Rainy Day at Cookham by Fred Walker, a composite woodblock engraving. Framed:​ 14.9 cm high by 27.1 cm wide. Engraved by Ernest Stamp at Shoreham-by-Sea, and published by Seeley and Company, London, in 1894. ​ [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

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During the present year the cheque-book stamp of merit has been placed on the art of Frederick Walker. At an important picture sale, where canvases by Millais, and Mason, and David Cox and Turner were offered for the eager competition of wealthy collectors, Walker's water colour replica of Harbour of Refuge [1872] aroused spirited bidding and finally realized two thousand five hundred and eighty guineas, the highest price of the day.

One inevitable result will follow in the wake of this monetary triumph: Cookham, that lovely Thames-side village which inspired so much of Walker's best work, will in the future prove as attractive for its artistic associations as it has been in the past for its aquatic pleasures. Nay, more. It is not improbable that the humble cottage in which Walker lived, and the modest headstone which marks his grave, will acquire a greater interest for future visitors than the " stately houses of titled and wealthy English-men" which had so overpowering an effect on a pilgrim of a year or two ago. This obsessed note-taker does not appear to have heard of the name of Frederick Walker ; but he waxes eloquent about my Lord This who owns such and such a seat, his Grace That whose mansion stands just here, and about a notorious expatriated American who possesses the most gorgeous estate of them all. Well, who shall grudge them their brief fame? Lord will follow lord, and duke succeed duke, and millionaire shall come after millionaire, but for the ages unborn the greatest glory of Cookham will be that its quaint street and verdant meadows and bosky trees and peaceful river are transferred for ever to the poetic landscapes of Frederick Walker.​["​Fred Walker's Cookham"]

In the summer of 1865, Fred Walker leased a modest cottage in the Thames village of Cookham for his mother (d. 1874), sister Fanny (d. 1876), and brother, John (d. 1868). The house still stood in 1910 in the main street of the village, about midway between the railway station and the river. To this unlovely flint-walled cottage for the remaining ten years of his life Walker would frequently come, finding it yet another retreat from the London in which he grew up, from Bayswater, where he lived from 1863, and from the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him; "it was at Cookham the idea for The Bathers first took possession of Walker's mind, and that it was by the banks of the Thames he worked at and finally achieved that masterly canvas" ("England - Fred Walker's Cookham").

Four figures — a woman, a boy and a dog to the left, and a man without the benefit of an umbrella (right) — dash through a downpour in the nondescript village of Cookham, Berskshire. Walker sees the street scene unromantically, not even attempting to invest the prosaic houses lining the road and the approaching horse and cart with particular interest. Walker evidently derived the engraving from one of his original watercolours painted about 1871, and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. "Stamp [the engraver] manipulated his medium in masterly fashion to convey the misty dampness and muted tonality of the subject" (metmuseum.org).


"England - Fred Walker's Cookham." Old and Sold: Turn-of-the-Century Wisdom for Today, 1910. Online version available from oldandsold.com. Web. 12 July 2018.

Walker, Fred. "Rainy Day at Cookham." Proof etching published by Seeley & Co. (London) in 1894. The Metropolitan Art Gallery Collection.​Online version available from metmuseum.org. Web. 12 ​July 2018.

Last modified 12 July 2018