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London Art Week, Winter 2021
Old and Modern Masters

For more see: https://londonartweek.co.uk/exhibitors/ben-elwes-fine-art/


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London Art Week Digital & Live, Summer 2021
2-16 July 2021

Literary Women: Writers and Revolutionaries
The head of a marble statue of a woman


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London Art Week Digital,  Winter 2020
27 Nov - 4 Dec

Selected Highlights from the 15th to the 20th Centuries

Detail of The Master of the Krainburg Altar



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London Art Week Digital 2020
3 - 10 July

Anglo Americans, Abolitionists and Women, at Ben Elwes Fine Art

During London Art Week Digital 2020, Ben Elwes Fine Art will present a selection of paintings across six centuries that reflect the Anglo-American nature of the gallery.

Ben Elwes, who is British, has been a dealer for three decades and Rachel Layton Elwes comes from an American museum background. Building on their reputation for handling works by Anglo-American artists, they will focus the spotlight on women artists often missing from the art-historical canon, as well as on art of the anti-slavery movement, together with a selection of Old and Modern Masters.

Five women artists dating from the early 19th century to the 1950s will feature in Ben Elwes Fine Art’s virtual exhibition.

The section will include British artist Margaret Sarah Carpenter’s (1793-1872) portrait of General Sir Charles Hastings Doyle K.C.M.G. (1805-1883), when serving in the 4th Queen’s Own Light Dragoons, c.1825. Painting with the bravura and flourish associated with the Regency period, Carpenter exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and the British Institution and, in 1823, a reviewer wrote, "It very rarely happens that a specimen of art like this is produced from the hand of a lady: Here are colour, light, strength and effect".

An intimate work by the American society portraitist Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) highlights her early career, when she was a regular prize-winner at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Her style in the 1880s revealed a debt to James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903) with its subtle palette and quiet composition.

Anna Boberg was a Swedish Symbolist, largely self-taught and irrepressibly intrepid, finding her subject matter in the evocative summer light of the Lofoten Islands, in the remote northern archipelago of Norway.

Detail of painting: Anna Boberg, 'Putting out to Sea', a view of a sailing ship seen through falling snow

Additionally, following their success selling paintings which narrate the story of the African diaspora and the Abolitionist Movement, Ben Elwes Fine Art continues to engage in the repositioning of slavery as represented in art.

The Captured Runaway of 1856 by William Gale (1823-1909), is one of a small group of pictures exhibited at the Royal Academy in London before the American Civil War, which featured African-born or African-descended subjects. It depicts a mixed-race African-descended female slave handcuffed to a bounty hunter, pausing on their journey south, to her owner.

The Victorians were at once horrified and politically engaged by real and fictionalised stories of fugitive slaves bravely attempting freedom, and Gale’s work appeals to this interest. Paintings like this, although challenging, help people to understand the anti-slavery movement by making an abstract concept transformative and personal.

Detail of painting: William Gale, 'The Captured Runaway', showing a woman in a red headscarf handcuffed to a seated man.



London Art Week Winter 2019
1 - 6 December

Artistic Relationships: Anglo-American Paintings

Ben Elwes Fine Art for London Art Week Winter 2019 has assembled a group of works with an Anglo-American theme.

Particularly appropriate, given that 2019 marks the bicentenary of the birth of the great 19th-century British artist and critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), is a c.1879 watercolour on paper which he owned, having acquired it directly from the American artist, Thomas Moran (1837-1926).

Painting, watercolour landscape showing flat land with distant trees and mountains towering in the background

Moran was renowned for his majestic landscapes of the American West and his work was much admired by Ruskin. The two men developed a friendship during the artist’s visit to England in 1882, when Ruskin advised Thomas Moran to ‘study nature carefully and reproduce her wonders accurately’.

The watercolour depicts Mount Superior, as viewed from Alta, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, located in the Wasatch Mountain Range. Executed en plein air, rather than in the artist’s studio, the drawing was part of a commission from the Grand Pacific Railway, to promote tourism to the region.

This watercolour is at the intersection of important transatlantic historical events: the promotion of travel to the American West, with the celebration of its natural landscape recorded by contemporary artists; as well as being a document of the appreciation of Moran’s exhibited works in England, led by Ruskin, the most renowned art theorist and critic of Victorian England. 

Other works in the display at Ben Elwes on the theme of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the USA include a Portrait of Queen Charlotte, 1776-77 by the Anglo-American artist, Benjamin West (1738-1820), one of the only examples of the many royal portraits by the artist not in the Royal Collection.

Painting, a portrait of Queen Charlotte, seated, with towering hair and wearing a silver grey dress

Born to a rural innkeeping family in Springfield, Pennsylvania, Benjamin West was a Quaker who, remarkably, went on to become Historical Painter to George III and the second President of the Royal Academy. 

From the same period, and only recently identified as the sitter, is a portrait of the renowned actress, author and feminist Mrs Mary Robinson (1758-1800) dressed as a nun, c.1780, by the Revolutionary-period Boston artist John Singleton Copley (1738-1815).

Painting depicting a woman in a nun's head dress

Copley, a Loyalist, came to London and quickly assimilated into artistic life, becoming a close colleague of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). He worked in London until his death in 1815.

Mary Robinson was a woman ahead of her time. She was an actress from the age of fourteen and promoted by the great impresario and actor-manager, David Garrick. In 1779, she caught the eye of the Prince of Wales (1762-1830), later George IV, whilst playing the role of Perdita, the heroine from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, for which she earned her nickname. 

She became disabled following a miscarriage in 1783, and her body of writing, including eight volumes of poetry, as well as plays, fiction and essays, was immense. The press called her ‘The English Sappho’. Like her contemporary, Mary Wollenstonecroft (1759-1797), she focused on the role of women in the Romantic Era, and the treatment of women as inferior to men, especially in her essay, ‘A Letter to the Women of England’ of 1798 and ‘The Natural Daughter’ of 1799.


Master Paintings Week 2016

Elégance, a monumental plaster relief by the sculptor Alfred Janniot (1889-1969), is without doubt the highlight of the summer exhibition at Ben Elwes Fine Art. A natural heir to the legacy of Auguste Rodin, Janniot created this bas-relief in preparation for his commission at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, in 1930.

Detail of plaster relief of figure of a woman

In the figure of Elégance, her draped body recalls not only ancient Roman sculptures of the goddess of love, Venus, but also the figure of the goddess in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. This graceful yet imposing sculpture, together with the gallery's fine collection of Old Master and 19th century paintings are to be unveiled at Brown’s London Art Weekend.


Master Paintings Week 2015

After almost a year of careful restoration, Ben Elwes Fine Art will be revealing Claude Joseph Vernet's Noon - Return from Fishing, a stunning, lost masterpiece in pristine condition. It is the earliest of three versions of this composition, one of which, dated 1760, is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Detail of Vernet's Noon- Return from Fishing, showing a group of figures by a river, with a viaduct in the background

Until recently, Noon - Return from Fishing was largely hidden under layers of paint, which had been applied in the 19th-century. Rather bafflingly this covered most of the background with a crude depiction of a waterfall, eliminating the beautifully rendered viaduct completely.


Master Paintings Week 2014

Among the works selected for the 2014 Master Paintings Week, Ben Elwes Fine Art will unveil an abolitionist painting by British artist Thomas Uwins. Given the critical and popular acclaim of the recent films Twelve Years a Slave and Belle, the abolitionist theme is very much in the headlines as it was in 1852 with the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Intense British interest in the abolitionist movement is reflected in the work which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. The artist, a man of considerable intellect as well as a committed Christian, depicts Uncle Tom shackled and reading the Bible.

Detail of Uncle Tom; a study from the life, by Thomas Uwins RA, showing the head and shoulders of a black man wearing a white shirt

Also exhibited will be two portraits depicting Moroccan Ambassadors, originally from the collection of Sir Clement Cottrell (1686-1758), who was Master of Ceremonies from 1710 until his death in 1758. Until they were sold privately in 2002,  they were hung at Rousham, the Cottrel’s country house near Oxford having remained in the family collection since they were painted. As Master of Ceremonies, Sir Clement Cottrell was largely concerned with the reception and accommodation of foreign ambassadors during their stay in England. Contemporary manuscript records still in the possession of the Cottrell-Dormer family describe Sir Clement’s first meeting with Ambassador Hagi Abdulkader Perez.

Detail of Portrait of Admiral Abdelkader Perez with a naval engagement beyond, by Michael Dahl and studio, showing a grey-bearded man wearing a white turbanDetail of Portrait of Mohammed Ben Ali Abgali, by Enoch Seeman, showing a dark-bearded man wearing a white turban under a hooded cloak

Alongside these paintings will be a large scale contemporary work by artist Mark Fairnington. An exploration of The Cabinet of Curiosities, Fairnington's practice is founded on painting as a mode of research. His works are detailed studies of natural history specimens from collections, storage and displays. Paradisa Apoda, which Ben Elwes will be exhibiting, draws upon a long history of animal painting and the recording of specimens. The viewer is aware that the birds are dead, as they have been carefully placed on a white surface to be examined, with white tags on each feet emphasising their didactic role as objects from a collection.

Detail of Paradisa Apoda, by Mark Fairnington, showing two yellow birds, dead, with labels attached to their legs

Article in Mayfair Magazine (1.6MB PDF)


Frieze Masters 2012, London

Ben Elwes Fine Art is pleased to participate in the inaugural edition of Frieze Masters, a unique art fair which encompass fine art from the ancient era through the year 2000. Located in the heart of Regent's Park, it will be held in conjunction with Frieze London.

Frieze mastersLonga - Garden of Eden

Master Paintings Week 2012

Ben Elwes Fine Art is delighted to announce their summer exhibition, First Impressions - Landscape Oil Sketches 1780-1860, from the John Lishawa Collection, a selection of 51 en-plein air paintings.

The majority of the works in the exhibition are being sold from the collection of John Lishawa, with a small selection of works loaned from museums and other private collections. Coinciding with Master Paintings Week, the exhibition will be on view from 19 June until 13 July. It will include, amongst other works by Granet, Dunouy, Denis, a spectacular coastal scene by Eugène Isabey, Stormy Sea at Etretat, as well as one of the finest painting in Michallon’s oeuvre, View of the Temple of Segesta.

John Lishawa collected these works over the period of 40 years and his collection represents one of the best of its kind. The exhibition catalogue features an introductory essay by Charlotte Gere, whose own collection (along with that of her late husband, John Gere) of plein-air art was featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery, London in 1999.

Ben Elwes Fine Art has an established reputation as a specialist dealer in the field of Old Master and British paintings. Ben, together with his wife and co-director, Rachel Layton Elwes, have worked not only for private individuals, but their clients have also included numerous international museums. Much of their previous stock has been of important historical significance, and like the art in this exhibition, represents a rare glimpse into the artistic process.

The Sky at sunsetStormy sea at d’Etretat, NormandyPanoramic view of Naples and the bay with the island of Capri




Master Paintings Week 2010

Ben Elwes Fine Art will be exhibiting two paintings concerned with race at Master Paintings Week 2010. The gallery has gained a reputation for covering the subject and has sold recently important anti-slavery paintings to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian. Continuing this theme will be a major picture by British artist William Gale, “The Ranaway Slave” depicting a mulato female slave being captured by an American Bounty Hunter. Exhibited in 1856 it was part of the outraged response, both political and artistic, to the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Under this law even non-slave states were obliged to return escapees to their owners causing fury amongst abolitionists. The gallery will also be showing a fine portrait of an African by the French painter Léon de Troy.

The Captured RunawayHead of an African Man

Amongst other works, Ben Elwes Fine Art will also be exhibiting two fascinating portraits:

Portrait of a Young ArtistPortrait of Mary Louise McBride (Mrs Homer Saint-Gaudens)

Master Paintings Week 2009

Joseph Bonaparte - newly discovered paintings from the Château de Mortefontaine

Among the exceptional works selected for the 2009 event, Ben Elwes Fine Art exhibited two large landscape paintings with a fascinating rediscovered royal provenance. The pair was commissioned from the French neo-classical artist Hyacinthe Dunouy (1757-1843) by the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples and later also King of Spain. Signed and dated 1806, they show views of Joseph’s estate at the Chậteau de Mortefontaine. One also includes a depiction of Joseph hunting.

On the downfall of Napoloeon in 1814, Joseph was forced to abdicate the Spanish throne. He subsequently moved to Philadelphia, taking much of his important art collection. His new home at Point Breeze, in New Jersey, became the centre of a Bonapartist personality cult, which out lived Joseph, who died July 28 1844 in Florence, but was continued with his much-feted daughter Zénaïde and her husband and cousin, Charles-Lucien Bonaparte.

The Point Breeze collection, much of which remains untraced, was dispersed in the 1840s. The newly-discovered provenance and topography of the pair by Dunouy is therefore of great trans-Atlantic significance.

Joseph Bonaparte and his family beside a lake at the Château de MortefontaineJoseph Bonaparte and his family beside a lake at the Château de Mortefontaine