The Great Exhibition opened on 1 May 1851 and was intended to present the latest and most dazzling technological achievements in the UK since the start of the Industrial Revolution. This watercolour, showing the inside of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park that housed the exhibition, captures the exciting mood within the grandiose glass structure. The building is seen crowded with visitors, large sculptures and even trees.
This watercolour was painted by Edward Duncan who, between 1843 and 1851, worked as an illustrator for the ‘Illustrated London News’. The watercolour was engraved and published in the ‘Illustrated London News’ on 19 July 1851. However, this work remained in the possession of the artist and passed by descent through the family. It was sold, along with a similar watercolour of the exhibition (GAC 13906), from the estate of ‘Miss M. & Miss B. Duncan’, ‘on behalf of the Parish Church of Port Eynon, and the Swansea and Brecon Diocesan Trust’ in 1977. The works were purchased for the Government Art Collection the following year.
Edward Duncan, a marine and landscape painter in watercolour and engraver, was the son of an artist and engraver, also named Edward. He began his career in the studio of Robert Havell senior and later set up business on his own, engraving sporting and shipping subjects, particularly by the William John Huggins. He later married Huggins’s daughter, Berthia. He became a member of the Royal Institution in 1833, serving as Vice-President and Treasurer, but resigned in 1847. Two years later he became a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours. Between 1843 and 1851, he worked as an illustrator for the ‘Illustrated London News’. Duncan lived in north London throughout his life. He died at his home near Haverstock Hill, aged 78.
Collection of ‘Miss M. & Miss B. Duncan’; by whose executors sold ‘on behalf of the Parish Church of Port Eynon, and the Swansea and Brecon Diocesan Trust’ through Sotheby's, London, ‘English and Continental Watercolours and Drawings 1750-1920’ sale, on 22 December 1977 (Lot 110), for £220; from which sale purchased by the Fine Art Society, London; from whom purchased by the Department of the Environment in July 1978
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