Three watercolours were commissioned in Spain from Henry Stanier by Eccleston du Faur, one of the original trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW who was to play a leading part in the institution’s history as its president from 1892 to 1915. In January 1888 Du Faur called upon the artist in Granada, where the latter had taken up residence as the British vice-consul, and requested him to paint three representative views of Granada for the collection.
One of the watercolours – Entrance to the Hall of the Two Sisters, Alhambra – was deaccessioned in 1946; the other two remain in the Gallery’s collection.
The largest of these – General view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada, Granada – depicts the renowned view across the ancient city of Granada from the hilltop square of Mirador de San Nicolas. The royal citadel of the Alhambra is bathed in early morning light while in the city below drifting mists disperse in the warming air. The snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountain range forms the dramatic backdrop.
During the 1880s and 1890s Stanier painted the view from the Mirador de San Nicolas on several occasions, and at different times of the day. Inspired by the rich cultural legacy of Granada’s Moorish past, he also produced a number of carefully observed architectural subjects, sometimes incorporating picturesque or exotic figures in an orientalist vein, as seen in Old Moorish gateway, which represents the interior facade of the Gate of Justice in the Alhambra. Such scenes were occasionally exhibited in London at the Royal Society of British Artists (Suffolk Street), although it appears that Stanier found a ready market for his work amongst Granada’s passing foreign tourists.
As a young artist in his home city of Birmingham, Stanier had been an active exhibitor of flower pieces and historical genre scenes. Later, in the 1860s and 1870s, he painted Egyptian landscapes and city views before eventually devoting himself to Spanish subjects.
Adapted from Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017