‘Louise Rayner: Victorian Watercolours’ displays the largest public collection of her work and runs until April 17.
Cllr Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “The much-loved watercolours of Louise Rayner present a uniquely charming vision of Victorian Chester.
“She delighted in the textures of crumbling plaster, weather-beaten timber, peeling posters and rough cobbles. Her views of Chester’s picturesque streets are brought vividly to life with ordinary people going about their everyday lives in the sunlit city.
“Louise Rayner painted major public buildings such as the Castle and the Town Hall, famous half-timbered houses such as Bishop Lloyd’s Palace and the Bear and Billet, and long-vanished corners of the historic city such as St Werburgh’s Mount and Harvie’s Almshouses. Louise Rayner has become one of Chester’s favourite artists, and is admired as much today as in her lifetime.”
Louise Rayner was born in Derbyshire in 1832. Her father Samuel Rayner (1806-79) was an accomplished painter of architectural watercolours, and her mother, brother and four sisters were also artists. She was taught by her parents and their artist friends, and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852.
Louise Rayner is first recorded at Chester in 1869. She lived at 2 Ash Grove off the Wrexham Road, boarding with Robert Shearing (who owned a chemist’s shop in Watergate Street) and his wife Mary Anne. From Chester she sent work to exhibitions in London and elsewhere, and in the 1870s and ’80s spent a couple of months each summer in different British towns and cities. In the 1890s her sister Margaret (1837-1920) came to lodge with her at Chester, where they taught watercolour drawing. They left Chester around 1910, and Louise died at St Leonards-on-Sea in 1924.
The exhibition includes four watercolours by Louise Rayner’s father Samuel and sister Margaret. They are very accomplished works and provide a fascinating context for Louise Rayner’s better-known pictures. The conservation of these pictures was generously funded by the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust.
Events for adults:
Every day – Guided Walking Tours of Chester with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides
Tuesdays from January 24 onwards – Watercolour Painting sessions at Funky Aardvark
Thursday, 16 February – Louise Rayner Exhibition Tour
Wednesday, March 22 & Saturday, March 25 – Exploring Louise Rayner’s Chester: Guided Walk with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides.
Events for families:
Thursday, February 23 – Waxy Works
Wednesday, April 5 – The Victorian Chemist’s Shop
Saturday, April 8 – Slow Art Day
Wednesday, April 12 – Chester through the Eyes of a Tourist.
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10.30am-5pm and Sunday 1-4pm, admission free, donations welcome.