Capturing the spirit of the Thames - in paintings

Story by Jack Foley

THE spirit of the River Thames, from its source to the city, has been captured in a new collection of paintings by artist Nick Schlee, which can be viewed at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames from October 5 to December 1, 2002.

Entitled Nick Schlee: Paintings of the Thames, the project marks the culmination of one man's long-held ambition to paint a full-length portrait of one of Britain's best-loved waterways.

During his two-year journey, Schlee has captured the movement of water and light in original sketches, which he then carried through to the finished works.

The paintings are said to reflect the spirit and flow of the river, as opposed to still water, and the artist's brushstrokes and juxtaposition of colours aim to excite the viewer's eye in much the same way that the first experience of the river excited his.

Commenting before the exhibition opened, Schlee said: "I live just half a mile from the Thames and yet, for the past 10 years, I have concentrated my painting on the trees, barns and landscape of the Ridgeway. These pictures are not about the trees and buildings along the river bank, but about the nature of the Thames itself.

"Painting the water was a new experience for me. I was used to expressing the sweep of the landscape in terms of solidity. The river which, for the most part was in flood and fast-moving, was glittering with chopped up reflections which, for me, demanded an entirely new way of painting."

Welcoming the completion of the project, Paul Mainds, chief executive of the River and Rowing Museum, said: "We are delighted to be exhibiting Nick Schlee's wonderful paintings of the Thames. The Museum's location on the banks of the river makes it the perfect venue to host these unique paintings."

Nick Schlee was born in 1931 and studied part-time at the Art Students' League in New York and in London at the Central School, Morely College and The Slade.

His one-man shows have included exhibitions at the Flying Colours Gallery, Edinburgh; the Barbican, London; Liverpool University; and the Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford. His work has also been included in group shows at the Roy Miles Gallery London; Nottingham University; Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham; and the City Gallery, Leicester.

The River & Rowing Museum was created to celebrate three themes: the past, present and future of the River Thames, the historic riverside community of Henley-on-Thames and the international sport of rowing.

Since it opened to the public in August 1998, the Museum has received numerous awards for its design and architecture, including the National Heritage/NPI Museum of the Year award. The museum is also a recognised centre for the arts and has hosted a number of high profile art exhibitions as part of its ongoing programme of special exhibitions and related talks.

It is open daily from 10am until 5pm (5.30pm between May and August) and admission prices are £4.95 for adults, £3.75 for children, senior citizens, the disabled and the unemployed; and £13.95 for a family ticket for four.

Free parking is available for visitors and more information can be obtained by calling 01491 415600 or visiting www.rrm.co.uk