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Watercolour - 18th Century Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth; Recording Britain
  • 18th Century Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth
    Moore, born 1917
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18th Century Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth; Recording Britain

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1941 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Moore, born 1917 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour painting on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:

    E.1946-1949

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RB, shelf 21

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These fine eighteenth-century houses lining the quay are a testament to Great Yarmouth's former status as one of the wealthiest towns in England. The Norfolk port was once the site of a prosperous herring fishery; in the late nineteenth century, however, the fishing industry gave way to tourism as the town's main source of income.

Mona Moore, a noted illustrator in the 1930s and 1940s, contributed eight watercolours of Norfolk to the Recording Britain project. They were singled out for praise at an exhibition of the Queen's Pictures at the National Gallery in 1942, one critic praising their 'lyric atmosphere that is almost a substitute for a holiday in Norwich'.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of a row of 18th-century houses, painted white and brown, standing along a street. It appears to be early morning, and a man (possibly a milkman) is passing by in his cart.

Place of Origin

Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom (painted)

Date

ca. 1941 (painted)

Artist/maker

Moore, born 1917 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour painting on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'18th Century Houses, South Quay, Gt Yarmouth'

Dimensions

Height: 9.75 in, Width: 13.50 in

Object history note

This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

Historical significance: Mona Moore, a watercolourist and printmaker known for her illustrations, contributed eight watercolours of Norfolk scenes to the Recording Britain project. When they were exhibited at the National Gallery in 1942 in the exhibition 'The Queen's Pictures at the National Gallery', they were singled out for praise in the News Chronicle, whose reviewer wrote, 'Miss Mona Moore's East Anglian paintings have a lyric atmosphere that is almost a substitute for a holiday in Norwich'.

Historical context note

Great Yarmouth, once a major fishing port, became a popular beach resort in the late nineteenth century. The fine 18th century houses shown here are indicative of the wealth the town's herring fishery brought in.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, '18th Century Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth', by Mona Moore (Recording Britain, Norfolk).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

D. Mellor, G. Saunders, P. Wright, Recording Britain: A Pictorial Domesday of Pre-War Britain, London 1990, p. 20.
Notes the general reception of Mona Moore's East Anglian watercolours when they were exhibited at the National Gallery in 1942.
Catalogue of Drawings in the ‘Recording Britain’ Collection given by the Pilgrim Trust to the Victoria and Albert Museum published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Prints, Drawings and Paintings Department, 1951.
The full text of the entry is as follows:
'NORFOLK
[…]
MOORE, Mona.

[…]
18th Century Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth.
Inscribed, in pencil, with title.
Pen and ink and watercolour (9 ¾ x 13 1/2)

E.1946-1949'

Materials

Paper; Watercolour; Ink

Techniques

Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Topographical views; Norfolk; Town houses; Great Yarmouth

Categories

Paintings; Recording Britain Collection

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O120681
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