Richard Ansdell's art comes full circle to Lytham
PUBLISHED: 01:16 11 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013
The story of Richard Ansdell's art has come full circle thanks to one of his descendants and the grand-daughter of a former Lytham mayor
An art exhibition in Lytham is throwing the spotlight on a man who had a lifelong love of the area. In fact, as Victor Kiam never said, he loved the area so much he gave his name to it.
Born in Liverpool, and made president of the Liverpool Academy in 1845, the eminent Victorian artist Richard Ansdell was famed for his rugged landscapes and hunting scenes and fell in love with the wild, untamed landscape to the west of Lytham in the 1850s.
In spite of his background in the city, he longed for dramatic scenery and was a frequent visitor to the Fylde coast before he built his home there in 1861. But the tranquillity of his rural life was broken just three years later when the railway was extended west from Lytham to a station just a hundred yards or so behind his house.
As a famous resident, a road had already been named after him and when trains stopped at the station, the station master would shout Ansdells to let passengers know where they were. And that practise continued after the coming of the railway and the development of the area caused Ansdell to move on to the untouched beauty of northern Scotland. But he left behind a legacy that remains to this day: the villages name.
Shortly after he left, the station was moved further to the west but his house, called Starr Hills, still stands - diagonally opposite the famous White Church - although it has been altered and extended and is now a care home. A blue plaque hangs on the wall of the former lodge house.
Richard Ansdell, who died in Farnborough aged 69, was one of the most decorated artists of the time, a three-time winner of the Heywood medal, a gift awarded to the best pictures shown at the exhibitions in Manchester; a member of the Royal Academy where he exhibited more than 150 works; and a gold medallist at the 1855 Great Exhibition in Paris.
Fylde Council has a large collection of his paintings, many of them donated by former mayor, alderman and freeman of the borough James Dawson who wanted them to be displayed in a gallery in the town.
The collection was begun in 1925 when John Booth gave the council
one of Ansdells paintings.
Alderman Dawsons grand-daughter Margaret Race took on that campaign as the chair of The Friends of The Lytham St Annes Art Collection and she said: I knew my grandfather had given all these beautiful paintings and that they were in the town hall or gathering dust in storage.
I campaigned for about 30 years for an art gallery to be built because I felt very strongly that they should not be hidden away.
The campaign ended in 2008 when an art gallery was included in the design of the new Booths store in Lytham
Its nice to think that the whole thing has come full circle with the Booth familys involvement and my own family connection, added Margaret. Im sure my grandfather would be very pleased, he would have loved to see them hung in a proper gallery.
The exhibition was opened by Ansdells great-great grand-daughter Sarah Kellam who is a leading authority on the artist and is preparing a biography and comprehensive catalogue of his work. She said: I am delighted that since the gallery opened with an exhibition of his work there has been an upsurge of interest in him. Attitudes towards his work have changed radically.
Im also delighted with the work that the museum service conservators have done on the paintings - they look as though they were painted yesterday, there is a real jewel-like quality to them now and that is so pleasing to see.
Richard Ansdell Revisited, paintings from the Lytham St Annes Art Collection opens at:
The Fylde Gallery, Haven Road, Lytham from Friday 10 June Sat 30 July.
8 a.m. 6 p.m. Monday Wed.
8 a.m. 8 p.m. Thursday, Sat.
10 a.m. 4 p.m. Sunday.
Admission free. Contact 01253 727268 or 01253 723230