Chester's 'favourite artist' celebrated in Grosvenor Museum exhibition

13 February 2015

An exhibition celebrating the work of Chester’s favourite artist is now on display at the city’s Grosvenor Museum.

‘Louise Rayner: Victorian Watercolours’, which runs until April 19, displays the largest public collection of her work. 

The much-loved watercolours of Louise Rayner (1832-1924) present a uniquely charming vision of Victorian Chester. She delighted in the textures of crumbling plaster, weather-beaten timber, peeling posters and rough cobbles.

Her views of Chester’s picturesque streets are brought vividly to life with ordinary people going about their everyday lives in the sunlit city.

Louise Rayner has become Chester’s favourite artist, and is admired as much today as in her lifetime.

She painted major public buildings such as the Castle and the Town Hall, famous half-timbered houses such as Bishop Lloyd’s Palace and the Bear and Billet, and long-vanished corners of the historic city such as St Werburgh’s Mount and Harvie’s Almshouses. 

Louise Rayner was born in Derbyshire in 1832. Her father Samuel Rayner (1806-79) was an accomplished painter of architectural watercolours, and her mother, brother and four sisters were also artists. She was taught by her parents and their artist friends, and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852. 

Louise Rayner is first recorded at Chester in 1869. She lived at 2 Ash Grove, off Wrexham Road, boarding with Robert Shearing (who owned a chemist’s shop in Watergate Street) and his wife Mary Anne.

From Chester she sent work to exhibitions in London and elsewhere, and in the 1870s and 80s spent a couple of months each summer in different British towns and cities.

In the 1890s her sister Margaret (1837-1920) came to lodge with her at Chester, where they taught watercolour drawing. They left Chester around 1910, and Louise died at St Leonards-on-Sea in 1924.

Councillor Stuart Parker, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Economy, said: “The exhibition includes four watercolours by Louise Rayner’s father Samuel and sister Margaret.

“They were bequeathed to the museum by Mrs Bessie Savage (1919-2013), and we are enormously grateful to her.

“The conservation of these pictures was funded by the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust, and we greatly appreciate this very generous support.”  Clive Pointon, Chairman of the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust and head of wills, trusts and tax at Chester law firm Aaron & Partners, said: “The watercolours by Samuel and Margaret Rayner are very accomplished works and provide a fascinating context for Louise Rayner’s better-known pictures.

“I am delighted that the Trust has been able to fund the conservation of these pictures, which make an important contribution to this immensely attractive exhibition.” 

Events for adults:
  • Every day. Guided Walking Tours of Chester with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides. 
  • Saturday 21 & Wednesday 25 March. Exploring Louise Rayner’s Chester, guided walk with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides.
  • Tuesday 31 March. Louise Rayner Exhibition Tour.

Events for Children and Adults:
  • Wednesday 18 February. Discover the Victorians.
  • Thursday 19 February. Black and White Bags.
  • Friday 20 February. Pull Along Swans.
  • Wednesday 8 April. Crime & Punishment in Victorian Chester. 
  • Tuesday 14 April. Shopping in Victorian Chester.
  • Wednesday 15 April. Punch & Judy (supported by the Grosvenor Museum Society).
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10.30am-5pm and Sunday 1-4pm, admission free. 

Clive Pointon (left) and Councillor Stuart Parker admire a watercolour in the new Louise Rayner exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum.
Clive Pointon (left) and Councillor Stuart Parker admire a watercolour in the new Louise Rayner exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum.

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