by Helen Young
A glimpse inside the RGHT water colours collection
RGHT holds a large collection of artworks including 1200 watercolours and drawings. These provide a fascinating view of the borough of Greenwich throughout the last few hundred years. One artist who painstaking recorded the building of London in watercolours was Evacutes A. Phipson. We are lucky enough to hold 4 of his original works of Woolwich, which he painted during 1922. Many of the building depicted no longer exist and so the paintings are like a time machine taking us back 100 years.
Evacutes was born at Kings Norton, near Birmingham in 1854. His birth name was Edward Arthur Phipson, but choose to change his name to Evacutes meaning ‘ready listener’ in Ancient Greek. His family were engaged in manufacturing and he received a good education. It is possible that he trained to be an architect for a short time. He was a keen socialist and wrote many pamphlets on this topic.
Evacutes was a prolific watercolour artist, painting hundreds of scenes of London buildings. Many of his works are now in the collections of history libraries. There are 340 of his paintings in the Croydon collection and 60 at Hammersmith and Fulham. Some of Phipson’s painting were made into postcard during this lifetime partly because of their photographic accuracy.
The four paintings shown here from the collection of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust are all of Woolwich. Although many of the building no longer exist the places themselves can be recognised from the modern day town. Phipson has carefully placed a few people in each of his images to give a sense of scale and to bring life to the otherwise still street scenes. The palate he uses is of muted greys and brown reflecting the fabric of the buildings, but he employs a blue sky in each image to bring brightness and also sunlight to create areas of light and shade. They create a tranquil impression and an impression of the borough of Greenwich 100 years ago.