Bath’s favourite geese return

A much-loved painting of a gaggle of geese has returned to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery after flying out to America – a round trip of almost 7,000 miles!

‘Watersplash’ by Henry Herbert La Thangue.
‘Watersplash’ by Henry Herbert La Thangue.

‘Watersplash’ by Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929) – which was voted the most popular painting in the Victoria Art Gallery’s collection – depicts a scene of traditional English rural life as a flock of geese is driven through a shallow stream by a boy with a stick.

In March, the oil painting was loaned to the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, where it wooed American audiences and highlighted the Victoria Art Gallery’s exquisite collection of fine works.

Jon Benington, Manager of Bath & North East Somerset’s Victoria Art Gallery, said: “Henry Herbert La Thangue painted this wonderful picture of geese being driven down a country lane sometime between 1879 and 1929, and ever since it was bequeathed to the Gallery it has been the most popular painting on display.

“‘Watersplash’ transports us so successfully to a place of sunny, rural tranquillity that it is hard to believe what a radical painting it was in its time. Victorian taste dictated that artists should use fine brushes to give a porcelain-like finish to their pictures. In contrast, La Thangue used square hog’s-hair brushes to create a richly textured surface – focusing on movement and light rather than detail to paint everyday subjects as spontaneously and naturally as possible.”

Now that it is back home and on display again in Bath, visitors have been flocking to the Victoria Art Gallery Facebook page (www.facebook.com/VictoriaArtGallery) to express their delight:

  • Katherine Newman-Warren commented: “I remember this painting from my childhood when my mother used to take me to see the paintings after the library. Love it.”
  • Vivien Simpson said: “I’ve always loved this picture too. It is beautifully painted, virtually like a photo!”
  • Jonathan Sloane-Hill added: “So glad the jewel is back!”

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “‘Watersplash’ is a ‘stand-out’ piece from the permanent art collection which Bath & North East Somerset Council holds in trust for all its residents to appreciate free of charge. Therefore we’re delighted to have it back on display in the upper gallery for everyone to enjoy.”

The Victoria Art Gallery, near Pulteney Bridge in Bath, is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sundays 1.30pm to 5pm and closed on Mondays. For more details call 01225 477233 or visit the Gallery’s website www.victoriagal.org.uk.