On Friday 16 September 2016 a new exhibition opened at the Northampton Art Gallery and Museum celebrating the watercolour skills of one of Shoosmiths’ founding partners, Thurston Laidlaw Shoosmiths. Although a partner for 30 years he is far better known in arts circles for his talents and contribution to the arts in the early 20th century.
Thurston Laidlaw Shoosmith gained an international reputation for his subtle and distinctive style of watercolour painting in the early 20th century, yet his importance is often overlooked.
The new exhibition takes a fresh look at his work and will include more than 70 works of art by Shoosmith and 10 works associated with or inspired by the artist. Many of the works are scenes from Northampton and the surrounding area – a subject he returned to again and again for inspiration.
The exhibition is the result of a new book by George Butlin, Thurston Laidlaw Shoosmith – A Reappraisal. The book, which includes an essay by John McGowan, includes plates from a newly compiled database of the artist’s works. Through an exploration of the artist’s works, the book acknowledges the rightful place of Shoosmith in the history of British watercolour painting.
Born in Northampton in 1865, Shoosmith was a leading figure in Northampton’s art scene of the time and became the first president of the Northampton Town and County Art Society. He was educated at Northampton Grammar School before joining the firm of solicitors his father had established in the town – still practising today as the national law firm Shoosmiths which has kindly sponsored the exhibition.
Author George Butlin said: “A review of the life and work of Thurston Laidlaw Shoosmith is long overdue. In the early years of the last century, he achieved an international reputation through published articles and London exhibitions, as well as dominating the arts scene in his home town.
“His works sold for sums that were the equivalent of half a year’s wages for an agricultural worker of the time. He achieved this while practicing as a solicitor, and was also the town clerk. He influenced a future generation of Northamptonshire artists and I hope that the publication of my book, and the exhibition, will help future generations to appreciate his distinct, individual and subtle talent.”
David Parton, partner and head of Shoosmiths Northampton office, said: “We are very proud to sponsor this exhibition by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery which pays tribute to the talent that was TL Shoosmith. Shoosmiths as a law firm has grown somewhat since it was established in Northampton in 1845 – the firm is soon to open its 11th office in the UK and is Legal Week’s UK Law Firm of the Year; so very different to the firm that TL Shoosmith knew. We are very much looking forward to this exhibition which highlights a part of our rich heritage.”
Councillor Anna King, cabinet member for community engagement, said: “It’s a great privilege that Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is able to host this stunning exhibition, which acknowledges TL Shoosmith’s place in the history of British watercolour painting. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore his works, and also to compare his vision of Northampton in the early 20th century to Northampton today.”
The exhibition, The Neglected Watercolourist – The Life and Work of TL Shoosmith, will run from Saturday 17 September to Sunday 20 November at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery. Entrance is free.
A study day, to take a closer look at Shoosmith’s work, will take place on Saturday 19 November from 10.15am to 4pm. A series of five lecture and discussion sessions, led by art historian Dr Conny Bailey, will also take place from 20 September to 18 October to complement and contextualise the Shoosmith exhibition. Watercolour workshops for adults and children are also set to take place during September and October.