Edward King exhibition shows Portsmouth’s past in paint

A series of paintings depicting Portsmouth during the Blitz are at the heart of a new display at Portsmouth Museum opening on Thursday 24 March.

Distinguished artist Edward King was living in the city during the Second World War and documented the aftermath of air raids in his paintings. The new display, Edward King: a life in art, brings together around 70 paintings, including the Blitz series, as well as photographs, archival material and objects from Portsmouth’s museum collections.

Many of the buildings recorded by King were demolished for safety reasons in the post-war redevelopment of the city. The exhibition also features King’s paintings of the houseboats at Milton Locks and the grounds at St James’ Hospital where he stayed from 1926 until his death in 1951.

Born in 1862, King trained at the Slade School of Art with Walter Sickert and was friends with many well-known artists including James McNeill Whistler and John Atkinson Grimshaw. He exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy and is said to have influenced the young Vincent Van Gogh who admired King’s ‘striking, powerful virile drawing’.

King’s impressionistic style is evident in his series of Blitz paintings and complements the forms and colour of the demolished brickwork.

As a young man King was a prolific artist whose illustrations appeared in Punch magazine and the Illustrated London News. In 1925, just as his work was gaining wider recognition, he suffered a breakdown after the death of his wife and became a patient at St James’ Hospital where he was encouraged to continue painting to help with his recovery.

Cllr Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Sport, said: “This unique collection is a fascinating combination of fine art and local history. King captured an important piece of Portsmouth’s history, the devastation caused by the Blitz, which ultimately shaped the city as we know it today. I hope people take the opportunity to admire his work and see how our city once was.”

The collection will be on display until spring 2017. Portsmouth Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.