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Douglas harbour

Date made: 1892

Artist: Nicholson, John Miller

Description: This oil painting of Douglas Harbour, produced in 1892, is a good example of John Miller Nicholson’s later style of painting. Here, Nicholson was not concerned with producing a detailed record of a scene, but rather with capturing a moment in time. This style of painting fits into the impressionistic style, which became common amongst artists in the mid-to-late 19th century.

In this painting of Douglas Harbour, Nicholson has captured a lazy, hazy summer afternoon, inspired by the children rowing in the harbour. The artist has chosen to omit some aspects of the scene, which was common in impressionist painting. The view is of Douglas Harbour pictured from near the Swing Bridge looking upstream to the Tongue. In the background is Douglas Bridge with the North Quay (right) and South Quay (left) on either side. The painting relies on the viewer having some knowledge of the scene and being prepared to fill in what the artist has chosen to omit.

A key aspect of Nicholson’s work was his desire to capture the sense of energy and movement in his hometown of Douglas. The activity of the harbour in the background is dramatised by the closeness of the large seafaring vessel tied up at South Quay in the foreground. The vessel was probably a brig offloading timber for the Douglas timber yards, with the group of three small rowing boats full of young boys happily playing in the middle of a busy working harbour.

The degree to which Nicholson’s artistic style and technique changed following his visit to Venice in 1882 can be seen by contrasting this impressionistic view of Douglas Harbour with the far more detailed watercolour of Douglas Head produced in 1879. In this earlier work everything is depicted in sharp focus. This is in marked contrast to his later works which fade from a sharp, bright foreground to a muted, understated background where only subtle impressions of buildings can be half seen or imagined.

Measurements: artwork: 110 cm x 69.5 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 1954-2501/019

Subject tags : #artgalleryplace


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