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Uwins Uncle Tom.jpg

Feature work:
Thomas Uwins

Master Paintings Week, 2014

A selection of works including abolitionist painting by Thomas Uwins

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.

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.

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.

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