The Spirit of the Downs – Stanley Inchbold in Sussex

A couple of years ago I bought this watercolour.


As the picture is signed it wasn’t difficult for the seller to list it as a watercolour by Stanley Inchbold.


The view was described as “Shoreham by Sea from the Downs” which seemed to me to be a reasonable description, although there was nothing else to confirm that title.  When the picture arrived I did a little digging into Stanley Inchbold.

There isn’t that much in the way of biographical material on Inchbold and very few original works in public collections. Edward Stanley Inchbold (1855 – 1921), generally known as Stanley Inchbold, was born in Greenwich in 1855.  He was the son of Ann and Thomas Mawson Inchbold from the North Riding of Yorkshire. It is likely that he was related to the Pre-Raphaelite landscape painter John William Inchbold (1830-1888).

Inchbold seems to have started his career as a school teacher at Cowley College in East Barnet, Hertfordshire.  He doesn’t seem to have had any formal art training until he studied under Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914), the German-born painter of portraits and social realist subjects, who had opened an art school at Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1883.  Stanley studied at the Herkomer School from 1892 to 1894.

Inchbold must however have been painting from much earlier as he starts exhibiting in London from 1884, including showing work at the Royal Academy, the Fine Art Society and the New Watercolour Society.

Inchbold is primarily a landscape painter in watercolour.  He seems to have started travelling in the 1880s and spent much of his life in Europe, the United States, North Africa and the Middle East. In the late 1880s, Inchbold was living in North America where he joined Edgar Fleming (1859-1938), to create the photographic firm of Inchbold & Fleming, based in Victoria, British Columbia. By 1888, Inchbold was in California, where he remained for a few years.

During his peripatetic years Inchbold married Ada Alice Cunnick (1858–1939) who after their marriage used the name A.C. Inchbold. She was a romantic novelist and travel writer. Her novels include “Princess Feather” (1899), “The Silver Dove” (1900), “Phantasma” (1906), “Love in a Thirsty Land” (1914), “Love and the Crescent” (1918), and “Sallie of Painter’s Bakery” (1920).

Ada and Stanley visited Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Portugal, and Ada’s two travel books based on their trips are “Under the Syrian Sun” (1906) and “Lisbon and Cintra” (1907), both of which were illustrated by Stanley. The illustrations in “Under the Syrian Sun” are perhaps his best known works.


It seems Stanley and Ada had settled in Sussex by the early 1900s (they are recorded living in Eastbourne in 1910) – she produces “The Letter Killeth: A Romance of the Sussex Downs” published in 1905 (which was reviewed, not entirely favourably, by Virginia Woolf in the TLS, 27 October 1905) and he illustrated Arthur Beckett’s book “The Spirit of the Downs” which was published in 1909.

Which brings me back to the watercolour.  When I bought it I’d done enough research to know that Inchbold has illustrated Arthur Beckett’s book and had thought it possible the painting of the Downs may have been produced for that book. I found a copy in the London Library but this turned out to be a later edition, the 6th from 1943, where the illustrations are replaced by photographs. I then forgot about it for a while until a recent internet alert pointed me to an early edition for sale.


It is an odd book. The subtitle “Impressions and Reminiscences of the Sussex Downs” gives you a hint that it is a mix of slightly sentimental, slightly mythical, anecdotes of life in Sussex in the later part of the 19th century.  But, more importantly for me, the twenty illustrations were all still intact. My heart sank somewhat when the list of illustrations failed to mention a view of Shoreham.


Disappointed, I flicked through the pages anyway and found the second illustration was this:


So the view isn’t of Shoreham by Sea but from the Downs above Newhaven. It is interesting to see how the original compares with the book reproduction using printing techniques of 1909.

aaa comparison

Top: Original watercolour – Bottom: book illustration

I’m glad that my hunch that this might be a book illustration was right although I was thrown for a while by making the classic error of assuming a title attributed to the painting was correct.

To see a complete set of the illustrations from “The Spirit of the Downs” click here.


Further reading:

The Spirit of the Downs: Impressions and Reminiscences of the Sussex Downs” by Arthur Beckett, with twenty illustrations in colour by Stanley Inchbold, London, Methuen & Co., 1909

Under the Syrian Sun : the Lebanon, Baalbek, Galilee, and Judæa” by A.C. Inchbold; with 40 full-page coloured plates and 8 black-and-white drawings, by Stanley Inchbold. London: Hutchinson, 1906.

Lisbon & Cintra : with some account of other cities and historical sites in Portugal”  by A.C. Inchbold; illustrated by Stanley Inchbold. London: Chatto & Windus, 1907.

STANLEY INCHBOLD The Holy Land, Galilee, Judea and Baalbek, and the Landscape, Architecture and Native Life of Palestine, watercolours” (Note by Chas. Aug. Manley): Fine Art Society Exhibition: November – December 1903




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1 Response to The Spirit of the Downs – Stanley Inchbold in Sussex

  1. That’s superb, Neil! A really satisfying discovery and a beautiful watercolour!

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