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Artists

Charles William Stewart

The Observatory, Dumfries

Period:
20th Century
Description:

Pen and ink drawing of  the windmill tower of Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura.  It is viewed from the River Nith at the Greensands or Suspension Bridge area.

 

The stone windmill was built on a hill top overlooking the town of Dumfries in the late 1700s, but by the 1830s it was no longer in business and due for demolition.  The building was saved by the newly formed Dumfries and Maxwelltown Astronomical Society who converted it into an astronomical observatory.  Large windows and a spiral staircase were put in and a camera obscura and telescope installed.

 

The camera obscura works on the principle that when light passes through a small hole onto a screen in a darkened room, an image of the scene outside appears.  The camera obscura is still in perfect working order.  It continues to fascinate an audience familiar with photography, cinema and television in the same way that it amazed the people of the 1830s who watched ships discharging their cargoes and the bustle of the cattle and horse markets on the Whitesands.

 

Charles William Stewart was born in the Philippines in 1915. His father was a partner in the merchant firm of Smith, Bell & Co. After the end of the First World War, he and his mother returned from the East to stay with his aunt and uncle at Shambellie, New Abbey. After the death of his aunt and uncle, both childless, Stewart's father inherited the Shambellie estate.

Stewart was educated in the south of England, and attended the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, London. When war broke out in 1939, Stewart, a conscientious objector, joined Battersea ARP as a stretcher bearer. In his spare time he trained himself to draw with a pen, and started on his first book illustrations. In 1943 he received his first commission to illustrate a book. After his release from service, he returned to the Byam Shaw School to teach life drawing and illustration, and in 1955 became joint principal of the school.

The death of his mother in 1960 saw Stewart return to Shambellie to help his father with running the estate. He inherited the house after his father died in 1962. In 1977, Stewart donated Shambellie House and his costume collection, together with the 18th century New Abbey Corn Mill, to the nation.

Place of Production:
Dumfries
Materials/Media:
paper
Dimensions:
height 203mm, width 277mm
Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
DUMFM:1991.3.2
Digital Number:
DMFA056n
Creation Date:
7 and 8 December 1971
Copyright:
Dumfries & Galloway Council