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Sold at Auction: Samuel Rayner

Architecture painterPainterWater coloristHistorical-scenes painterIllustrator


Rayner was a British painter watercolorist and printmaker born at Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire. He was the third of five children and was known to his family as Sam. His parents, Samuel and Margaret were in the business of ironmongery in London. Sam was eleven at the time his father died in 1817. It seems that his wealthy grandfather, Thomas, who was an artist himself, encouraged Sam to paint. By 1821 his skills were sufficiently developed to place a watercolor in an exhibition of the Royal Academy. In the following year Sam placed another painting of Malmsbury Abbey in the show of the Royal Academy. His training as a draughtsman was developed under the direction of the distinguished architectural artist, John Britton, who published many pictorial renderings of medieval cathedrals and other architectural antiquities of Great Britain. Sam’s works were largely pencil drawings reinforced and pictorially developed with watercolor and gouache.

Sam began showing his paintings in London art galleries. This brought him into contact with the London publisher William Manser and his daughter, Ann, who also was a promising artist. The father and publisher, it is said, disapproved of their mutual interests and consequently, family tradition holds that they eloped to get married (on October 2, 1823).

Sam and Ann lived at 11 Blandford Street just a few doors away from his mother’s home. At this time Sam submitted and exhibited two paintings at the Royal Academy – images of Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral in 1824 and 1826 respectively. Ann and Sam also began to collaborate as painters. The Royal Academy exhibition of 1827 in which they displayed two paintings of the Westminister Abbey were signed by S.A. Rayner, presumably representing paintings by both Sam and Ann. At the age of 21, Sam inherited a proportional share of his grandfather’s estate and also a “VERY HANDSOME ORDER” from the duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth. This allowed the Rayner family to move to a fashionable terrace at Museum Parade (now South Matlock Bath) and at the same time continue ownership of their house at 11 Blandford Street, London. At their new quarters, Sam started a lithographic printing and publishing business while continuing to paint. He published picturesque or scenic booklets of town views such as that of Derbyshire Scenery.

In 1833 the Rayner family moved back to London and the family continued to grow with their fourth daughter born in 1834. His mother died in the following year and by 1836 they moved back to Derbyshire. Ann was engraving on black marble that was available from the Derbyshire quarries. By this time (1838) Sam was busy engraving plates illustrating St. John’s Church, Derby. He continued to paint and in February, 1845 became elected as an Associate of the Old Water Color Society. Sam not only painted watercolors of church structures, he also obtained commissions to paint interiors of rooms in various homes. These watercolors are handled with the same incredible fidelity to patterned detail and sense of light and shadow that Rayner displayed in his precise renderings of churches and their interiors. In 1851, Sam became implicated in fraud. The Old Watercolor Society reacted by removing his name from its membership. This disgrace seemed to have little affected his well-established career or those of his daughters' and his son, Richard, who also became recognized watercolorists. Sam Rayner passed away in 1879.
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