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William Fraser Garden (British painter) 1856 - 1921

William Fraser Garden is now the best-known member of the Fraser Family of artists, remembered for their resonant landscape watercolours of the wide, flat Fenlands. He refined his method of painting at an early age in order to produce landscapes that are intensely detailed, scrupulously accurate and sometimes startling in colour. William Fraser Garden was born Garden William Fraser in Gillingham, Kent, on 10 June 1856. Six years after his family’s move to Bedford in 1861, he began to attend the local grammar school and, while there, studied art under Bradford Rudge. In 1872, he took up a position as a clerk in an insurance office, but gave up work there five years later in order to pursue a career as a watercolourist. He showed regularly at the Royal Academy from 1880, and appointed Messrs Dowdeswell, 133 New Bond Street, his agent in 1883. He stopped exhibiting in London in 1890. Moving with his parents to Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire, in 1887, Fraser Garden married and settled there two years later. However, always bad with money, he was declared bankrupt in 1899, a state of affairs that led, five years later, to his wife leaving him, with their six children. For the remainder of his life, he lived in a room at the Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell, where he continued to paint. He died at the County Hospital, Huntingdon, on 31 January 1921, after fracturing his spine in a fall. His work is represented in the collections of The Norris Museum (St Ives, Huntingdon). The Chris Beetles Gallery has regularly shown a range of works by members of the Fraser Family that has been significant in both number and quality. In 2010, the gallery built on its experience by publishing Charles Lane’s The Fraser Family, the first substantial publication devoted to the artists. The main text comprises a group biography, which is supported by a number of previously unpublished portrait photographs. This traces their Scottish roots and Bedford childhoods, before charting their artistic careers, and detailing their painting grounds. Many images, maps and topographical photographs illustrate those grounds and the watercolours that resulted. The text also introduces the reader to the fact that three of the brothers were illustrators. A series of monographic appendices then records and analyses the work. 

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