Local characters.

‘Characters’ of the Whitchurch Area. John George Sowerby – ‘The man who went through three fortunes’

 John George Sowerby was a painter of some repute who lived in the early twentieth century in Orde House Langrove. He was born in Gateshead and inherited a prosperous glassmaking busines in 1879 but frittered away the money that had been made by his grandfather, father and widowed mother. He was more interested in painting and experimenting with techniques than making the moulded glass for which Sowerby Glass were renowned – he is said to have thrown handfuls of gold sovereigns into the glass-furnace to see how they effected the glass-making process. Disillusioned by his family business and wanting to pursue a career as a professional painter, he eventually sold the business in 1896 and moved south. He became a landscape painter but also illustrated books in association with Walter Crane. and the present watercolour reflects the illustrative quality in many of his pictures. It is likely that it depicts the artist’s elder daughter Githa, an author, who moved to London in 1905 with her sister Millicent, who provided illustrations for Githa’s novels. Githa is best-known for writing the play Rutherford & Son, the main protagonist a thinly-veiled portrait of her father and largely based upon the angst she felt for her father’s business failings. Patricia Riley’s book Looking for Githa of 2009 is an interesting insight into the fascinating life of the Sowerby family.
John George Sowerby 1876-1914 CHRYSANTHEMUMS signed l.r.: JOHN SOWERBY watercolour with bodycolour 16.5 by 25cm., 6¾ by 9½in. READ CONDITION REPORT PROVENANCE Christopher Wood, London, December 2003 CATALOGUE NOTE John George Sowerby has been described as ‘the man who went through three fortunes’, who inherited a prosperous glassmaking business in Gateshead in 1879 but frittered away the money that had been made by his grandfather, father and widowed mother. He was more interested in painting and experimenting with techniques than making the moulded glass for which Sowerby Glass were renowned – he is said to have thrown handfuls of gold sovereigns into the glass-furnace to see how they effected the glass-making process. Disillusioned by his family business and wanting to pursue a career as a professional painter, he eventually sold the business in 1896 and moved south. He became a landscape painter but also illustrated books in association with Walter Crane and the present watercolour reflects the illustrative quality in many of his pictures. It is likely that it depicts the artist’s elder daughter Githa, an author, who moved to London in 1905 with her sister Millicent, who provided illustrations for Githa’s novels. Githa is best-known for writing the play Rutherford & Son, the main protagonist a thinly-veiled portrait of her father and largely based upon the angst she felt for her father’s business failings. Patricia Riley’s book Looking for Githa of 2009 is an interesting insight into the fascinating life of the Sowerby family.

Lived in Orde House Llangrove and is mentioned in the 1911 census.

 

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