Cloisters, the Church of the Frari, Venice by Henry Woods (1846-1921)

At first glance, Warrington and Venice may not seem to have much in common but they are inextricably linked by the life of Warrington born artist Henry Woods.

Cloisters, the Church of the Frari, Venice

Woods showed exceptional artistic talent at school which earnt him a scholarship to the prestigious South Kensington School of Art (now The Royal College of Art.) By the age of 30 he had become fascinated by the city of Venice and so moved there permanently. He began to incorporate the Venetian architecture and the people into his work. This painting of the Cloisters of the Holy Trinity in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari currently hangs in Warrington Museum in memoriam to one of the town’s great sons.

Despite being painted in 1893 the view would instantly be familiar to modern-day visitors. The porticos that encircle the square are carved from glorious white Istrian stone and provide welcome relief from both the Venetian mid-day sun and the crowded streets of Venice. The cloister buildings now house the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, reputedly the second largest in the world after The Vatican’s and which contain over 43 miles of shelving. The large monument in the centre of the painting houses a well; it is crowned by an intricate sculpture of the Holy Trinity, Saint Paul and Saint Peter and was sculpted by Francesco Penso in 1718.

At the forefront of the painting, a young woman sits at the foot of a large statue polishing metal artefacts from the church. Woods cleverly uses the shadow cast over this statue to highlight its fine details against the bright sun lit background. This is a bold artistic statement and works especially well as it is balanced by the presence of the priest on the right hand side. Dressed in black, he addresses another young woman who appears to be repairing a carpet, whilst three pigeons nonchalantly examine the ground nearby for crumbs. Such scenes from everyday life were initially inspired by seventeenth century Dutch works and were hugely popular in Britain towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Warrington Museum and Art Gallery is located on Bold Street, Warrington. It opens daily and admission is free.

Why you should see this:

Elements of British genre painting are combined with an unusual composition, clever use of light and Italian architecture by the highly regarded Cheshire-born artist, Henry Woods.


Image courtesy of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery


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