A STUNNING panoramic painting revealing how Edwardians visualised the Mersey waterfront is to go on public display for the first time in a century next week.
Entitled Modern Liverpool 1907 the oil painting, which shows an aerial view of the city at the height of its growth, is to be displayed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Among the buildings depicted are two of the Three Graces which helped win the waterfront its world heritage status – as the third Grace, the Cunard building was not yet built at the time.
Painted by Liverpool print maker Walter Richards the artwork captures the bustling atmosphere of the port when it was the second city of the British Empire, celebrating its 700th anniversary.
A Cunard liner is moored at the Prince’s Stage while smaller ships and ferries can be seen nearby and the Liver Building is depicted, although it was not completed until 1911, alongside the Port of Liverpool building.
Other buildings unfinished when the painting was done include the Anglican Cathedral, shown with twin towers as originally planned.
Docks which have long gone include the George’s Dock on the site of the Cunard building and the Manchester Dock where the new Museum of Liverpool is being built.
Curator at National Museums Liverpool (NML), Dr Alan Scarth said: “It is the only picture of its kind I have ever seen and we are thrilled to have acquired it.
“A photograph at this time could not have captured what it has because technology was not advanced enough, plus some buildings have been painted from plans, they were not finished.
“The detail is stunning and it is fascinating to see the crossover between old and new technology at the time, there are cars but also horse drawn-carriages.
“The artist will have seen his chance to shine on the 700th birthday and that is why he will have painted it.”
There are many small details on the piece, including a group of women carrying parasols and wearing elaborate hats, trams, the Overhead Railway, Lime Street and Exchange Stations, the domed Customs House facing Albert Dock and the White Star Line office still with its original clock.
The former owner, who acquired the painting through his business dealings within the city, believed the Daily Post reproduced prints of the piece, sending them all over the world.
However, even prints of the painting are now extremely rare.
The painting, which measures 6ft by 2ft, was last on public show during the Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in 1907 and for many years was in the board room of a city centre car sales business. It then went into a private collection.
Tony Tibbles, director of the MMM, said: “This remarkable panorama is an important addition to our collection of Liverpool waterfront views dating from 1680 to the 1960s.
“Here ships, streets and buildings are painted in painstaking detail. The artist has caught the smoky atmosphere of Edwardian Liverpool with its thousands of chimneys.
“This painting gives a fascinating insight into the city at the height of its powers. It is so realistic you can almost hear the ships’ hooters and the cries of the seagulls.”
The painting will be on display in the Art & The Sea gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum from September 3.
lizawilliams - Ic Liverpool