Markets are colourful places full of the sound of comings and goings. While artists can't directly convey noise in paint, painterly techniques can help to get the onlooker to feel that they’re present and imagine the sounds themselves.

A-266This is a depiction of the market at the end of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, painted by Clara Montalba in 1907. We think of the sounds here as a gentle, peaceful hum. This might be because of the warm golden tones used by Montalba. And perhaps because what we see are the backs of heads - turned away from the viewer – receding into the distance.

We've recently acquired another market scene which seems like an altogether noisier affair. In this painting we are closer to the crowd. It’s as if we pick up the jabber of conversation, the cries from the stallholders, the blast of a ship’s siren in the background.

There’s something decidedly theatrical about the way in which the scene is composed; the throng of traders and customers in the foreground against a backdrop of shops. It reminds us visits to the Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome, when the chorus takes centre stage.A-390

Maybe it’s unsurprising that the artist Ellis Luciano Silas had an artist-designer father and an opera singer for a mother. Silas (1885-1972) served as a signaller in the First World War, but was discharged as medically unfit in 1916, suffering from shellshock.

It is likely that this picture dates from the period after his discharge, when he’d have been recovering from his experiences in battle. This is the most impressionistic watercolour by Silas that we've seen but, like Montalba, he uses a loose style to great effect - capturing a sense of hustle and bustle.

Today Ellis Luciano Silas is mostly remembered as a marine artist and for the paintings he made recording his wartime experiences. We’ll say some more about these aspects of is work in our next blog.

Alan Bean & Sibyl Ruth