Buckinghamshire County Museum recently acquired their first watercolour by the famous Regency artist Thomas Rowlandson. The Beauties of Stowe: Bacchantes dancing and lounging by the Temple of Ancient Virtue, c1804-5 was purchased from a London Art dealer for £22,500, with generous assistance from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (£10,000), The Art Fund
, the UKs leading independent art charity, (£5000), and the Patrons of Buckinghamshire County Museum (£4,500).
The name Thomas Rowlandson is synonymous with the popular vision of late Georgian Britain. Born in London around 1756, he trained at the Royal Academy Schools where he swiftly developed a talent for draughtsmanship and caricatures. In addition to his political and social caricatures he developed elaborate narratives, filled with amusing incidents and combining caricature with an elegant figure style. He travelled extensively around the country on sketching tours and this watercolour stems from a visit to Stowe, a popular tourist destination in Georgian times.
Rowlandsons work revels in the comedy of everyday life, emphasising the ridiculous and the ribald and focusing on human appetite for eating, drinking and amorous relationships. The Beauties of Stowe is a marvellous example of his work that delights in linking the idea of ancient virtue as practised by the Ancient Greeks with scantily clad bacchantes in classical dress, set in a landscape where even the temple on the grassy mound has a sensual quality.
The Temple of Ancient Virtue still stands as a significant Buckinghamshire landmark at Stowe. Designed by William Kent it was erected in 1734 for Lord Cobham as part of one of the greatest landscaping schemes of the 18th century. The Beauties of Stowe joins an important collection of material at the Museum related to Stowe including works by John Piper, Jean Claude Nattes and Jacques Rigaud.
Mel Czapski, Keeper of Art at Buckinghamshire County Museum, said: "We are delighted to acquire our first work by Thomas Rowlandson. It greatly enhances our Stowe collections and we appreciate the generosity of those who made this acquisition possible."
Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: "This playful watercolour is a great example of Thomas Rowlandsons mischievous sense of humour as well as a tribute to an important local landmark. The Art Fund is very pleased to play a part in adding to the Museums collection of work by artists connected to Stowe."
The watercolour will be on display in the Museums Treasures of Bucks Gallery from the 4th July.