Warning - this article contains spoilers!
Last year we published the article ‘Finding Frederick Appleyard’ asking for your help to find the lost works of Frederick Appleyard, whose story we learn more about daily. This article is an update on our progress in regard to finding out more about this artist and in developing our exhibition Rising Splendour: Fred Appleyard from the Royal Academy to the Itchen Valley (21 June – 18 Sept).
Responses to our call for information about Fred’s work have been diverse. We have received correspondence from as far as the USA and as close as Southampton, underscoring the indelible international impact made by Fred across his career. Periodicals and newspapers from the time bolster this image of Fred's popularity and have spoken of Fred’s fame as a decorative artist.
The quality of his craftsmanship appears to have quickened his ascent to a good level of renown and commercial success and this aligns with what we see in his surviving works. Appleyard's fundamental mastery of execution is unquestionable and consistent, regardless of his changing style - from classic Victorian figurative and allegorical scenes, to more expressive and impressionistic views, in line with modernist trends.
Curator Melanie Rose, an Itchen Valley artist herself, has had the joy of leafing through Fred's legacy and assembling lists of sketches, oils and watercolors that tell a tale of a romantic existence. From Nereids, rivers and roses, and scenes of Hampshire hills, full of Muses and Graces, to gardens in full bloom burgeoning with floral beauty, we are greeted by nature's abundant glory, depicted both literally and in allegory.
Due to Melanie’s efforts, the works below have been unearthed and brought to light for the first time this millennium.
Even observed in this form, with your viewing mediated by a screen displaying photos that have been taken with a rudimentary smartphone camera, they impress. Fred’s colours, compositions and delineations ensnare the eye even when obscured.
John Reed, one of the Visual Arts Exhibition team and author of this article notes, 'I am particularly taken with the above garden painting. It is a beautiful piece with a foreground enriched by a flourishing garden that is an ode to nature in its marriage of near symmetry, vibrant hues and harmonization. This picture takes us back to Fred's sanctuary and multifaceted open-air studio in Hampshire. Clearly, he liked to swap cotton or linen for soil and silt, using the earth as his canvas. The products of his green fingers are supported emphatically by a looming background of undulating hills that are rich and verdant.' It is little wonder that Fred, possessing an artistic and naturalistic temperament, spent much of his later life in Itchen Stoke, part of the South Downs Way, where he could induce such spectacular scenes with brush and spade alike.
With all that we are gathering and have gathered about Fred, we are uncovering a prolific, talented and poetic artist, Romantic in both painting and life. This bodes well for what we envision for this summer and the exhibition we are creating. A lost tale of a Hampshire-bound bohemian artist is re-emerging to inspire anew.
Don't miss the complementary exhibition at City Space, drawing together six local artists working under the same landscape spell as Appleyard (Immersive Landscapes, 13 Jun – 15 Sept).
Rising Splendour: Fred Appleyard from the Royal Academy to the Itchen Valley opens 21 June – 18 September. Tickets will be available soon.