London-born Lennard Lewis was a watercolourist and painter in oils who made a specialty of English, French and Portuguese architectural views. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He also showed with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and submitted work to exhibitions in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.
The Art Gallery of NSW’s work Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, Saintes was completed in 1888. This street view of Saintes in south-west France is dominated by the western façade and portal of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre. Only the lower section of the cathedral is visible so that its height and mass are beyond telling, thus adding to the feeling of overwhelming monumentality. The artist has depicted the Gothic edifice in late afternoon light, with long shadows cast across the street by adjacent buildings. Various anecdotal details, such as an unattended vegetable stall with a parasol propped against a chair, an ox cart loaded with firewood, and a market scene with figures in the distance, introduce notes of picturesque relief to an otherwise austere composition.
Medieval buildings – especially in a state of crumbling neglect – had found great favour with earlier Romantic artists for their associative qualities and potential to stimulate the poetic imagination, and remained a popular subject for watercolour painters throughout the 19th century.
Adapted from Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017