This charming late Victorian depiction of the West Pier in Brighton captures its iconic architecture prior to its ruin in 1889. The artist, Wallace Stewart, produced this piece in 1891 so perhaps it’s a retrospective view of a popular landmark.
Brighton Pier was an extraordinary tourist spot that attracted thousands of visitors - across all classes. At 1,100 feet, it was an impressive structure and perfect for an afternoon promenade. In 1882, a poem in The Southend Standard refers:
On Brighton Pier; - a charming place From which to view the human race, Provided you have by your side - As yesterday it happened I’d - A maiden with a charming face Peeping from out a cloud of lace, Who leans upon you as you pace Above the gently rippling tide On Brighton Pier.
But pity my unhappy case - A wicked little urchin base, Coming behind us, shrilly cried (Just as I’d said “Be mine, my bride!”) “Ma says you’ve been too long out, Grace, On Brighton Pier.”
Initially, the deck was a simple affair with just six small booths of oriental design and two toll houses. This changed radically, however, following a storm that led to its destruction and rebuild.
Re-launched in 1899, with a fair degree of ceremony and 3,000 light bulbs, the new design was a sight to behold with a theatre at the pier-head and ample opportunities for entertainment.
Wallace Stewart has rendered the pier as it was in around 1888 and several photographs from the period reference this form exactly. Even the double-sided benches crammed with Victorians are faithfully placed. Little is known about Stewart but he’s produced an interesting piece - particularly in terms of its historical context. The figures remind us a little of L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) although Stewart was earlier.
The painting is signed, dated and housed within a fine scroll and foliate gilt frame.
Medium: Oil on canvas Overall size: 50½” x 32” / 128cm x 82cm Year of creation: 1891 Condition: Fine craquelure in areas but overall very presentable.