Twenty five scenes of Nassau as it was in Victorian times are back in The Bahamas, 149 years after they were painted by Royal Artillery officer Gaspard Le Marchant Tupper, one of the foremost water colourists of his day.
Bahamians will soon be able to view these stunning paintings, thanks to collectors Amanda and Orjan Lindroth, who purchased them in 2001. They plan to offer Tupper's work for exhibit, perhaps in the new National Art Gallery. At the moment, the paintings are being kept in a bank vault in Miami.
Delicate and precise, Tupper's paintings show forts Charlotte, Fincastle and Montagu in exquisite detail. Seascapes include Nassau harbour filled with ships, the old waterfront, now much changed, and the lighthouse on the western end of Paradise Island, looking exactly as it did in 1854.The paintings are among very few, if any, images of Nassau surviving from the mid-1800s.
Tupper was trained as a military artist but his seascapes and the street scenes of old Nassau town show that he also painted for the sheer pleasure of it, rendering to a rare perfection the island's brief sunset glows and distinctive cloud structures.
Several well known landmarks are visible, including the spire of St Matthew's Anglican church on Shirley St and the tower of Christ Church Cathedral on George St.
The Lindroths bought the paintings sight unseen (except for viewing photocopies) from a London dealer, through the auspices of June Knight and Brent Malone, of Marlborough Antiques, who discovered the collection and made it available.
Upon seeing the paintings for the first time, Amanda recalled," I was astonished. I called Orjan and we bought them on the spot."
Along with others of Jamaica, Bermuda and Nova Scotia, these images were rediscovered in 1973 in a warehouse in London, where they had languished for 67 years, ever since Tupper died in 1906 at the age of 80. Other paintings from the warehouse are held in the private collection of Fay and Geoffrey Elliott of Bermuda, and in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Tupper was a distinguished officer, serving in Gibraltar and India, as well as in the Crimean war, where he was wounded in the famous battle of Inkerman. He was promoted often, ending his career as a Lieutenant General. But it is as an artist that Tupper is remembered today. His paintings are exhibited around the world and trade privately for up to $10,000 apiece.