A group of peasants travel along a country road, some on mules and others by foot. Behind them are the tall chimneys of the industrialised town of Nottingham. Above the chimneys and their smog is the ghostly shell of Nottingham Castle, the interior of which is burnt out.
In 1831 Nottingham was the scene of riots following opposition to the Reform Bill of Henry Pelham-Clinton, Fourth Duke of Newcastle, who owned Nottingham Castle. Rioters vented their fury on the castle. They smashed through fencing to loot the building, before setting it on fire. In this painting it can be seen as an empty shell, the condition it remained in until the 1875, when it was leased by the local Council, who employed architect Thomas Chambers Hine (1813/14-1899) to restore the building. It opened as the first English provincial Museum of Fine Art in 1878.
Edmund John Niemann painted numerous views of the city of Nottingham. In 1859 he exhibited a painting titled simply ‘Nottingham’ at the Society of British Artists in London. Another painting by Niemann titled ‘Nottingham from the West’ is at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery and other views of the city by the artist are in private collections.
Landscape painter Edmund John Niemann was born in Islington, to a German father. As a young man, he worked as a clerk at Lloyd's Bank. However, after 1839 he devoted himself to art, settling in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Between 1844 and 1872 he exhibited in London, at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British Artists, and also in Manchester and Liverpool. In 1848 he became Secretary of the Free Exhibition (later the Portland Gallery) at Hyde Park Corner. Niemann’s later years were plagued by debt and ill health, and his work suffered as a result. He died at about the age of 63 at his home on Brixton Hill, London. His son, Edward H. Niemann, was also an artist and closely imitated his father's style.
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