taken center stage, in the world of visual arts he has long been celebrated for his creative work. Sales of his work are particularly strong in the UK and Hong Kong.

Drawing size 6.5 x 4 in,; 12.5" x 10" Framed

Provenance: acquired by Susan Guilla from John Mitchell Fine Paintings in London in 2004. All paperwork included.   

Susan Gullia, a travel consultant and fundraiser who died in 2022 at the age of 89, created some of the very first educational, luxury tours specifically designed for art collectors and museum supporters. In 1964 Gullia developed the inaugural museum-sponsored “study tour” for the Brooklyn Museum, on which museum directors took donors to Egypt, giving them access to museums, temples and private collections not open to the public. It was a novel idea at the time, and a huge success. These trips, which served as fundraisers for the museum, would become Gullia’s hallmark. From the mid-60’s onward she specialized in creating innovative tours to what were then less traveled places, including India, Peru, Japan, Thailand, Cuba and China, for museums and cultural institutions all over the world. She also specialized in museum sponsored tours of major European and US cities. Gullia used her connections with art historians, curators and museum directors to build unique experiences, with experts serving as guides, sharing knowledge about art and architecture with donors and collectors.

Gullia was also a philanthropist and supported a huge array of organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet, as well as many humane organizations. She served as a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Gullia, also a dedicated conservationist, had no immediate family, and left her Amagansett home to the Peconic Land trust.

All pieces are unconditionally guaranteed authentic and as described in perpetuity and have been legally acquired and imported in full accordance with U.S. and applicable foreign regulations regarding the movement and sale of antiquities.

A signed guarantee of authenticity with a description and photograph of the item(s) accompanies this object.

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