|Original watercolour for the published street scene in Macau |
“Chinese Street in Macao”; original depiction by the English architect and artist Edward Ashworth
Macau, probably mid-1844, Southern China
Watercolour, ink caption at centre below; original cropping marks and marginal annotations relating to subsequent publication.
|Location of Origin: Asia|
|Medium/Materials: Watercolour on paper; now in acid-free mount to original framing dimensions|
|Dimensions: 370 by 274mm (14.5 by 10.75 inches)|
|Primary Classification: Asian Art : Chinese Antiques|
|Secondary Classification: Antique Picture Frames and Fine Art for Sale : Other|
|An important original watercolour of Macau. The series was described in full in the catalogue Edward Ashworth, Artist & Architect. This once formed part of a series of watercolours of the European enclaves on the South China coast in the mid-1840s. The suite of views of Hong Kong from that series was acquired by the Hong Kong Museum of Art.|
Chinese Street in Macao - This recently-discovered drawing appears very familiar, for the reason that it was one of the images to have been turned into a lithograph (Plate 5) for Ashworth’s essay ‘Chinese Architecture’, first published in 1851 by the Architectural Publication Society. This explains the cropping marks and side instructions to the engraver and printer around its margins.
The watercolour depicts a street of Chinese shops. Concerning the published version Ashworth writes rather brusquely in his essay of: ‘A street in Macao, the Chinese part of the town. These shops are quite second rate. The foolish custom of constructing segment roofs to verandahs is here displayed to disadvantage’. Presumably he is referring to the roofs to the left, drainage - if left unprotected by an additional roof - being an obvious problem with their inward returns. If we are to believe the written evidence, it seems that Ashworth drew this scene more as a visual, moral lesson in bad design rather than for any painterly or romantic compulsion, though some ethnographic fascination with such an intimate Chinese setting must certainly have played a part.
On this original drawing, at the lower right, Ashworth has scribbled in pencil: ‘The effect of this is to be copie[d] with the colour of the other draw[ing]’. This could be a note to his lithographers Messrs. Day and Son, a reference to another street scene by Ashworth that would become Plate 4: ‘Street Scene, Canton, near the Foreign Factories’, since both exhibit an identical viewing angle and perspective. In addition, the eaves of the buildings along the Canton street display similar ‘segment roofs’ of the pattern Ashworth so despised in Macau.
Edward AshworthEdward Ashworth was born near Exeter, Devon in 1814, and trained as an articled apprentice to Robert Cornish, architect to Exeter Cathedral. He then moved to London to work under another Exeter-born man, Charles Fowler, architect to the Duke of Bedford and a founder-member of the Institute of British Architects.
Unhappy with the quality of his commissions, Ashworth decided to immigrate to New Zealand. Aged 28, he left England in May 1842 aboard the ship Tuscan, bound for Auckland. The trip included a brief stay in Melbourne, landing at Port Phillip in September 1842. Ashworth continued on to Auckland, arriving a month later in October. After failing to find work as an architect he accepted a position as tutor to the children of the first New Zealand Governor, William Hobson, recently deceased. Other tutoring posts soon came his way. During his two-year stay, Ashworth made numerous watercolours of Auckland and its street life including an expedition into the Waikato, now treasured views of the very first stages of colonial occupation. This was to become a habit, drawing and painting the landscapes and streetscapes of each place he visited. In 1843 he gave a lecture to the local Mechanics Institute on Greek architecture in which his drawings were widely admired for their ‘exquisite’ quality.
By early 1844 he had decided to make his way back to England via a slow sojourn in China – presumably he had heard of the sudden flurry of building construction then underway in Hong Kong. Ashworth left Auckland in February 1844 arriving for the second time in Australia that same month, this time in Sydney, New South Wales. He spent three months in that city, again painting and drawing, before heading across to Hong Kong aboard the American ship Navigator by way of Batavia (Jakarta) and Macau. The timing was impeccable. The first ‘official’ land auction of Hong Kong under Crown sovereignty had taken place just a few months earlier, in January 1844, and a building boom ensued. Now, finally, he could find actual architectural commissions and build.
Ashworth returned to England in 1846 and set up practice in Exeter. His first job in the county was as clerk of works for Up Ottery Manor, a new, suitably expansive neo-Tudor pile, which he completed for the 2nd Viscount Sidmouth in 1847. Here, in bucolic Devon, he remained until his death in 1896, devoting much of his work to the restoration of parish churches.
Ashworth’s newly-discovered watercolours of Macau add significantly to the corpus of material explored by previous European painters such as the Daniells, William Alexander, Auguste Borget and George Chinnery, although with a greater urbanity and intimacy to the settings, partly as a result of his close interest in detail, particularly architectural.
AcknowledgmentsWe are grateful to Chris Cowell who prepared a skilful analysis of the Ashworth drawings; for information summarised here we also thank Marian Minson and the staff of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand; Cesar Guillen Nuñez, Historian of Art at the Macau Ricci Institute, Macau; Dr. Stuart Braga, Sydney; Sarah Cunich, Hong Kong; the staff of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, and the National Library of Australia, Canberra.
Bibliography: AshworthAshworth, E. ‘Chinese Architecture.’ In Detached Essays and Illustrations Issued During the Years 1850- 51. London: Architectural Publication Society, 21 February 1853. (Essay first published in 1851); Cates, Arthur. ‘The Dictionary of Architecture. A Retrospect. 1848-1892.’ In Dictionary of Architecture, edited by Wyatt Papworth, 1-3. London: Architectural Publication Society, 1892; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscript Collection, State Library of New South Wales: Edward Ashworth - Records (1842-1844), Microfilm of journal, notebooks and sketchbooks of travels in Australia, New Zealand and China 1842-44 [1 reel, FM 4/3403]; National Library of Australia, Papers [M602] microform: Ashworth, Edward, 1814-1896; Platts, Una. Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook. Christchurch: Avon Fine Prints, 1980; National Library of New Zealand, Ref: MSGroup-1954, Edward Ashworth Journals (1841-45) & Ref: E-042, Edward Ashworth Sketchbook (1844).
Bibliography: Macau Macau Cremer, R.D., ed. Macau: City of Commerce and Culture. Hong Kong: UEA Press, 1987; Guillén-Nuñez, César. Macao Streets. Hong Kong; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Orange, James. The Chater Collection: Pictures Relating to China, Hong Kong, Macao, 1655-1860. London: Thornton Butterworth, 1924; Porter, Jonathan. Macau, the Imaginary City: Culture and Society, 1557 to the Present. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996; Shipp, Steve. Macau, China: A Political History of the Portuguese Colony’s Transition to Chinese Rule. Jefferson, N. Carolina; London: McFarland & Co. Inc., 1997.
|Provenance: Edward Ashworth’s family, by descent, in a group of drawings.|
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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