- Museum number
A waterfall; with ferns, grasses and a tree before it
Watercolour with pen and brown ink
- Production date
Height: 247 millimetres
Width: 320 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Originally attributed to William Greene, to whom the Binyon number refers.
K Sloan, Noble Art 2000
Amos Green was one of a family of artists from Halesowen near Birmingham, most of whom taught drawing. His brother James was an engraver of antiquities and views in Oxford and Benjamin (1738-98) at first succeeded him before going to London in 1762 as assistant to Thomas Bisse the drawing master to Christ's Hospital. He succeeded Bisse on the latter's death in 1766, a balloted appointment earning £50 per annum, having won all the votes except two in a field of four candidates, including George Bickham (cat.72). His eldest brother Charles was a clerk at the Hospital. The British Museum has a two large watercolours by Benjamin and a small view of the Hospital where he taught until 1796. Benjamin Green exhibited at the Society of Artists and supplemented his income with printmaking. He was the author and engraver of several drawing books including Drawing and Painting in Watercolour (1755) and A Drawing Book of Landscapes (1786). From 1769 he published mezzotint portraits and a series after paintings by George Stubbs and he also taught his daughter Sarah to engrave in order to assist him. He has been credited some of the earliest (1771) English experiments in the soft-ground technique which was used for reproducing the effect of chalk drawings and employed in his A Drawing Book in Chalks (1775). It contained 51 plates after old masters, including portraits in the manner of Rembrandt after Thomas Worlidge, and his experiments inspired Sandby and Gainsborough to try the medium.
In 1779 Benjamin engraved six bouquets by his brother Amos in mezzotint which were printed in green ink and coloured by hand. Amos Green had been apprenticed to a printer in Birmingham but his potential as a painter of still lifes, especially flowers and fruit, was noticed by a neighbour, the poet William Shenstone, who provided him with letters of introduction to several families around Birmingham. He resided with the Deanes of Hagley, whose gardens he laid out and to whom he gave drawing lessons from 1766, in Suffolk and finally in Bath until his marriage to one of his pupils, Harriet Lister, in 1796.
Harriet and her wealthy widowed mother were from York and had met Alexander Cozens in 1775 and subscribed to his Principles of Beauty. She had made several sketching tours of England when she met Gilpin in 1792 and, through their mutual friend Mary Hartley, met Amos Green in Bath in 1793. Mary Hartley had earlier encouraged Amos to take up landscape painting in watercolours, lending him Gilpin's tours, and knowledge of the latter is clearly evident in the present work. In 1789 Mary Hartley wrote to Gilpin: 'Mr. Green ...draws & paints better than any gentleman that I know; & he is so enthusiastic about all these effects that you speak of, from mists, clouds, streams of light, & other accidental causes of light & shade, that I wish you cou'd have some conversation together.' (Barbier, 165,n.5). The present work, although it was once attributed to the lakeland artist William Green (no relation), has the bright yellows and greens and distinctive reeds and grasses in the foreground that were typical of his landscape style before he met Harriet. She is said to have taken lessons from him, but there is no proof and she was already an accomplished landscapist with a distinctive style. From their marriage until his death, they toured and sketched constantly all over England, Scotland and Wales, producing several albums of hundreds of drawings in grey wash. In spite of initials on some of the drawings, it is very difficult to distinguish their work from each other's. Many of the albums have been broken up, but their style is very distinctive and quite different from the present watercolour, indicating that Harriet had a stronger influence on his style than he on hers.
Literature: Johnson Ball, 1951 Festival Exhibition of Pictures by the Halesowen Artists James, Amos and Benjamin Green, exh. Council House, Halesowen, 1951; Barbier, pp. 164-5; Clayton pp. 176, 193, 245
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.113
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number