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Opening of the ‘Ashton Cannell – A Manx Artist Rediscovered’ Art Exhibition at the Manx Museum 31 January 2007

Manx National Heritage has started its 2007 exhibition programme with the new art exhibition ‘Ashton Cannell – A Manx Artist Rediscovered’ at the Manx Museum on Saturday 27th January.

The Ashton Cannell exhibition was formally opened on Friday 26th January by Norman Sayle, a student contemporary of Ashton Cannell at the Douglas School of Art in the 1940s, in the presence of the Lieutenant Governor and Lady Haddacks. A packed private view of over 100 guests heard Norman Sayle and Hugh Cannell, the artist’s cousin, speak about Ashton Cannell and their memories of him and his work. Martin Moore, Chairman of the Trustees of Manx National Heritage, also paid tribute to Ashton Cannell and his work on behalf of Bert Wright, President of Wapping Group of Artists, who said of the artist:

“Ashton Cannell was a Wapping Group of Artists member for many years and was highly regarded by both the members and the many clients of the Group. His work was always in demand. "Ash" enjoyed the companionship of painting with the Group and particularly enjoyed the weekly outdoor painting sessions held at various venues along the River Thames.”

Edward Ashton Cannell (1927-1994) was born in Port Erin and brought up in Port St Mary, where his father was the well-known manager of the Isle of Man Bank. Educated at King William’s College, Ashton Cannell first trained as an artist at the Douglas School of Art and then later at the Liverpool College of Art in the 1940s. Following graduation, he taught at the Douglas School of Art and then moved to London to teach art. He went on to establish himself as a successful artist in London through exhibitions and membership of several art societies, such as the Wapping Group of Artists. One of his Manx watercolours, entitled ‘Shrouded Hills near Niarbyl, Isle of Man’ is part of the prestigious British Government Art Collection.

The new exhibition shows the wide variety of artwork that Ashton Cannell produced during his artistic career. These range from watercolours and oils that capture timeless images of Thames river scenes and Manx landscapes through to ephemeral watercolours of a single moment caught in time. One of the most picturesque of these scenes is bizarrely of a snow-covered London street entitled ‘Winter of Discontent’, when the dustmen’s strike had left rubbish piled and uncollected in the streets. Other more unusual work includes a series of cartoons produced in the early 1960s for the Daily Express, and which unusually for older cartoons are still extremely funny today.

Yvonne Cresswell, Curator of Social History at Manx National Heritage said:

“Ashton Cannell may not have initially been the most well known of Manx artists, but I hope that this exhibition will help to establish him as an important Manx artist. I have been overwhelmed by the help and support that has been provided by Ashton Cannell’s many family and friends in the staging of this exhibition. They have all been generous in loaning artwork and providing information about him for the exhibition.
A theme that can be seen through many of his paintings is one of a fascination with light and a quest to try and capture the changing moods and effects of light, in particular that of sunlight bursting through dark clouds. Another theme and fascination appears to be with water and Ashton Cannell had a wonderful talent of capturing water and rain in its many forms from puddles and streams through to the river Thames and the sea.”

The ‘Ashton Cannell – A Manx Artist Rediscovered’ exhibition will run from Saturday 27th January through to Saturday 14th April and a colour illustrated catalogue of the exhibition is available from the Heritage Shop at the Manx Museum for £4.95.

The Manx Museum is part of the award winning Story of Mann and is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. Admission is free of charge.

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