One of the many highlights in the recently reopened Aberdeen Art Gallery is the Le Passeur (The Ferryman) by William Stott, of Oldham, on loan from the Tate.
Its arrival here marks the culmination of a UK tour to celebrate it being saved for the nation by Tate in 2016. But this isn’t the first time the Le Passeur has journeyed to Aberdeen.
In 1881 Aberdeen art collector John Forbes White purchased Le Passeur. The painting was swiftly followed to Aberdeen by Stott himself. In 1882 he and his new wife Mary spent part of their honeymoon with White and his family at their home at Seaton Cottage. This idyllic time of “Lawn tennis, fresh air & kind friends” is recorded in correspondence between White and Stott.
During this visit Stott painted White’s eldest daughter Alice. Such was the artist’s affection for the full-length portrait of “Our Alice” that he wrote of the intense pleasure he derived from looking at the painting. Alice is now in the care of direct descendants who have kindly lent her to be exhibited alongside Le Passeur. A portrait of Alice’s father by Sir George Reid will also be exhibited. This painting was funded by subscribers in 1889 to honour White’s encouragement of the arts in Aberdeen – in particular his role in establishing the art gallery.
White’s over-arching support for the arts drew many contemporary painters into his sphere, giving these individuals access to Le Passeur. They included John Lavery, who translated Stott’s combination of naturalism and symbolism into The Tennis Party, painted in 1885, and donated to Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1926.
In April 1883 Stott wrote to White from Paris that he longed for “a time to come when we shall all be together for some time”. Unfortunately, in 1888, White’s finances took a turn for the worse. Le Passeur was sold and White relocated with his family to Dundee. Shortly afterwards, in 1900, Stott died unexpectedly on a ferry from London to Belfast. It seems fitting that the reopening of Aberdeen Art Gallery has made it possible to at least bring the paintings that connected these two men “together (again) for some time”.
Le Passeur (The Ferryman) 1881 was purchased with funds provided by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation 2017.
- Le Passeur – The Ferryman’s Journey, Saturday November 2 to Sunday March 8. Admission free.
- Spotlight tour: The Ferryman’s Journey, Mondays at 11am (20mins), free
- British Sign Language tour: The Ferryman’s Journey, Wednesday December 11, 2pm (90mins), drop-in, free
- Join our BSL interpreters for an introduction to Aberdeen Art Gallery and The Ferryman’s Journey exhibition.
- Aberdeen Art Gallery (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- The Tolbooth Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Treasure Hub Museum Centre
- For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk
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