RAYNER ABROAD IN EUROPE
Louise is known to have travelled across the English Channel
into Northern France, but how much farther she got is
uncertain since it was a common practice for artists to copy
other artists' work to learn their technique (or because
they liked the subject and never expected to go there
themselves), and such a painting surviving without
explanation can indicate a visit that was never actually
made. On the other hand, it may just be that the record of
the trip has been lost.
We only have five European images so far, and there are
queries about some of them. The one exception is the superb
view of Rheims Cathedral, France
shown here to the right, which went to auction in late 2003.
As with so many of her pictures, the drama of the
architecture - in this case the cathedral spire climbing
towards the heavens - is paired with teeming human life down
at ground level, and here we see two groups of people
interacting in the foreground, while just behind them, a
slash of sunlight between the buildings spotlights a man
apparently trying to open a door. Beyond them are many more
people - not artificially posed for the paintbrush but
caught in the midst of going about their business.
We've had this up for a while with no known location and its
unhelpful title A Court Yard.
You would think that the twin towers in the distance would
be quick to match, but that didn't initially prove to be the
case and we thought that one of the 20th century's two World
Wars might have been the agent to remove them. Thankfully
Mark Edwin Arstall made a further search and found
photographic proof that the scene does still exist, and it's
the Schoner Brunnen fountain in Hauptplatz, Nuremberg with
St Sebaldus church behind and the old Rathaus to the right.
There is also a question mark on the artist. Louise's
signature is clearly visible on the painting, but like one
of the Conway
paintings there is a doubt and this one tends to be
given as attributed to Louise Rayner. Our own
question would be the relative lack of people by Louise's
normal standards, though some of her early paintings have
less human presence than the bustle familiar in later ones.
It should be said that the original image we located was
badly faded and a lot was done to give it the present colour
balance - but it's still wrong. To see the real thing, check
this link on theodora.com.
Our third painting is A Cathedral
Interior. Previously thought to be Bourges
Cathedral in France, Tom Kerr has now been able to confirm
it as Bruges Cathedral in Belgium - i.e. the kind of error
that could have stemmed from indistinct writing. However, we
do know that it was Louise's work. The same view was also
painted by Joseph Nash in 1838, by Edmund Niemann, and by
Louise's sister Frances.
Another difficulty in establishing where Louise did (or did
not) go when in Europe is that so few of her European
paintings show up in UK auctions. Even if they did, they
might not be titled; however, most known UK-auctioned
paintings have been identified as showing British scenes. So
the French (etc.) paintings must have stayed in France,
either in original family hands or circulating through local
sales. War damage may have accounted for some - and even
some pillaging, though we doubt that Goering's art
collection unit would have taken them since he seemed to
work to an old masters shopping list.
Flower Sellers in Bruges
shows the cloth hall with its tall round-tower in the
background. We aren't sure which street is depicted but
would guess it's Vlamingstraat. If so, we're looking just a
tiny fraction east of due south. The buildings on the right
side, stop pretty much as depicted here, as they are at the
northern edge of the market square (Markt). The Cloth Hall
is one of the major landmarks of Bruges. It was built in
1240 and had its first of several fires in 1280. The
octagonal lantern was added in 1482-6. The tower section of
the building used to hold the city's records and serve as a
lookout station. The lower part of the building was the
former cloth hall, built to serve what was once a huge trade
in Belgium and has two wings running away at right-angles to
Unfortunately we know very little about the street or flower
selling in the foreground of the picture, nor of when Louise
was there to paint it, but if you have any information to
offer we'd be happy to receive it! If you like it enough to
have on your wall, prints are available from people such as
This slightly over-magnified image shows a painting
auctioned on Ebay in July 2004 entitled Venice
Grand Canal and credited to Louis[e] Rayner.
The photo of her writing on the back of the frame appeared
to be an acceptable variant of an 1857 example and it
suggested a sale previous to the Ebay one. Unusually, it was
an oil, but the Rayner artists used both media, even if the
main output by Louise and Margaret was watercolour.
Andy King took a look at the images, especially the
close-up, and said it did look like Louise's work. So are
there doubts? Not serious ones, no. Except that there is
absolutely no known record of Louise ever going anywhere
near Venice, and it could be that the missing 'e' off her
first name may not have been an error by the Ebay seller...
But "Louis Rayner" doesn't turn up anywhere else.
There is still a willingness to believe that Louise did turn
this one out, so how did it come about? One possibility is
that as Frances lived on the continent for several years
(her paintings include one of Lucerne in Switzerland),
Louise may have gone out to visit her, and they may have
singly or jointly gone on to Italy. And possibly her
notebook for the trip eventually got lost.
Harry Drummond, January 2015.
|DudleyMall pages about Louise:|
|Louise at Dudley|| - Front page introduction, Dudley, link to Richard Rayner's work at Dudley.|
|Louise Rayner|| - the main biography, listing some of her early paintings|
|Louise at Chester|| - where Louise made her home and did some of her best work.|
|Louise at Flint|| - her drawings for Henry Taylor's book.|
Louise on expedition:
North to South progression, West before East
|Louise in Scotland|| - Edinburgh|
|Louise in Southern Scotland|| - Roslin Chapel (we have no other Scottish paintings at present)|
|Louise in Northern England|| - York, Selby, Beverly, Durham|
|Louise in Wales and the west Midlands|| - Conway... Ludlow... Gloucester|
|Louise in the South and South West|| - Oxford... Chippenham... Salisbury|
|Louise in Eastern England|| - Lincoln... Derby... Cambridge|
|Louise in London and its region|| - Temple Bar, Drury Lane, Holborn, Greenwich, Eton and Windsor|
|Louise in the South East|| - Tunbridge Wells, Knole, Herstmonceux, Canterbury, Hastings... more|
|Louise Abroad|| - Rheims, Nuremberg, Bruges... and possibly Venice|
|In preparation:|| - The Rayners at Windsor|
Please note: we claim no art expertise, and in no way do we
offer provenance for any paintings. What
you see here was compiled out of interest in Louise Rayner's
paintings and those by her family, but is based on sometimes
very fragmentary evidence. It is thus inevitable that there
will be errors, though we naturally correct these when we
We would gratefully receive any information or corrections that will help us to fill the gaps and
resolve unproved links - for example confirmation of dates of birth, death, etc., and details of other
addresses the family lived at (and roughly when). Images of any of the family's paintings would also be
very welcome. And we'd like to thank the many people who have already contributed - you've helped
to make these pages as good as they are. Thank you!
Copyright © 2015 DudleyMall.