E.K. Waterhouse

The reference to E.K. Waterhouse in the Comments section has reminded me that I have been meaning to find out more about his time at the Barber Institute.   He was a Marlburian, a contemporary of John Betjeman and a year above Anthony Blunt.   I don’t think there was much love lost between them.   When I was at school, I was asked to look up a poem by John Betjeman in the school magazine which was said to have the acrostic EKWATERHOUSEISASHIT, but it didn’t exist (at least the additional ISASHIT was a false memory).   After New College, Oxford, he went on a Harkness Fellowship to Princeton, where he studied El Greco, which was fairly pioneering for the time, and then returned to work, but rather briefly, for the National Gallery, which he apparently regarded as hopelessly amateurish (it was before the days of the Courtauld Institute).   After the war, he was – all rather briefly – Editor of the Burlington Magazine, a Reader in Manchester and Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, before settling as Director of the Barber Institute in 1952.   The quality of his acquisitions must have derived from an ample acquisitions fund, a detailed knowledge of the art market and independence of taste, partly derived from his time as Librarian of the British School of Rome in the 1930s, writing his book on Baroque Painting in Rome (1937).   He also, which I didn’t know, worked on the British Art section for the Royal Academy’s big survey exhibition of seventeenth-century art, held in 1938, which led to his scholarly study of British painting.


6 thoughts on “E.K. Waterhouse

  1. That was an excellent entry on Ellis Waterhouse, thank you. I loved the thought of the acrostic !

    Waterhouse was quite exceptional, not least in turning the Barber into a great Teaching Collection, with remarkable paintings such as van Dyck’s ECCE HOMO, very good Sienese like Simone Martini etc.

    What a generation of Regional curators he was part of ! Hans Schubart in Bristol, Hans Hess in York…….. through to Richard Verdi at the Barber. It’s a line that has been disastrously broken in recent years by local authorities as they amalgamated Art, Tourism and Sport, leading to the Committees no longer being led by an officer with a knowledge of Art.

  2. Martin Hopkinson says:

    Blunt and Waterhouse went to Italy before WW2 together with the artist, Harry Jefferson Barnes, son in law of Randolph Schwabe and later a longtime Director of Glasgow School of Art, and Vim Allom , later a longtime master at Eastbourne College. Their visit led to Waterhouse’s groundbreaking book on Italian Baroque painting, and was probably very important for Blunt’s study of Poussin. Blunt and Barnes bought a then unconsidered painting by Poussin on this trip. Although I was at Eastbourne College, I was not taught by Allom, who was well known for his eccentricity. Blunt and Waterhouse were friendly in the early 1970s. I do not know if there was a froideur in between. Waterhouse was certainly a connoisseur , witness his long correspondence with Andrew McLaren Young in the files of the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. In fact it was the disappointing level of connoisseurship in the National Gallery which led him to leave . He was a much better connoisseur than Bodkin at the Barber and he probably deplored the first catalogue of the collection there

    However, Charles, I should add how much I enjoy your blog – well written, entertaining and very erudite, which has considerably enlarged my knowledge , in particular of the East End of London, where I lived for a decade [in Whitechapel], and where my builder great grandfather James Hartnoll began his career in Wentworth Street, putting up sturdy blocks of flats, many of which survive. One of the earliest stood in Poplar where the Smithsons built their Robin Hood Gardens Estate.

      • Martin Hopkinson says:

        Dear Charles
        You can find a good summary of James Hartnoll’s building activity at the end of the 19th century in the recent Clerkenwell volume of the Survey of Voiume. His firm continued into the late 1950s as Hartnoll Estates. The family were originally Devon boatbuilders. As a young man James visited North Germany to study flat building in places like Hamburg, and his surviving blocks of flats tend to look a bit different from most of their London contemporaries as a result. He appears not to have employed an architect. South of the river he put up blocks in East Street, Walworth , Tooley Street , and in Vauxhall, and one of his buildings still stands in Charing Cross Road, but the greatest concentration of his blocks was in Clerkenwell. The company’s offices in the 1950s was in a block of flats in Gray’s Inn Road. Very often he gave his buildings the names of places in Devon.
        The barge builders, Hartnoll, on the Thames at Limehouse – see F A Winkfield’s The riverside at Limehouse [Museum of London]- are probably connected to our family. Julian Hartnoll, whom you will know, is another great grandson of James Hartnoll

        My younger brother, the architect Richard Hopkinson [ who incidentally redesigned the interior of Tower Hamlets College in Arbour Square] has some of the documentation of Hartnoll Estates

  3. Elena Henson says:

    I’m so pleased to have seen the comment above from Martin Hopkinson. I found it after reading the Survey of London vol 47, then a bit of googling. I have lived for over 30 years in Churston Mansions, Gray’s Inn Road, just up the road from Dulverton, Dawlish, and Tiverton, and round the corner from Barnstaple, Bideford and Braunton! I have never been able to find out the reason for the Devon names.

    I’m now enjoying exploring the rest of you blog!

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