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John George Sowerby (1849-1914)


John George Sowerby (1849-1914)

For the first part of his career, John Sowerby was the director of Sowerby’s Ellison Glass Works, one of the world’s largest producers of glass, and made a number of aesthetic innovations that helped boost sales. On the death of his father, in 1879, he continued at the firm, but began to produce children’s books and landscape watercolours and, when the company was sold in 1896, he focused on exhibiting his paintings. Combining keenly observed naturalistic detail and sophisticated decoration, they may be considered exemplars of Symbolist landscape, and have been compared to the work of the French artists, Alphonse Osbert and Henri Le Sidaner.

John Sowerby was born in Shipcote House, Gateshead, County Durham, on 7 April 1849, the fourth of six children, and elder son, of John Sowerby and his wife, Anne (née Robson), owners of the Ellison Glass Works. John Sowerby the elder raised his two sons to take over the glassworks, and arranged marriages for his four daughters that would benefit the business financially and socially.

John Sowerby grew up in the family home of Benwell Tower, Newcastle upon Tyne, across the river from Gateshead, until he went south to Houghton-le-Spring to be educated at Kepier Grammar School. In 1871, he became a director of the family glassworks, working as a manager and colour mixer.

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