GS Bagley’s artwork returns to The Mermaid


Judith Blincow went on a foray to Rye Auction Galleries Ltd (RAG) last week and was lucky to find six-hundred postcards depicting The Mermaid Inn and Mermaid Street, and their original printing blocks, belonging to Rye’s famed mayor and artist, GS Bagley.

Mermaid Hotel printing blocks

Judith explained: “Bagley settled in Rye in 1948, to pursue ‘straight’ painting, lithography and drawing. He explored the area, discovering Romney Marsh with its ever-changing light and fascinating collections of churches which he painted many times. These paintings show his appreciation of church architecture and skill as a draughtsman. He loved Dungeness with its collection of boats, shacks, various forms of habitation and flotsam and jetsam on the beach. He had a particular love of the sea and everything connected with it.

“Geoffrey had by now become acquainted with Wally Cole and Leslie Davie and a number of other talented Rye artists. In 1951 a decision was made to hold an exhibition in part of the Boy’s Club in Mermaid Street, Rye. The group chose to call itself the RX Group, RX being the registration of the local fishing fleet. A year later its members joined up with other younger artists and together formed the Rye Society of Artists which held its first exhibition at the Further Education Centre in 1952.

“Geoffrey was involved with the RSA for forty years, being a founder-member, regular exhibitor and one-time chairman. In 1956 he was elected mayor of Rye and held that post for two further years. He was also a speaker of the Cinque Ports, a county councillor, a JP and in 1973 was the last person to be elected a freeman of the borough of Rye. There is even a bedroom at The Mermaid named in honour of GS Bagley.

Geoffrey Spink Bagley Bedroom at The Mermaid

“As you can tell I was really excited about the zinco plates and the postcards as it feels that they have come home! I will have a display case made for them so that everyone can enjoy the amazing find. I have had some printed by Ian Foster at Adams. When I went to see Ian I discovered that he was a fount of all knowledge about zinco plates and showed me other plates in his collection of the Mermaid and Mermaid Street. He explained to me that they were made using a process called photozincography developed by Sir Henry James FRS (1803-1877) and commercially known as zinco, enabling accurate reproduction of images on to zinc from photographic negatives. I have actually had the set of six images hanging in my living room for the last twenty-five years and now proudly own the plates from whence they came.”

A RAG auction takes place every fortnight and there are often quirky fascinating lots to interest the people of Rye and beyond.

Image Credits: Kt bruce .

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