If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Wynford Dewhurst, you might regard the “Monet” claim as bold, perhaps even preposterous. Even a quick glance at this magnificent book will dispel that impression, though. The similarities are remarkable, but it’s also apparent that Dewhurst has a vision of his own and is no mere copyist.
Having initially begun training as a lawyer, Dewhurst made his way to Paris at the age of 27, in 1891, to study art and was immediately attracted to Impressionism. His book, Impressionist Painting: its Genesis and Development, which was published in 1904, was dedicated to Claude Monet. It was the first major study of the movement to be published in English. His contentious thesis was that the English landscape tradition, and especially the work of Constable and Turner, was the at the root of French painting of the day.
It’s clear from the generous number and quality of the illustrations here that Dewhurst had a genuine and serious talent. There is no doubt that he was emulating the work of the man he regarded as the master, and who became his mentor, but his own stands well alongside that of other Impressionists and the English landscape painters he regarded as their precedent. You can judge for yourself, as their work also appears in the book.
Roger Brown, something of a specialist in this field, has resurrected the reputation of a man who, in the end, became something of a footnote in the history of art, despite having been an important figure in his time; albeit he produced little work after 1926 and died in 1941 in relative obscurity. The book accompanies an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery that, on the basis of what appears here, mérite le détour.
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