Description & Technical information

This watercolour dates to a trip made by Boyce to the north east of England in the late summer and autumn of 1864. The scene depicted is a distant view of Newcastle, seen from across the river Tyne at Gateshead, with the prominent tower of the cathedral of St. Nicholas barely visible at the left of centre. The steeply sloping Rabbit Banks from which Boyce made this watercolour has long since been built over, and may today be identified with Pipewellgate in the area of Bensham in Gateshead.

It has been suggested that the artist may have been encouraged to visit the industrial landscapes around Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a view towards finding potential subjects for his watercolours, by the ironmaster Isaac Lowthian Bell, who had purchased several works from the artist earlier in the year. As well as a number of smaller works, Boyce’s trip resulted in at least two large finished watercolours; a view of Newcastle from the Windmill Hills, Gateshead in the collection of the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and another, larger version of the present composition of Newcastle from the Rabbit Banks, Gateshead - depicted in daylight and with the addition of a sleeping figure in the left foreground - which appeared at auction in 1995. While the present sheet has been regarded as a study for the larger work, the latter is, however, not a night scene. As Christopher Newall has noted of a different watercolour from the same 1864 trip to Newcastle, ‘Boyce seems to have relished such quietly understated, but honest, urban scenes..., combining a response to a landscape that was changing as a consequence of industrialisation with a characteristic aesthetic fondness of incidental pattern and texture.’

Boyce exhibited two Newcastle subjects - Newcastle from the Windmill Hills, Gateshead and Newcastle from the Rabbit Banks, Gateshead - at the Old Water-Colour Society in 1865. Although it has been suggested that it was the larger, daylight version of Newcastle from the Rabbit Banks that was shown at the OWCS, a description of the exhibited work in a review in the Athenaeum would however seem to favour the present, more dramatic, nighttime scene as the work exhibited. As the anonymous reviewer noted, ‘Among the recently elected members of this Society, by far the most original artist in landscape is Mr. Boyce, who treats with such perfect solemnity, beauty, richness and truth of colouring, some of the most commonplace themes...a distant view of a manufacturing town interests us in its million lives and fortunes; its subtle colouring seems pathetic, and a glowing sky looks full of prophecy...Given these successes with unchallengeable fidelity, and we have a great artist. Such is Mr. Boyce.’

Date:  1864
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  England
Medium: Watercolour
Signature: Signed and dated G. P. Boyce 64 at the lower right. Further inscribed Newcastle at night – from the Rabbit Banks, Gateshead / GPBoyce 1864 on the verso. Inscribed Newcastle looking towards / Gateshead / from the / Rabbit Banks. / by G. P. BOYCE / 1864 on an old label on the backing board. Further inscribed Mrs. Hueffer / The Lodge / Campden Hill Road on the backing board.

Dimensions: 10.1 x 20.9 cm (4 x 8¹/₄ inches)
Provenance: Probably Ford Madox Brown, London
His daughter, Catherine Hueffer (née Madox Brown), The Lodge, Campden Hill Road, London, and thence by descent
The Maas Gallery, London, in 1998
Christopher Cone, Whitby.


Literature: Christopher Newall and Judy Egerton, George Price Boyce, exhibition catalogue, London, 1987, pp.56-57, under no.42.


Exhibitions: Probably London, Pall Mall East, Exhibition of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours, Summer 1865, no.128 (‘Newcastle, from the Rabbit Banks, Gateshead-on-Tyne’).


Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints