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Edwin Harris’ Something Wrong by Ron Clegg

Thanks to the generous support of the Friends, the Gallery has been able to add this remarkable work to the collection.

Entitled ‘Something Wrong’, the work was exhibited at the summer exhibition of the Birmingham Art Circle in 1885. A local newspaper helpfully described the painting as a weather-beaten sailor examining an antiquated and damaged telescope, concluding that the painting was excellent. Certainly, some of its qualities do stand out: the use of colour instead of muted tones and the hint at humour in the composition are features not readily associated with early Newlyn work.

The character of the individual surely adds to the painting’s impact. His face seems familiar but identifying bygone artist’s models can be a sensitive business. However, reliable material points to Newlyn fisherman William (Billy) Maddern as the model in this picture. Also, when he died in 1905, aged 86, The Cornishman reminded its readers how his picturesque appearance was often used by the local artists and how he appeared in a number of Royal Academy pictures. Walter Langley’s 1891 ‘The Pilot’ is one that springs to mind. This is also the same model as featured in William Wainwright’s head and shoulders watercolour portrait The Old Pilot, also in Penlee’s Collection.