We need you to help us conserve your paintings!
These four rare oil paintings are the only ones by William Simmonds in public ownership, but after being lost for decades they need some much needed TLC. We’ve conserved one, we’re asking you to donate to help get the other paintings conserved.
Public ownership means that they belong to all of us, and we can’t lose them to the effects of time and neglect. If these beautiful works of art don’t get saved, they will be lost forever.
We are a team of museum professionals, based at the Museum of Gloucester. We care passionately about the Arts & Crafts Movement, and we want to preserve the legacy of William Simmonds for future generations.
Who was William Simmonds?
William Simmonds (1876-1968) was a puppeteer, woodcarver and painter. Born in Istanbul, he swiftly fell in love with the English countryside when his family returned to England when he was a small boy. He studied to be an artist, and, as a young man, started to make a career for himself exhibiting at the Royal Academy, illustrating books and working as an assistant to painter Edwin Austen Abbey at Fairford, Gloucestershire.
However, we also found four oil paintings dating to that earlier period of Simmonds’ life when he thought he would become a painter. They’d been taken out of their frames and off their stretchers and rolled up – and they stayed that way in the museum’s stores, except when they were photographed about ten years ago for the Public Catalogue Foundation project which saw all oil paintings in public collections recorded you can find them online today at www.artuk.org.
“A Meadow” – in need of conservation
These paintings are deteriorating. If nothing is done to conserve them then there will be no Simmonds paintings left in public ownership anywhere in the world.
Unrolling “Fairies Frolics” – if ever a painting needed conserving!
Very few of Simmonds’ paintings are known in public collections and are mostly works on paper. Gloucester holds the only publicly owned oil paintings by the artist. We were thrilled to be able to conserve one of the paintings for the exhibition, an imaginative painting from 1907, ‘Fairies Frolics’.
“Fairies Frolics” before and after conservation
But we’d like to do more and bring the other paintings back to life once more. We’ve chosen ‘A Vale’ from 1902, as it is a very different kind of painting that shows that not only was Simmonds interested in producing popular romantic paintings but was also inspired by the landscapes he saw around him.
But we need your help!
“A Vale” – our next painting to conserve
With your donation the unique legacy of Simmond’s paintings will be protected for future generations, and their important place within the Arts & Crafts movement secured. Plus you will get to choose a unique reward as a memento!
“The King and the Monk” - in need of conservation
By 1914 Simmonds was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement and more avant garde art scenes in London. That year, he found a new direction. He set aside his painting career to pursue puppet making and woodcarving. In 1919, after the war, he and his wife Eve settled in Far Oakridge, near Stroud. This year marks the 100th anniversary of their arrival in the Cotswolds, a move inspired by his friendships with Arts and Crafts artists such as Alfred and Louise Powell, and Gimson and the Barnsleys, who had moved to the area in the 1890s.
Simmonds stayed in the area for the rest of his life, making his enchanting, evocative puppets – and touring the shows to London and to country houses as well as putting them on in the village – and his sensitive, life-like carvings. His carvings were snapped up by private clients and museums alike. Many craftspeople and artists moved to the area at around the same time – many of them represented in Gloucester’s collections - and Simmonds was friends with all. He was also at the heart of village life, particularly in his help given to the local amateur dramatics group, the Oakridge Players!
Simmonds in later life
In 1985, when the member of his family who had been living in the Simmonds’ cottage died, the museum was invited to collect a number of items – including from the workshop, untouched since Simmonds died in 1968. A number of treasures were brought back to the museum, including Simmonds’ puppet theatre and the sets for his plays. These are on display in our exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester, “The Magical World of William Simmonds”, that runs until 18th April 2020.
An early Simmonds Puppet Show