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James Howe Carse

Landscape near Bolton – The new church at Lever Bridge, c1844
oil on canvas
A paper label on reverse is inscribed in ink with title, and 'J. Carse' and 'Bought Septr. 1844'
45 x 60 cms

$16,000 including GST

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With W.H. Patterson Fine Art, Albemarle Street, London, UK (label verso); Chilmark Manor Estate; Semley Auctioneer, Shaftesbury, UK, January 23, 2016, lot 87; private collection, Sydney. 


For a biographical essay on the artist see 'James Howe Carse’, by Stephen Scheding, in 'Art and Australia', vol. 17, no. 1, 1979, p.9.

This is one of the finest works from Carse's pre-Australian period. It depicts the Church of St Stephen and All Martyrs at Lever Bridge, Bolton, Greater Manchester, which was built 1842-1844 at a cost of £2,600 and consecrated in 1845. It was designed by architect Edmund Sharpe and was constructed largely of terracotta. Sharpe designed the only three churches to be built with this material, the others being Holy Trinity, Rusholme, and St Paul's, Scotforth. Originally the church had an openwork spire, as shown in the painting, but by the 1930s the spire had become unsafe and was dismantled in 1937.  

Prior to Carse’s departure for Australia, where he plays a significant role in the history of Australian art, he appears to have been working in and around Bolton for about twenty years. Most of the works by Carse listed on were painted around Bolton, or in Oldham about 3 km away. The Bolton Museum and Art Gallery has a painting by Carse titled St Mary the Virgin, Deane Parish Church, Bolton, c.1860, and Gallery Oldham has the following works:

Uppermill from Dobcross, Oldham, Lancashire,
Oldham, Lancashire, from Glodwick Fields, (1851?)
Nordens, Oldham, Lancashire, 1866
Medlock Vale in 1866, Oldham, Lancashire, 1866
Opening Game of the Oldham Subscription Bowling Green, Frankhill, (1860?)
View of Oldham from Glodwick (1830–1831)
Sheepwashes Brook, (not dated)
Oldham Church from Goldburn, Oldham, Lancashire, 1760 (c.1860)

An article on Oldham artists published in the local newspaper (the Oldham Express) in April 1882 describes James Howe Corse (sic) as 'an erratic genius' who produced many local landscapes and also excelled in ‘glass staining’. It states that he ‘died in Australia in wretched circumstances some 10 years ago’, that is, in about 1872.[i] While Carse left for Australia around 1867, the information regarding his death in about 1872 is erroneous. He died in Sydney in 1900. The misinformation may have been ‘put about’ because his partner Harriet realized he would not be coming back from Australia. 

James Howe Carse had married Harriet Hannah Gould in Manchester on 10 May 1852. In census records he identifies himself as an artist and gives his father as Alexander Carse, the well-known Scottish artist. In the 1851 census James and Harriet had been living together at 35 Brunswick Street in Hulme, Manchester (they claim to be married at this point which was not correct) and to have two children Sarah Jane (3) and Georgina (1). In this census Carse specifies his occupation as ‘Landscape and Portrait Painter’.[ii]

In the 1861 census Harriet is living at a new address in Hulme with four children – Sarah Jane, Georgina, James (7) and Angelica (4). But there is no sign of James Howe at this point.  And similarly by 1871 Harriet (aged 50) is now living in Blackley with just Angelica for company. She gives her profession as Seamstress & Embroiderer. Angelica Carse dies in Preston, Lancashire in 1920.  

It is not known why Carse separated from his family and headed to Australia, nor why he never reconnected. No references have been found to his having a wife or family between the time of his arrival in Australia and his death in 1900. (A reference published in the Critic, Adelaide, 7 July, 1900, to the artist Carse having two daughters, is incorrect, the journalist confusing Carse with fellow artist John Hoyte). 

[i] Information from Sean Baggaley, Senior Curator, Gallery Oldham provided to Stephen Scheding 30 March, 2016. [ii] Information sourced by the Local Studies library in Oldham and provided to Stephen Scheding 30 March, 2016. 

Specialising in Australian Colonial, Impressionist, Edwardian and Modern paintings,
prints and sculpture of museum quality for over 40 years.