08:00 Thursday 26 December 2013

Ale and art fuse to create a masterpiece of a king

Written byROB SMYTH

THE name of Bass is forever linked with Beer and Burton. However, reporter ROB SMYTH discovered that it also has links to the art world and an incredible painting following a chat with historian Richard Stone.

The name of ‘Bass’ is synonymous with beer and Burton.

William Bass, founder of the legendary brewery, was one of three brothers from Hinckley, in Leicestershire.

Before moving to 136 High Street and launching the famous brand, he ran a freight carrying business between Manchester and London with his elder sibling John.

The company he began in 1777, developed under his grandson Michael Thomas Bass into the greatest brewery in the world responsible at one time for a third of the town’s total trade.

Back in Hinckley, the Bass family relatives pursued less commercial lives.

Michael Thomas’s cousin William Bass became a noted artist of portraits, landscapes, and miniatures.

His paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy and a number are on display in Hinckley Town Hall.

One of his most striking canvasses conjures up the Battle of Bosworth.

Painted in 1839, the picture is privately owned and has not been seen in public for many years.

Following the discovery of Richard III’s body beneath a Leicester car park that now occupies the site of the former Greyfriars Chapel, the painting has gone on show for a two-year loan period in Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.

When lead archaeologist Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester announced in February ‘our academic conclusion, beyond reasonable doubt, is that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in September is indeed Richard III,’ it was to a global media audience.

Few figures have captured sustained worldwide interest to the same extent.

From Shakespeare’s damning portrayal onwards, each generation has produced re-imaginings of the life and tumultuous reign of England’s last Plantagenet king, with Richard presented variously as both villain and victim.

William Bass’s painting is evidence that Victorian England was just as fascinated with the story of the last king of England to die in battle.

The large oil shows Richard, picked out in a shaft of sunlight, in the thick of the action at the moment he loses his crown.

Forensic study by University of Leicester osteo-archaeologist Jo Appleby on the Grey Friars skeleton revealed the brutal reality of medieval warfare.

The scene as visualised by William Bass is full of detail.

Among the banners and flags is a standard depicting the ‘Talbot dog’ of Sir Gilbert Talbot, who fought on the side of Henry Tudor.

Simon Lake, curator of fine art at New Walk Museum, said: “The artist conveys the horror and confusion of battle, but also the courage of a king who is fighting for his kingdom and his very survival.”

Current owner of the painting is John Talbot, whose great grandfather married into the Bass family.

It is now on display in Leicester until Autumn 2015.

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