A.B. Ovenstone: Rare Photographs Capture Scottish Rural Life in the 1880s
In a recent auction of rare books, maps, manuscripts and photographs, Lyon & Turnbull offered a unique collection of material from the Victorian East Renfrewshire amateur photographer A. B. Ovenstone. The collection, covered the period 1880-1890 when Ovenstone was at his most active, travelling throughout Scotland producing views of rural and coastal life. It is clear that Ovenstone possessed an artistic eye and the beautifully composed landscape and figural studies reflect the Pictorialist influence of the time.
Ovenstone was a well-respected photographer and a founding member of the Glasgow & West Coast Photographic Association. His work in the sale includes a collection of 16 albums, each containing approximately 24 prints and many captioned in pencil, including views of Langbank, Greencastle, Carradale, Clyde, Tarbert, Cleghorn, Dunblane, Elie, Bute, Busby, Loch Fyne and Largo.
He won several medals for his work, including a silver medal awarded by Amateur Photographer in 1885 for his piece At The Pool. Other accolades include one silver and two bronze medals from the Glasgow & West Coast Photographic Association for his figure studies, including Haymaking and Pushing Off. Ovenstone's involvement in the Scottish art world did stretch beyond photography; as a member of the Glasgow Art Club and of the committee of the Art Union, he was closely associated with the exhibitions of the Royal Glasgow Fine Art Institute.
“It is thought that the majority of Ovenstone's views of late 19th century Scotland have never been seen before and, alongside their strong artistic merit, they represent an invaluable record of rural and coastal life in Scotland in the 1880's”
Ovenstone carved a lifelong career out in the Glasgow shipping industry, starting with the firm of Handyside & Henderson he was eventually appointed Atlantic Freight Manager for the Anchor Line in 1880. In his retirement announcement in The Bailie he was remembered for his kindness and geniality, "well known and respected from Liverpool to John O'Groats". It was well known that Ovenstone devoted much of his spare time to his photography, a passion he continued to pursue during his years of well-earned retirement. His interest in shipping is clearly reflected in his photographs, with several views showing yachting on the Clyde and several steamers.