The Edgar W Graham Collection

Edgar W Graham

Edgar W Graham (EWG) worked at Brantwood from 1945 up to his death in 1965 when he was the Curator of the Ruskin Collection. 

The contribution Edgar made to the establishment of Brantwood was documented by Michael Salt, read it here.

During that period he amassed a serious collection of Ruskiniana, all manner of objects, artwork, books, lace and other items.

Sole daughter, Anne Valerie was brought up in Coniston and was a regular visitor to Brantwood.  She inherited the Collection but did little except to add a few other artworks over the years, many of the paintings were badly affected by atmospheric conditions.

Anne died in December 2019 and her grand-daughter, Eleanor inherited the stunning collection

I started to research John Ruskin on the internet to discover more about the items we held.  There was one image, a view of the Grand Canal in Venice that was a mystery, Anne called it the Canaletto saying that she had seen it framed in John Ruskin’s bedroom as a young girl but knew nothing about it at all.

The architectural detail in the image was stunning but so much of it was casually painted. Ruskin’s most famous work was the ‘The Stones of Venice, a series of studies of the architecture and the drawings in those books were also full of precise architectural detail but our painting was unsigned and in poor condition due to being out of a frame for many years.

Ruskin had not been interested in selling his artwork, his publications had attracted a massive international following and he worked endlessly to improve them. He bought engravings from around the World, and set up engravers to produce plates for his books. William G Collingwood in his book, ‘Ruskin Relics’ detailed the process used by Ruskin in producing the plates for ‘The Stones of Venice’.

In the reprinted ‘Ruskin’s Drawings’ chapter he notes,

The plates in these volumes very fairly represent Ruskin’s handiwork at different periods and are indispensable to anyone who wishes to study it. Plates in “Modern Painters” and “Stones of Venice,” nearly all by engravers after his work, do not represent it in the same authentic manner.

The internet offers  incredible avenues of research but sometimes the human memory can exceed it’s ability.  Collingwood’s comments triggered a match in my brain, I had seen the gondola somewhere else could it have been on an image of an engraving?

Weeks earlier I had been viewing Ruskin’s artworks after a Google search, it took a few days but I found the image, better it was from the frontispiece of a book in the Stones of Venice set by Ruskin published in 1869.

The engraving was clearly based on our painting and that confirmed the artist was John Ruskin! It was clearly an image produced for use by the engravers but in reality, it is an unknown John Ruskin painting.

BUT, it needs serious restoration as do many of the other pictures in the collection, estimated cost is over £20,000 for the whole collection and that is way beyond our means. The seeds of an idea to raise this sum were being born and this website is not only a tribute to Edgar W Graham but a way to publicise the situation and raise the required funds to restore the collection itself.