The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

Charles Ernest Cundall

English ( b.1890 - d.1971 )

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

  • Watercolour
  • Signed lower right

Image size 13 inches x 18.5 inches ( 33cm x 47cm )
Frame size 23 inches x 28 inches ( 58.5cm x 71cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original watercolour by Charles Cundall.
The work is presented and supplied in a sympathetic contemporary frame, mounted using conservation materials and behind glass.

Charles Ernest Cundall was an esteemed and versatile British painter. He worked in both oils and watercolours and is today regarded as one of the most distinguished artist of the 20th century. His paintings are rich in texture, light and movement.

He was very much an establishment artist of record. He portrayed Royal occasions, including the Coronation of 1954, major sporting events such as a test match at Lords and The Derby and important civic events and portraits. He is also known for his large panoramic landscapes and impressive city scenes.

He was born 6th September 1890 in Stretford near Manchester in Lancashire, though spent some of his childhood in the Philippines and Australia. He was educated at Ackworth School and found his first employment as a designer of pottery and stained glass at the Pilkington Pottery Company, under Gordon Forsyth. Wishing to develop his artistic talent, he attended evening classes at the Manchester School of Art and Levenshulme Evening School. He was awarded the chief honours at the national competition of Schools of Art in 1908 and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.

His studies here were interrupted by the Great War, in which he served in the Royal Fusiliers. He was seriously wounded in the right arm in 1917 and subsequently learnt to paint with his left hand.

On his recovery, after the war, he returned to study at the RCA and then at the Slade School of Art, 1919-1920, before further studies in Paris at the Academie Colarossi and in Italy.

Almost fifty when the Second World War broke out, Cundall first worked on short –term contracts for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee before being given a full-time salaried commission as an Admiralty artist to work on Merchant Navy subjects. He worked in the Thames, the Medway and in the West Country before being assigned to the Air Ministry in 1941 and was appointed official artist to the Royal Air Force and then the Royal Navy. He worked with Bomber Command and produced a series of works painted “For the Nation’s War Records”, including ‘Servicing a Sunderland”, ‘Battle of Britain Anniversary 1943’ and many others. He was sent to various places during the Second World War, including Quebec in 1944. At the end of the war King George VI purchased two of Cundall’s paintings showing war time activities in Windsor Great Park. After the war, Cundall accompanied the Royal family on their visit to South Africa aboard the battleship Vanguard.

Cundall was a prolific exhibitor; he held his first solo exhibition in 1927 at Colnaghi’s. He became a mainstay of the Royal Academy, exhibiting there each and every year from 1923-1970. He also exhibited at the New English Arts club, the Royal Watercolour Society, the Leicester and Grosvenor Galleries in London and the Manchester City Art Gallery,

Cundall was well-read and well-travelled; from the 1920s he had visited France, Normandy, Brittany and the South. In the 1930s he went to Sweden and Russia, and in the 1940s he went to Northern Ireland, the United States, France and Italy.

His artistic ability was much respected and well recognised by all the major art bodies; he was elected a member of the New English Arts Club in 1924, a member of the Royal Society of Painters in 1933, an associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in1936 and a member there in 1941. He was elected a Royal Academian in 1944. He was also a member of the National Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers.

Between his various travels Cundall was based in Whitehead’s Grove, Chelsea from 1918 onwards and he worked from Great Cheyne Studio, Cheyne Row, London. He was married to the artist Jacqueline Pieterson, herself a figurative artist of repute. He died at home on 4th November 1971.

Today Cundall’s works can be found in many prestigious galleries and museums, including the National Maritime museum, Greenwich, Tate Britain, Imperial War Museum, the National Museum of Wales and Manchester City Art Gallery.

This original watercolour shows the Little Mermaid, a bronze statue perched on a large rock on Langelinie Promenade. The statue was created in 1933 by Edvard Eriksen, based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. Behind the statue is the harbour of Copenhagen, with numerous small yachts moored in the bay and a large steam ship at the quay, with smoke rising from its red funnel. It is a serene and pleasant scene.