Russel probably painted this view of the medieval Customs House, Ipswich, in preparation for his illustrations to ‘Picturesque Antiquities of Ipswich’ (1845). In 1843 ‘The Ipswich Journal’ announced the future publication, which would include ‘a series of Copper-plate ETCHINGS... of the Most Picturesque and Important Antiquarian Remains existing in the ancient Town of Ipswich, of which it has been thought desirable to preserve some memorial before impending decay and modern alterations shall have rendered such design impracticable.’ A reference to the artist indicates his reputation in his home town: ‘The Publisher has only to state, as a guarantee for superiority of execution, that the Drawings have been entrusted to Mr. Frederick Russel’. The plates were accompanied by descriptions written by John Wodderspoon. Included was the Old Custom House, illustrated from a slightly different angle to this watercolour. Wodderspoon’s text states:
‘The Old Custom House was erected in the year 1659... The lofty gables, ancient sun dial, and covered promenade upon the basement, called “Mariners’ Walk,” carry a quaintness with them which leads back the mind to the days of old-fashioned sea-ports and restricted commerce.’
Ipswich artist and architectural draughtsman Frederick Brett Russel exhibited one work at the Royal Academy, London, in 1847, titled ‘Old Grammar School, Ipswich’. He died at the age of 56 and is buried in the Old Ipswich Cemetery.
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