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Portrait of the engraver

Posted on Tuesday 3rd December 2013
Painting of St George's Hall in Liverpool

'Lime Street and St George’s Hall', 1906, James Hamilton Hay © National Museums Liverpool

Engravings by James Hamilton Hay go on display at the Walker

Landscape and city etchings by Wirral-born artist James Hamilton Hay are the focus of a new exhibition opening at the Walker Art Gallery this December.

James Hamilton Hay: Portrait of the engraver opens on Friday 13 December, displaying more than 25 etchings, including scenes of Lime Street Station, St George’s Hall and Runcorn Bridge, from National Museums Liverpool’s collection.

Born in 1874, in Birkenhead, Hay was one of the most talented artists to emerge from Liverpool in the early 20th century.
After finding his training at Liverpool School of Art ‘very unsatisfactory’, Hay moved to Cornwall where he flourished under British Impressionist Julius Olsson. Hay later returned to Liverpool and became an energetic advocate for contemporary art in the city; he was responsible for organising exhibitions of work by significant international artists including the French Impressionist, Édouard Manet in 1904.

Following the death of his wife in 1911, Hay moved to London for a fresh start. During this time, he developed a more graphic style noticeable in the bold lines he uses in his later work compared to the more fluid Impressionist lines used in his earlier work.

Hay’s death from lung cancer in 1916, aged 42, prematurely ended his career, preventing him from being as well known as he might have been.

Charlotte Keenan, Tomlinson Curator of Works on Paper said: “We’re really pleased to be displaying these beautiful etchings and the local connection with both Hay and the subject of some of his etchings makes the exhibition even more special.
“Hay believed in working directly from nature which gives his etchings a stunning snap-shot quality.”

Included in the exhibition are a number of etchings made in the North West, which reveal the former landscapes of the region. The exhibition features a watercolour of St George’s Plateau with the Walker Art Gallery visible in the background, and a print of Lime St Station, complete with bustling city figures.

Also on display is an etching Hay made of Waterloo when Hay had returned to Liverpool after his wife’s death in 1907. His graphic style and the influence of Japanese art are evident in the thick lines used to depict the trees.

As well as sketching Liverpool, Hay also made prints of Runcorn, including one of Runcorn Bridge, which had recently been built in 1905 and was the first of its kind in Britain.

Hay travelled Britain extensively and documented his travel through his work, often making his drawings on the spot. The exhibition includes drawings Hay made in Buckinghamshire, Dorset, and the Lake District.

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic.                                                         

We attract more than three million visitors every year. Our venues are the International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, Sudley House, Border Force National Museum, Walker Art Gallery and World Museum.

One of the finest art galleries in Europe, the Walker Art Gallery is home to renaissance masterpieces, Tudor portraits and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. An outstanding display of contemporary art includes work by David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Banksy.

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