Paintings show Liverpool's changing waterfront

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painting of large ship by the iconic Pier Head buildings

‘Aureol in the Mersey’ by John Stobart (MMM.2007.48.12) Reproduced with permission of the artist.

This week six new paintings have gone on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum's Art and the Sea gallery, highlighting the transformation of Liverpool's waterfront between 1680 and 1957. Curator of maritime history Ian Murphy chose this painting by John Stobart as a highlight of the display, and explains why here:

This new display gives visitors a chance to see some of the incredible paintings in the collection that show 300 years of the Mersey as the bustling highway for one of the world’s great ports. The changing views of the waterfront give an historic context for this year’s events, as the Liver Building celebrates its centenary and the Museum of Liverpool opens.

‘Aureol in the Mersey’ shows the now familiar buildings of the Pier Head in 1957 as a backdrop to the Elder Dempster company’s largest ship. Aureol was launched on 28 March 1951 and sailed between Liverpool and Nigeria until 1972.

I like this painting as it shows a period of Liverpool’s shipping that many visitors will still remember first hand. The great days of the transatlantic liners were in the past, but Liverpool was still a busy port and we know that many people who come to the museum still remember seeing these ships at the old landing stage.

The other paintings on display are:

  • 'Liverpool in 1680', artist unknown. The earliest known painting of Liverpool showing the town in the final days of the Pool, prior to the construction of the first dock. The castle ruins are still prominent as is the original tower of St Nicholas’ church.
  • 'Frigate and Sloop in the Mersey', by John Jenkinson. A view of two warships in the Mersey, probably painted around 1812. The dome of St Paul’s church and the spire of St Georges are visible – both now long gone.
  • 'Baboo Overset in Canning Graving Dock', artist unknown. The recently built Customs House is prominent in a view of an incident in February 1841, when the Baboo capsized in the Canning Graving Dock opposite what is now the Maritime Museum.
  • 'Liverpool from Wallasey Pool about 1851', William JJC Bond. A beautiful panoramic view across the river to the line of domes and spires that made up the Victorian waterfront.
  • 'View of Liverpool', John W Carmichael. The baths at George’s Dock and the Albert Dock warehouses are visible in this painting that conveys the bustling dockside activity along the Mersey in 1873.