This lithograph from 1897 is of Reading's oldest surviving bridge but if any of our urban sketchers visit this spot for inspiration they may find the view hasn't really changed very much. For more of our current members' impressions of Reading visit our Online Exhibition "Celebrating our Town – Discover Reading" [Highlighted: April 2021]
This is one of a collection of seven lithographic drawings created by Rawlings in 1897 entitled Picturesque Reading showing a variety of local Reading views. High Bridge (often called Duke Street Bridge) is a grade II listed building and has featured in our Museum Highlights before when Reginald W. Ford depicted another view of this bridge which crosses the River Kennet in the town centre.
Alfred Rawlings was born in Hackney London in 1855. An advert in The Berkshire Art Society catalogue describes him as a 'Dealer in Artists' Materials', frame maker and print seller. Interestingly, most of his works were available at RGA exhibitions with or without a frame. Moving from Guildford to Reading with his family in 1894 and later retiring from his shop at 'The Arcade' (corner of Friar Street, Reading) in 1914, the premises were also used for exhibitions. Know as painter, illustrator (most notable being watercolours for Miss Mary Russell Mitford's book 'Our Village') he was also an art master at Leighton Park School. He was one of the founder members of the Reading Guild of Artists, having previously founded the Berkshire Art Society.
Rawlings was a prolific painter, mainly working in watercolour, some oil and also printing such as lithography, a type of print making technique where the artist can use a painterly or in this case drawing style to create an image where the printing process uses the properties of oil and water not mixing.
Upon his death in February 1939, (his year of death is often incorrectly stated as 1929 in many sources) an obituary describes the artist as a winter bather who 'used regularly the open air baths in King's Meadows until quite advanced years'. He was a known pacifist and supporter of conscientious objectors held at the Reading Gaol during the Great War. A member of the Society of Friends he was buried at the Quaker burial ground Reading.
Not to be mistaken with Alfred Rawlings Baker of a similar age.