The Royal Suspension Chain Pier, Brighton 1896

James Aumonier

English ( b.1832 - d.1911 )

The Royal Suspension Chain Pier, Brighton 1896

  • Watercolour
  • Signed lower right. Location and dated lower left

Image size 11.8 inches x 7.7 inches ( 30cm x 47cm )
Frame size 21.7 inches x 27.8 inches ( 55cm x 70.5cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original painting by James Aumonier dated 1896.
The watercolour is presented and supplied in a sympathetic frame dating from the 1970s and behind glass.
Previously with the Plympton Gallery, Honiton, Devon.
The watercolour is signed lower right. The location and is lower left.

James Aumonier was an acclaimed English landscape painter, born on 9th April 1832 at Camberwell, London. His father, Henry Collingwood Aumonier was a jeweller and his mother was Nancy Frances. The family was of French descent and the name “Aumonier” came from his grandfather’s Huguenot ancestors. James was not the only creative one in the family – his younger brother was an excellent engraver and his nephew Stacy Aumonier also became a landscape painter and decorative designer.

James's childhood was spent at Highgate and High Barnet. At the age of fourteen he was placed in a business which he did not much like. His passion was art and he began to attend evening classes, first at the Birkbeck Institution, then known as the Mechanics' Institute, and subsequently at Marlborough House and South Kensington Schools. He worked with such application there that he soon found employment as a designer of patterns for printed calicoes in a London firm. Meanwhile he used all his spare time to practice landscape painting out of doors, working in the early morning hours in the cloisters of Westminster and in Kensington Gardens, and later in Epping Forest. His early influences were Lionel Smith and William Wyllie, both of whom encouraged him.

He exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1871, but continued his work in the factory until after 1873, when Sir Newton Mappin purchased a picture shown by Aumonier at the Royal Academy, 'An English Cottage; Home.' The title is typical of the class of subject that appealed most forcibly to Aumonier. He devoted himself almost exclusively to the painting of the peaceful English countryside, with frequent river scenes and some marine works too, particularly on the south coast. He also exhibited at the other principal London galleries from 1864. In 1888 he bravely exhibited a footballing scene at the Royal Academy! Aumonier never left England until 1891, when he visited Venice and the Venetian Alps, but he always preferred to find his subjects in his own country.

In 1863 James married Amelia Wright, and they went on to have two sons, Frank and Jack, and two daughters, Nancy and Lousie. The family clearly moved around; in 1870 he resided at Hornsey, in 1884 at East Harting, Petersfield, in 1887 at Stenning, Sussex and in 1888 he was back in London.
James became associate of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colours in 1876, and was one of the original members of the Institute of Oil Painters. In 1889, he was awarded a gold medal for water-colour in Paris, and a bronze medal for oil painting at Adelaide. He also received a silver medal at the Brussels exhibition in 1897. An exhibition of his water-colour drawings was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1908.

Today his works are represented in the Chantry bequest collection at the Tate Gallery, in the municipal galleries of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Oldham, Adelaide, and Perth, Western Australia.

Aumonier died in St. John’s Wood, London on 4th October 1911, and his remains were cremated at Woking. A memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Goupil Gallery in 1912.

This stunning original watercolour of the Chain Pier in Brighton was created in 1896, the same year that the pier was destroyed by a storm.

The painting depicts the pier in all its glory, stretching out to sea from the sandy beach at Brighton. There are four large stone arches on the pier, from which metal chains hang, supporting the deck, whilst beneath the deck huge oak leg structures stand tall in the sea.
The weather is fine, the sky is pale blue with light cloud, and the sea gains intensity of colour as it reaches the horizon. Back on the shoreline and small boy in a white shirt is paddling at the water’s edge. There are a couple of yachts on the sea, and one or two ladies on the pier, promenading with their parasols and long dresses.
It is a stunning image, with immense historical significance.