Etchings of Tenby by Charles Norris (1779-1858)

Charles Norris was an artist of independent means. It appears that he produced his works purely out of an interest in his subject rather than having been commissioned.

His early life in Norwich provided him with a basic understanding and appreciation of Flemish architecture. At Tenby, much of the Flemish architecture was still extant at the turn of the 19th century and it was of particular interest to Norris both historically and aesthetically.

He undertook several studies in Wales, always focusing on architecture as a medium of discovering the culture of the native population. Little is known about his connections with his contemporaries, but his portrait of John Linnell (1792-1882), now at Tenby Museum, would suggest an artist who was known, at the very least, to London artists. He exhibited neither at the Royal Academy nor the British Institution, and has no entry in the standard texts on British art. From a Welsh perspective, Norris was an artist who recorded buildings which have subsequently been lost, and is of importance as an antiquarian and landscape artist.

The Etchings of Tenby, which was published as a book of prints, is a fine piece of research. His introduction emphasised that he was responsible for the whole work and that he was also producing other texts of a similar nature relating to Wales.

Charles Norris is an artist who showed a clear ability to etch clean and atmospheric images of his adopted town. He is highly regarded locally; the lack of interest in his work nationally may simply reflect his specialization and a certain mystery surrounding his initial move to Wales.

Further reading

  • J.E. Tipton. Charles Norris,1779-1858, and his legacy to Tenby. John Tipton, 1997.
  • Paul Joyner. Artists in Wales c.1740-c.1851. Aberystwyth : National Library of Wales, 1997.
  • Leach, Arthur L. Charles Norris 1779-1858 of Tenby and Waterwynch.