Sidmouth group reunited with famous architect's painting bought at auction
PUBLISHED: 07:31 02 January 2019
Artwork by a famous architect who shaped Sidmouth's landscape has returned to town after being bought at an auction.
A watercolour depicting Sidmouth by RW Sampson was found and sold to a buyer on the Isle of Wight.
The buyer, after noticing labelling on the back of the painting, decided to contact the Sid Vale Association and Sampson Society to see whether it was connected with the famous architect.
Sampson is responsible for building many homes across the valley, as well as the Victoria Hotel.
Martin Mallinson, from the Sampson Society, set to work to authenticate the artwork.
He believes it could be the first piece Sampson painted after moving to Sidmouth in 1891.
Group founder Sylvia Brownlee unveiled the watercolour, which depicts a view of the town from the end of Seafield Road, to 65 members at a gathering last week.
She said: “There is his signature and date on the face of the painting and the label on the back of the frame features his signature again.
“There would be no point in forging his signature, since Sampson was merely an amateur, albeit gifted, artist.
“I myself, love the painting, the more so as it is a view of the route to my back door and was the original route into Sidmouth as Station Road was a mere path then.
“There was a gasp of appreciation for the colours in the painting, particularly showing red-ridge tiles which enhance everything.
“Some of those tiles are still there - although not quite so red.”
Family members of the architect have recalled seeing ‘a trunkful of paintings’ but only a few of them are known to have survived.
Sampson’s love for painting grew over his lifetime as he opened an art school in the town in 1895 and often exhibited at the Royal Academy.
He later became a president of the Sidmouth and East Devon Sketching Club.
Steve Jellyman, chairman of the society, said: “RW Sampson, architect who transformed Sidmouth in the early years of the 20th century, was also a prolific watercolour artist.
“Sadly, few of his paintings are known to have survived.”
The society is keen to encourage anyone who may have information about the whereabouts of RW Sampson’s artwork to get in touch, by visiting www.rwsampson.com.