Artist profile - Thomas Walmsley Price, The Grosvenor Museum, Chester

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 November 2013

Thomas Walmsley Prices painting of the Rev Charles Kinglsey, benefactor and author

Thomas Walmsley Prices painting of the Rev Charles Kinglsey, benefactor and author

not Archant

The second in our series of articles appreciating art in galleries in or near Cheshire

Little is known about the Chester artist Thomas Walmsley Price apart from the fact that he was a prolific painter of Welsh landscapes. It might therefore seem unusual that arguably his best known work is a painting of The Reverend Charles Kingsley.

The sombre shading, typical of a formal Victorian likeness, means this unassuming portrait can be easily overlooked. Its location high above a doorway on the first floor of the Grosvenor Museum seems unbefitting for a man to whom the building owes its very existence. While a canon of Chester Cathedral, Kingsley played a pivotal role in the founding of the Chester Society of Natural Science, Literature and Art which in turn founded the Grosvenor Museum.

A book and two geological specimens are present on the table beside him in permanent tribute to the contribution he made to the Natural Sciences and Literature. Kingsley stares past the viewer, deep in concentration. He is clearly an old man, but his eyes and demeanour cast the reassuring aura of great wisdom and kindness.

From this we learn that there was much more to Kingsley than that of benefactor to public knowledge. He was also a talented preacher and a social reformer. He spoke out against poverty and hunger and was a fervent supporter of the Chartist movement which aimed to reform the political process to make it fairer for the working man.

It is for his legacy as an author that we best remember Kingsley. His book The Water Babies (1863), while ostensibly a moral fable for children, is as much a tract against child labour and serious critique of closed-minded approaches to Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution. His historical novel Westward Ho! (1855) is still highly regarded today for its descriptions of South American landscapes. Thanks to Victorian tourism entrepreneurs who sensed they could piggyback on its success, it also now lends its name to a pretty seaside town in Devon - the only town in the British Isles with an exclamation mark in its name.

The Grosvenor Museum is located on 27 Grosvenor St, Chester, CH1 2DD and is open from 10:30 to 5 except Sunday 1 to 4pm.

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