Comment, Tony Simpson
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Reader argues the case for artwork to be retained by St Paul’s Church, Honiton.
St Paul’s Church’s latest appeal for funds could involve selling local artist William Salter’s painting The Entombment of Christ, currently propped against a wall in the church. Because the artist is a distinguished son of Honiton, who gifted the painting, a case can be made for keeping his great work and obtaining private and public funds to restore it.
The painting could be properly displayed and lit, along with information about Salter’s life and illustrations of his work, both of which have been overlooked. People visit Honiton for its fine arts and galleries.
Visitors could surely be encouraged to visit the church and the ‘Salter Exhibition’, so increasing footfall and funds?
Salter’s works hang in the National Portrait Gallery, he features on a BBC website and both original and reproductions of his work are being traded on the international art market, including through Christie’s in London and in Germany and Austria.
The Entombment of Christ is unusual for two reasons. Salter, a member of the Royal Academy and Society of British Artists, painted commissions of the good and the great of his day, who liked his complementary style and his attention to detail.
He earned nothing from The Entombment of Christ; it was a gift of love.
Though he painted mythological scenes, Salter is known for his many portraits. His portrait of Wellington for the Houses of Parliament recently sold for an undisclosed sum. Even lesser known portraits, like that of Sir Arthur Clifton, have sold for nearly £5,000 at Christie’s - and that was in 2002.
As one of Salter’s larger canvases, The Entombment of Christ is an epic of an historically resonant scene. His most famous epic is that of the Waterloo Banquet 1836, which hangs in the Wellington Museum at Apsley House, near Hyde Park, which John Timbs said was ‘one of the most important works of art’.
People bought tickets and queued to see the huge canvas based on three portraits of distinguished veterans – the Duke of Essex said he recognised 60 dining on the anniversary of Waterloo. A popular engraving by Greatbach was widely sold and is still being traded by Dreweatts.
For the Wellington Museum to sell their Salter would be like Honiton selling its lace or Thelma Hulbert paintings. It seems inconceivable.
When few Honitonians travelled, William Salter went on the Grand Tour to study the great masters. He became Professor of Fine Arts in Florence and a member of the Parma Academy where his work was admired .
The Entombment of Christ, which he completed for the consecration of St Paul’s on April 24 in 1838, was clearly inspired by the religious works of the Renaissance. It took pride of place as an altarpiece, was moved to the west wall, then to the Narthex and to its present, dusty and seemingly unwanted state.
Salter gave the new church a distinction it lacked.
It was created to be at the heart of St Paul’s and Honiton.
What do you think?